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The Monster Librarian Presents:

Reviews for Horror Themed Adventure Books, Urban Fantasy, and Fantasy  

    While these books are not actually scary per se they are centered around or based on horror elements. In these books often have vampires, werewolves, and zombies as characters vs. adversaries. Other cross genre types that will be included in this section are paranormal mysteries and paranormal comedies.


Omens by Kelley Armstrong*New Review

Dutton Publishing, 2013

ISBN: 978-0525953043

Available: New Hardback, Audiobook, Ebook



        In this new series (Cainsville), a magical community exists alongside but unknown to the mortal world. There are no vampires or shape shifters—at least not in book 1, just a group of beings with Fae-like powers. Central to this magical life is Cainsville, a small town in the isolated countryside outside of Chicago. Cainsville is an idyllic village with a cozy, old-fashioned feel. Spend some time there, though, and you soon realize that many secrets and mysteries hide under its bland, comfortable surface. 


        As the book opens, 24-year-old Olivia (Liv) Taylor-Jones is enjoying her luxurious, happy life, attending a charity dinner with her handsome, wealthy fiancé, James Morgan, and thinking about spending some quality time with him as soon as they get back to his place. As the only child of wealthy parents, Liv is well educated and able to devote much of her time to volunteering at a women's shelter in Chicago. In just a few weeks, she and James will marry and live happily ever after. But then, Liv's mother phones her, asking her to come straight home, and at that point, Liv’s wonderful life shatters into a million tragic pieces.  


        What Liv learns from Mom is that she is adopted, that her real name is Eden Larsen, and that her biological parents are Pamela and Todd Larsen, a notorious pair of serial killers who were convicted of the ritualistic mutilation slayings of four young couples two decades ago. The Larsens have been in prison since Liv was a toddler, and she has been with her adoptive parents ever since. When both Mom and James fail to support Liv (actually, they turn away from her), she runs away to figure out how to live with her new identity. Soon, she winds up in Cainsville, where she gets a job at the local diner, and decides to go to the prison to meet her birth mother. 


        First, though, Gabriel Walsh, a member of a long-time Cainsville family, contacts her. Gabriel was Pamela’s attorney for her last, failed appeal, and he wants to continue his connection, hoping to attain fame and fortune through his association with this infamous case. Gabriel is amoral and opportunistic, putting himself first, and (so far) never developing personal relationships with his clients.


        The rest of the story follows Liv and Gabriel as they meet with Pamela and investigate the final pair of murders. Pamela insists that she and Todd did not commit any of the murders, but Liv isn’t sure what to believe. As she and Gabriel follow the clues, they meet up with some dangerous characters and stumble on a number of bodies. The story is filled with magical creatures and events that portend doom and death. In fact the whole “portending” element is key to Liv’s character (thus the book’s title).  


This is a great new series with well-developed, sympathetic characters, excellent world-building, and lots of secrets to uncover in ensuing books. Highly recommended.


Go to this URL to read a lengthy excerpt:


Contains: a few violent scenes


Reviewed by Patricia O. Mathews



Watchers: The Coming of the King by William Meikle

KHP Publishers, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0967922041

Available: eBook(Kindle)


        It is January 1649 at the Tower of London. The king of England and Scotland, Charles Stuart—also known as the Blood King--is set to be executed. The executioner drives a stake through his heart, then cremates him in a roaring fire. Witnesses see the Blood King's spirit writhing in flames as their freedom from his rule is completed.


        A hundred years later, watchmen from Milecastle patrol Hadrian's Wall to protect England from the remains of the Blood King's army: a horde of vile, fanged, undead  creatures that can turn a human into one of them with a single bite. The story begins as the current thane's son, Martin, and his fellow guardsman, Sean, hear a Scotsman calls out for sanctuary. The Scotsman brings dire word of war: the Blood King has returned from the dead, and he wants more than conquest. He wants to reestablish the bloodline, and for that, he needs a queen.


        In this first book in the Watchers trilogy, we follow the adventures of Martin and Sean as they struggle through the beginnings of the vampire conquest. The fight scenes are fantastic: they are very well thought out and described. The plot was good. I thought it was an interesting situation set along Hadrian's Wall in eighteenth century England. The dialogue was generally good and helped set and reinforce the tone of the work. My criticisms are that there seemed to be a bit of a hole in the plot, as one of the main characters, the Blood King's queen-to-be, was wandering around the countryside with guardsmen in pursuit, and then just sort of appears at the final battle safe and unharmed, with no explanation as to how this happened. The book also needed editing, as there were quite a few spelling errors, which made it hard to follow the story at times. I look forward to reading the other books in the trilogy (Watchers: The Battle For the Throne, and Watchers: Culloden). Recommended.


Contains: sexual situations, gore


Reviewed by Aaron Fletcher



Winds of Salem: a Witches of East End Novel by Melissa de la Cruz*New Review

Hyperion, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2470-4

Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition


        Those charming North Hampton witches are back for the third installment of Melissa de la Cruz’s popular Witches of East End series, following Witches of East End and Serpent’s Kiss. This book starts off with a summary of the previous two, so this one could be read as a standalone. Joanna Beauchamp is recently reunited with her husband, Norm. Their daughter, the sexy bartender, Freya, has been transported back in time to the Salem witch trials; and their other daughter, the beautiful virgin librarian, Ingrid, is determined to help Joanna fetch Freya back to the 21st century and save her life. Meanwhile Freya’s buff twin, Freddie, is having trouble in his marriage and so, together with his pixie entourage, returns to North Hampton to take part in the rescue. Joanna and Norm visit the Oracle to learn of the best means of saving Freya, but are alarmed to find that the ultimate sacrifice may be called for.  And as series readers already know, each character doubles as a Norse god living out the mythology of Odin, Freyr, Freya, Balder, Loki, and the post-Ragnarok rebuilding of the bridge between worlds. The Norse gods were thrown from Asgard into our mortal world of Midgard and are alive and well in Long Island. Who knew?

        De la Cruz’s storytelling skills and jocund tone have an underlying sweet sadness as the story winds up and the gods and goddesses live out their destinies. Are these immortals truly immortal, or can the underworld ultimately take its toll? The return to  the hangings at Salem seems a bit redundant after Serpent’s Kiss. The mixing of metaphors-- are they witches or are they Norse gods?--seems a bit of a stretch, but a fun stretch it is, and the fans of this series will no doubt be clamoring to complete the trilogy. Evidently a television series is in the works. Recommended for adult collections.

Reviewed by Julie Adams



Blood Street by Carl Alves*New Review

True Grit Publishing, 2012

ISBN-13:  978-1-937148-18-8

Available:  Paperback


        In this vampire crime thriller, Philadelphia mob boss Enzo Salerno trying to track down the killer of one of his beloved associates.  The clues Enzo finds indicate that the killer is Eastern European, with fangs that vanish in the blink of an eye.  The FBI also investigates the murder, and is struggling with the supernatural clues as well.  The two rival organizations ultimately reach the conclusion that the killer is a vampire.  Wanting to end this situation before it gets out of hand, the Mob and the FBI join forces temporarily, and go on the hunt.  What follows is blood and death that erupts in an all-out Mob war.  Who will win?


      This was a book that I was really eager to read.  However, my reading experience was not as good as I had hoped.  The setting was just tasty.  The plot line was good.  The mood was there.  The cast of characters had distinctive enough voices to keep them separate.  The dialogue was pretty good.  Unfortunately, the descriptions were overwhelming at times, and the story would have been better served to have the information laid out in dialogue.  The book also could have used a stronger editing hand. There were multiple typographical errors, and the sentence structure made it difficult at times to sort out what was going on. These the things held back what would have otherwise been a much better novel. 



Contains:  Adult Language/Swearing, Gore


Reviewed by Aaron Fletcher



White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child*New Review

Grand Central Publishing, 2013.

ISBN-13: 978-1455525836

Available: November 12, 2013


        Lincoln Preston and Douglas Child have carved out a unique niche in the thriller genre with their Pendergast series. In White Fire, the thirteenth book in the series, which focuses on the enigmatic FBI special agent Aloysius Pendergast, the authors are hitting on all cylinders, and still manage to show fans something new about their hero.


        Corrie Swanson, first seen in Still Life With Crows, and later in Cold Vengeance, is front and center here, as the plot unfolds in icy Colorado just before Christmas.  Saved from herself by Pendergast when he was solving a case in Kansas, she is now a student at John Jay College,  searching for a thesis topic.  She finds one in Roaring Fork, Colorado, in the form of a bunch of miners who may have been killed by a grizzly bear over 150 years ago.  The town has since been transformed into a ski resort where only the richest come to live and play.When she begins to dig into the mysterious history of the town, she finds that an arsonist is burning down the millionaires' homes - with them still inside, and Pendergast must save her again.


        What sets this standalone novel aside from other recent entries is the inclusion of Sherlock Holmes as backstory. It seems that Oscar Wilde once told Arthur Conan Doyle a tale so horrific that it caused the author to become ill-- and also possibly put it to paper. What follows truly elevates this book above mere thriller status and gives the readers a peek into history, accurate or fictitious, as well as further delving into the enigma which is Aloysius Pendergast. 


        The writing style of Preston/Child is, as usual, slick and unencumbered, perfect for allowing the tale to flow at a natural speed. The characters are what make a Pendergast novel, with many of them deep enough to become part of the series. Corrie, a rough and still developing piece of the puzzle, would be a welcome addition to recurring storylines. White Fire comes recommended with twists and turns that follow the historical bent the story takes. Here's to hoping the duo is already working on the next entry to the series.


Review by David Simms 



A Werewolf in Time:  A Mrs. McGillicuddy Mystery by K. H. Koehler*New Review

K. H. Koehler Books, 2012

ASIN: B0085TQZ34

Available: eBook(Kindle, Nook, Kobo)



            This second book in the Mrs. McGillicuddy mystery series starts with Edwin and Eliza McGillicuddy heading across the pond on their six-year delayed honeymoon.  Their destination is Whitby Village, in the English countryside, where a lovely old castle owned by Edwin's long-time friend and fellow Vampire Lord Ian Severn awaits them.  Whitby Village, also a popular home for werewolves, has a local legend known as the Wild Hunt-- a cursed night hunt when vampires and werewolves hunt the villagers together and take their souls to hell. 


Once the happy couple has settled in, Lord Severn meets with Edwin, and reveals that he has been wounded by Fae, White Vampires who are the polar opposites of traditional Vampires, and is deathly ill.  Additionally, The Wild Hunt is not just a legend; it is real.  With the rise of the Fae, the time of the Hunt draws nigh.  Lord Severn asks Edwin to take over the role of Master of the Hunt, and, with the Werewolf of Whitby, destroy the Fae once and for all.   Lord Severn will not take no for an answer.  What happens next is, “...blood, sex and guns...”


     This was a fun read.  Like A Clockwork Vampire, the quirky setting worked well to keep the story flowing.  The main characters’ voices stayed consistent with the past story.  The new characters’ voices were distinct, and added to the complexity of the story.  The action sequences were really well written and kept the tension and excitement of the plot moving.  The descriptions were used well to set up the action.  The only complaint I have is that spelling errors made this work less enjoyable to read, as the flow was interrupted when I had to sort out what the right word was.  Other works by K. H. Koehler that I have read are Slayer, The Blackburn and Scarletti Mysteries, Volumes I & II,  Scarabus, The Dreadful Doctor Faust, Planet of Dinosaurs: The Sasha Strange Chronicles, Sea of Serpents: The Sasha Strange Chronicles, and Valley of Dragons: The Sasha Strange Chronicles, A Clockwork Vampire. Recommended for adult readers.


Contains:  Graphic Violence, Gore, Adult Situations, Adult Language, Graphic Sex


Reviewed by:  Aaron Fletcher




Deep Down by Deborah Coates*New Review

Tor, 2013

ISBN: 978-0765329004

Available: New and used hardcover; e-book


Deep Down is the sequel to Stoker nominee Wide Open. Hallie, the protagonist, is a former soldier who began to see ghosts after she was wounded in Afghanistan. In the first four lines of this book Hallie is hoping that her life is back to normal and free of magic. Then, just that quickly, a shadow passes over a pasture on her ranch, leaving a dark magical effect in its wake. Next, she visits her eccentric neighbor "Pabby" Pabahar only to find Pabby's house surrounded by black dogs who call themselves harbingers of death. Events only get more magically complicated as Hallie comes across a staged automobile accident in the middle of nowhere that is an exact replica of the one that killed Deputy Sheriff Boyd Davies’ wife Lily, seven years ago. At the accident scene, a mysterious man named Travis Hollowell appears out of thin air. It turns out that Hollowell wanted Lily to marry him (before she married Boyd) and finally killed Lily and himself in the auto accident. Now it appears that Hollowell isn't dead, but he isn't exactly "alive," either. He's a reaper—one who appears at the moment of death, and now he's after Lily's sister, Beth.


As the story plays out, Hallie drives back and forth across the range land, with Hollowell periodically popping up to threaten her and a black harbinger dog popping in and out of her truck to give her obscure clues about what's going on. And then there's Mr. Death himself, whose conversation is more unfathomable each time he shows himself to Hallie. Meanwhile, Boyd is off to Iowa to try to keep Beth from falling into Hollowell's grasp. By the time Boyd and Beth return to South Dakota, events have escalated to a hellish point, in the most literal way.


The first book in this series was a solidly constructed horror mystery with overtones of magic, but this book isn't nearly so well put together. This plot is shapeless and full of so much incomprehensible woo-woo that it's hard to care about what will happen next. Hallie never really gets a handle on what's going on until the very end of the book, and the ongoing clues from Death and the dog are so cryptic that I gave up trying to figure them out. The relationship between Hallie and Boyd takes a few steps forward into intimacy, but since they are rarely in a scene together, it's hard to figure out how they've actually gotten their romance going at all. 


Because of the repetitive twists and turns in the story line, the author relies on the trope of having Hallie pause from time to time to mentally tick off all of the relevant events so that she (and we) can keep track of what's going on. The plot is murky and nebulous, with the main characters stumbling around and getting beaten up until they finally are literally pushed and pulled into the final climactic scene, which resolves most of the issues.


The novel's main strength is in the character of Hallie, who is trying to deal with the magical consequences of dying and coming back to life back in Afghanistan. That death experience has made her open to all kinds of magic—most of it very dark—and she is living on the edge between reality and...something else—a very uncomfortable place to be. The author gets Hallie's blunt, sometimes sarcastic dialogue just right. If the plot had been better defined, this would have been a much better book. 


Recommended for libraries that purchased book one of the series, Wide Open


Contains: some graphic violence


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews



Wide Open by Deborah Coates*New Review

Tor, 2013

ISBN: 978-0765328991

Available: New and used hardcover and paperback; e-book


Set in northwest South Dakota, this is the first book in a series that follows the adventures of U.S. Army Sergeant Hallie Michaels, who has been able to see ghosts ever since she was injured in a roadside battle in Afghanistan and was pronounced dead for seven minutes. The series has no vampires or shape shifters, but it does have plenty of ghosts and dark magic. I can imagine that Hallie would get along quite well with Harper Connelly, heroine of Charlaine Harris' mystery series. Both are stubbornly independent women who follow ghostly clues to solve crimes.


As the story opens, Hallie has just traveled home from Afghanistan to attend the funeral of her sister, Dell, who died when she inexplicably drove her car head-on into a tree. As soon as Hallie walks into the Rapid City airport, she sees Dell's ghost (and other ghosts turn up as the plot advances). The ghosts make her feel freezing cold every time they touch her, and she has a tough time getting used to her new ghostly powers.


Everyone assumes that Dell committed suicide, but Hallie refuses to believe that her sister would take her own life. Besides, she figures that Dell's ghost wouldn't be sticking around if Dell caused her own death. When the authorities won't discuss the case with her, she investigates it on her own, uncovering some dark magic in the process. Unfortunately, Hallie’s leave from the army lasts only 10 days, so the pressure is on.


None of the characters are fully developed, but that really doesn't matter because this is a plot-driven story. Hallie just needs to be smart, courageous, and driven, and as we follow her through her investigation, we see that she has all of those traits. Deputy Sheriff Boyd Davies (Hallie’s budding love interest) is harder to analyze because we see him only occasionally and don't get his full story until late in the book. The story is told in the third person from Hallie's point of view, and the narrator is reliable through most of the book until the final sequence of events, when Hallie's big plan is not revealed until she actually carries it through. Hallie and Boyd's relationship is roughly sketched and doesn't go further than a kiss, but as they begin to bond over this case, they also begin to care for one another.


In many ways, this is a typical horror novel, with its sociopathic villains, continuous build-up of suspense, murderous events, and intrepid heroine who wins the day in the nick of time. But the magical elements take this into the paranormal fiction realm and put a twist into the usual horror plot.  I am looking forward to the sequel, which will take Hallie and Boyd on a new set of adventures. Recommended for all libraries.


Contains: some graphic violence


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews




A Clockwork Vampire A Mrs. McGillicuddy Mystery by K. H. Koehler*New Review

K. H. Koehler Books, 2011

ASIN: B005KN45E4

Available: eBook (Kindle, NookBook, Kobo)


     Eliza and Edwin McGillicuddy are a perfect couple.  Edwin is a vampire with a clockwork heart that needs to be wound each day. Eliza, his trusting wife, does this lovingly each morning before she goes to her custom watch repair shop.  He writes books full of  “...blood, sex and guns”.  One day, after a productive morning in the watch shop, Eliza gets a visitor from the vampire lord known as “The King of the World”, with a request to come see him at his exclusive resort.  Unknown to Eliza, he is also Edwin's former vampire master, Lord Foxley.  Knowing that such a request cannot be good, Eliza and Edwin refuse the request, as they have plans to go to the opera.  This refusal does not go over well.  Once at the opera, they meet up with friends and chat about the vampire race trying to get the same rights that humans enjoy.  Edwin is called away by another vampire, an Enforcer of Lord Foxley's, who informs Edwin that he must agree to be Lord Foxley's Enforcer for two hundred years. In exchange Eliza will get to live.  Edwin looks to the private box where he had left Eliza and she is gone.  What happens next is, “...blood, sex and guns...”


     I liked this story.  It was really interesting.  The fusion of horror, futuristic, noir and erotica all rolled together made for a quirky setting.  The characters were complex and had unique voices.  The dialogue was energetic and fun to read.  The action sequences were great.  The descriptions were in-depth and set the stage well.  My only criticism would be that the story felt like it dragged a bit towards the end possibly as a result of the descriptions.  Other works by K. H. Koehler that I have read are Slayer, The Blackburn and Scarletti Mysteries, Volumes I & II,  Scarabus, The Dreadful Doctor Faust, Planet of Dinosaurs: The Sasha Strange Chronicles, Sea of Serpents: The Sasha Strange Chronicles, and Valley of Dragons: The Sasha Strange Chronicles. Recommended for adult readers.


Contains:  Graphic Sex, Gore, Rape, Adult Language


Reviewed by:  Aaron Fletcher


Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce*New Review

Doubleday, 2012

ISBN: 978-0385535786

Available: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, audio book



The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce*New Review

Tor Books; 1st edition, December, 1998
ISBN-13: 978-0312868338

Available: Paperback and Kindle



Dark Sister by Graham Joyce*New Review

Tor Books; 1st edition, 2000
ISBN-13: 978-0312872540

Available: Paperback and Kindle

One Christmas Day, a sad old couple in rural England opens the door to find their daughter Tara, who disappeared 20 years ago, on the doorstep. Tara’s brother and parents are at first overjoyed, then puzzled. It seems that Tara thinks she’s only been gone a few months, has hardly aged a day since her disappearance, and claims that she was spirited away by a man on a white horse to another world. Her family and her old boyfriend have been through agony since her disappearance, and experience anger at her almost glib attitude. As the story unfolds, Tara tells of her experiences with the fairy folk, shares the powers she has gained, is taken to a psychiatrist who attempts to pigeonhole her phenomena into psychobabble, and meets with an old woman in her community who tells of her abduction as a teen by the fairy folk. Ultimately, Tara has to decide whether she is so changed by her experience that she can ever be happy in the so-called real world, and whether her presence might actually be dangerous to her family.

Graham Joyce has written many books in which ordinary people have brushes with an alternate world that exists just beyond the veil, and the issues that arise when, on returning from a world touched by the “other”, they cannot see this world in the same way again. The main characters are usually middle-class English families, so real and personable you want to have a cuppa and a chat with them. Perhaps my favorite book of his is The Tooth Fairy, a coming of age story in which a boy is actually visited by a tooth fairy who winds up controlling his life in more ways than one. I also recommend Dark Sister in which a woman finds an herbalist’s diary hidden in her chimney, and begins to realize her own powers and her connectedness with centuries of healers. Joyce’s stories seem to feature a requisite psychiatric examination which points up the vivid contrast between reality and fantasy and help us question what we think of as normal. The books have a flowing narrative style, and are filled with charming characters, bits of humor, and some steamy sex, all making for some excellent reading. It’s hard to label Joyce as fantasy, or science fiction, or anything, really. Some Kind of Fairy Tale, The Tooth Fairy, and Dark Sister are recommended to any reader who enjoys adult supernatural fiction.

Contains: supernatural occurrences, sex

Reviewed by: Julie Adams



Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm

Osprey Publishing, 2012

ISBN-13: 9780857662187

Available: Paperback and e-book


In this first entry in Holm’s “Collector” series, Samuel Thornton is a soul collector who has been collecting other people’s souls ever since his own was collected back in 1944. Most soul collectors possess living human bodies, but Sam prefers to possess the newly dead.

 His is a world filled with demons and angels who battle, respectively, for the bad and the good—or at least that's the way it's supposed to be. Both demons and angels can possess human hosts, but when this happens, their souls—along with their minds and memories—can be irretrievably damaged. Unfortunately, not all of the possessed are sinners; some innocents are possessed as well, which is the point of this book.

As the story opens, Sam is assigned to collect the soul of Kate MacNeil, a young girl who allegedly slaughtered her family. Kate is lying unconscious in a Manhattan hospital, and when Sam reaches into her chest to grab her soul, the darkness that he is accustomed to finding is just not there. Instead, he finds blinding, beautiful light, convincing him that Kate is innocent—that somehow she has been framed. Sam refuses to collect Kate’s soul, and instead breaks her out of the hospital and begins to investigate her case. He believes that the murderer is a supernatural being who possessed Kate, but he has no idea who would do that or what the motive might be. As the story unfolds, Sam and Kate (along with two street kids they pick up along the way) run, hide, fight, and run again from various demons and police officers who are pursuing them. Because Sam defied his order to collect Kate's soul, both the demons and the angels are now on the verge of an apocalyptic war. 

Sam himself is a great character who is neither good nor evil. Instead, he's a stubborn pragmatist who doesn't worry too much about collateral damage. Sam comes across as a gritty, chain-smoking Bogart-esque character straight out of hardboiled pulp fiction. His backstory—the who/why/how he lost his soul—is parceled out in brief, italicized sections throughout the book. The supporting characters are not nearly as well developed. Kate goes from an unconscious victim to a suicidal wretch to a fearless, battle-ready partner too quickly to be believed. The two street boys (Anders and Pinch—very Dickensian) and the demon Merihem are the most engaging of the supporting cast.

This book starts out strong, with a well-constructed mythology, an interesting hero, and terrifically gritty scenic descriptions, but after awhile I wanted more complexity and less mindless run-hide-fight. Through most of the story, Sam blindly runs from place to place, getting badly beaten up every step of the way. Although Sam veers from one demonic information source to another as he crisscrosses the city looking for information, he never finds any solid clues about Kate's situation. In fact, he (and we) must wait until the climactic ending to get the lowdown on what is actually going on—and then everything is dumped on us all at once. Perhaps the problem is that Holm has been primarily a short story writer and has not quite worked out his novelistic techniques.

Recommended for all libraries.

Contains: graphic violence and gory descriptions

Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews

Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson

Kensington; First Edition edition, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0758277343

Available: Paperback, e-book and Audio


     In this alternate New Orleans, life has changed drastically since the Big Uneasy, a fundamental shift in the natural order of things that occurred ten years ago, unleashed ghosts and goblins, vampires and werewolves, zombies, ghouls, and all manner of monsters.

     Instead of the French Quarter, human tourists (aka naturals) stream into the Unnatural Quarter to get a look at the bizarre community of supernatural beings who live there. In this world, one in 75 dead people returns as a zombie, while one in 30 returns as a ghost. For unknown reasons, murder and suicide victims are more likely to return than those who die of natural or accidental causes.

     The series hero, Dan Chambeaux, was a human private investigator in New Orleans for a long time, but now he's a newbie zombie, having been shot in the head in a dark alley just a month ago. As the series opens, his own murder is at the top of his case list, closely followed by that of his girlfriend, Sheyenne, who returned from her death (by toadstool poisoning) as a poltergeist who can touch physical objects, but not people (which has put a serious damper on their love life). Since Dan became a zombie, people have begun calling him "Shamble" instead of "Chambeaux." In fact, his business—Chambeaux &; Deyer Investigations—has been nicknamed "Shamble & Die." Dan's partner is Robin Deyer, a young, soft-hearted, human attorney who is determined to provide justice to all unnaturals.

     The series opener is constructed like an overlapping set of sit-com episodes as Dan moves from one oddball case to the next. For example: a middle-aged werewolf "cougar" whose wealthy husband is trying to get their pre-nup invalidated because of her newly furry state, and a pair of witch siblings who are suing a book publisher because a typo in a spell book resulted in one sister turning into a pig. Then, there's Dan's ongoing feud with the owner of Jekyll Lifestyle Products and Necroceuticals, who still holds a grudge against Dan for infiltrating his manufacturing facility and proving that he was putting garlic in vampire hair products.. All of these cases mean that Dan moves from one case-specific scene to another in quick succession. That makes the story line humorously cluttered, but not really complicated. Anderson concocts a humorous description and back-story for each quirky character.   Each dispute is solved—one way or another—but only one turns into the main story line 

     Although the plot has a few rough spots and at least one continuity issue, this is an entertaining book that shambles along with lots of noir humor, a profusion of eccentric characters, and just enough violence to make it suspenseful. This is light-hearted urban fantasy at its best.  

     I listened to several chapters of the audiobook, and Phil Gigante does a great job with the various voices. He's got them all down perfectly, especially Dan's New Orleans drawl and Sheyenne's sexy purr. Recommended for all libraries.


Contains: coarse language, profanity, and some not-too-graphic violence.


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews




DarkWalker by John Urbancik

Evil Eye Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0982578971

Available: New and Used trade paperback and ebook


        DarkWalker  is the first volume in  a series of books devoted to Dark Watchers. In this world, we learn there are at least three types of people: the monsters, the watchers, and the hunters. The monsters prey on people, the hunters kill the monsters, and the watchers are witnesses to the monsters and hunters. If it weren’t for the watchers, no one would know anything. The watchers sit there and note everything. In return they are left alone by both the hunters and the monsters.

    DarkWalker is the story of Jack Harlow, a watcher who falls in love with a woman. He interferes when a monster is about to eat her, and this creates a situation where, suddenly, he’s no longer safe. Now instead of being virtually ignored, every monster in the area notices him, and they all want to taste him. What happens to Jack, and how he handles this situation makes for an incredibly tense story. This is highly recommended for fans of urban fantasy, Blade, and other action horror stories.

Contains: Violence, Adult Situations, Profanity, Gruesome Images.


Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz




The Sleeping and the Dead by Jeff Crook
Minotaur Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-1250000286
Available: New and used hardcover; e-book

Jackie Lyons is a recovering heroin addict, a former detective for the Memphis Police Department (MPD), and a talented photographer. When she's sober, she does crime-scene documentation for the MPD. Jackie is also a self-destructive mess who seems to destroy every moment of happiness and success she has ever achieved. In addition to her kamikaze habits, Jackie can see ghosts, but she keeps that “talent” well hidden.


The story begins as Jackie buys a used camera from James, a hot guy who is a suspect in the murder of his wife. To get the money to purchase the camera, Jackie sells crime-scene photographs to Michi Mori, an eccentric and very wealthy man who spends his time partying with groups of young gay men in his huge mansion. Michi-san pays Jackie top dollar for her most grisly photos, so Jackie keeps selling them to him, even though she knows they are not hers to sell.


The central plot revolves around the MPD's search for the Playhouse Killer, a serial murderer who poses his gay victims in graphically described, gory scenes from various plays. As Jackie uses her new camera to photograph the Killer's most recent handiwork, the camera develops a mind of its own, snapping shots with no assistance from Jackie. Then a female ghost begins appearing in Jackie's apartment, leaving physical evidence of her presence. As the deaths mount, more clues accumulate and the story moves toward its inevitable showdown between Jackie and the Killer.


I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot is compelling, but I can't quite believe Jackie as a female character. She reminds me of Elmore Leonard's “Jackie” character in Rum Punch, particularly as Pam Grier plays her in Tarantino's film, Jackie Brown. Both characters were created by men and are really more male than female in their actions and emotions. Both are drawn as street-tough women, but they don't react to situations (or people) as the vast majority of women would. In this story, most of Jackie's interior monologues are used to provide a straightforward presentation of personal history without the self-examination and soul-searching that would be natural for a damaged female heroine. Her budding relationship with James is not believable because she never shows any real feelings for him. She rarely considers her appearance, always showing up with uncombed hair, disheveled clothing and unwashed body. Most women are way too body conscious to behave that way. When Jackie does change clothes, she just tosses the dirty ones onto the ever-growing mound on the floor of her shower stall—not something a woman raised in a middle class home in the southern heartland would do, no matter how far she's fallen. Now, go ahead and accuse me of female stereotyping if you will, but the fact remains that I would have enjoyed the story much more if Jackie had been Jack.


On the positive side, Crook tells a good story here, with twists and turns that are mostly unpredictable. Red herrings are few and far between, so pay attention to all of the details as you read the story—probably in one page-turning, marathon session.


Recommended for all libraries.

Contains: graphic violence and gory descriptions


Reviewed by Patricia O. Mathews



Last Regress by Rachael J. Thorne

Amazon Digital Services (2012)


Available: Kindle


With its needy, addled heroine and its lack of coherent world building, this wannabe horror story lacks the compelling drama and suspense needed for a good story.  Alyssa Matthews is a paranormal investigator who drifted into her job after her boyfriend dumped her for being “simply far too dark” and “bordering on the obsessive.” Alyssa works as a researcher who specializes in cold cases. Her one and only friend is her gay neighbor, Greg, with whom she has developed a close relationship.

As the story opens, Alyssa is researching an eight-year-old case in which a man named Cain Andrews died by spontaneous human combustion. She is also having constant nightmares in which she sees huge, dark, scary monsters in her room. Alyssa believes that the monsters are real, while Greg, of course, thinks that they are hallucinations coming from her depressed mind. Then a strange, ghostly man begins to show up each night to protect Alyssa from the monsters. He is incorporeal, but he can converse with Alyssa and tries to calm her fears.

The first half of the book consists primarily of Alyssa’s lengthy interior monologues as she repetitively tries to analyze her monstrous situation. These scenes are supplemented by her arguments with Greg over whether the monsters are real or imaginary.

The action doesn’t really get going until the second half of the book, when we are introduced to the realm in which the ghostly man exists. He knows that he is dead, but he can’t remember how he died. He has a mentor named Nathaniel who is supposed to guide him towards the next, more permanent, realm. As the ghostly man (who remains unnamed, although the reader readily figures out exactly who he is) continues to assist Alyssa, we learn more about his (and his mentor’s) life, death, and afterlife. In the final quarter of the story, the mythology explodes with new facts about that realm and its politics. By this point, the characters are spending much of their time in tears of fear and grief as the lives of both Alyssa and the man are in jeopardy. The ending functions as a segue to a second book.

This is a plodding story that does not begin to take off until the final chapters.  Alyssa is not the smartest heroine in the horror fiction world. She knows exactly what will happen when she turns out all the lights and goes to bed, but she never tries to vary her routine or leave the light on or sleep on the living room couch or have Greg stay over. She just keeps repeating the same experience every night, and the reader repeats it with her, over and over again.

No recommendation

Contains: one moderately graphic sexual scene and one violent torture scene (involving meat hooks)

Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews




Night Fighters by Rob Smith

2011, Wild Wolf Publishing

ISBN 9781907954153

Available new paperback

            It is 1941, and, with England is taking a beating from the German bombing raids, seven vampires are recruited by the Royal Air Force to fly fighter planes at night.  The vampires’ heightened senses (especially sight), and their quicker reflexes, make them perfect for flying night missions either attacking the German planes or protecting English heavy bombers. 

            Vampirism, in this case, is a hereditary medical condition—and few view the vampires as anything but freaks. Among the vampires are Crowe, who was abandoned as a child and tortured by doctors; Morgan, who grew up in a wealthy and loving family; and Raithe, who believes vampires are superior and the next evolutionary step for humans.  Crowe has an especially difficult time dealing with the squadron’s bullies because of his anger toward humans for being treated as an experiment before escaping into the underground.  Crowe, Morgan and the other vampires just want to fly, but circumstances may prevent that from ultimately happening.

            I think Rob Smith gives a fresh and interesting perspective on vampires in Night Fighters.  They are still powerful creatures, but they can die like regular humans….and they have their weaknesses.  The character development is excellent and the origin of vampirism is quite brilliant.  Some of the characters were kept vague enough to really keep you guessing as to their motives and loyalties.  The story flows smoothly and Smith’s way of writing kept me reading—I didn’t want to put the book down!  My only real beef with Night Fighters is that the end, although raising some intriguing possibilities, was a bit too neat and tidy for my taste; I generally like my horror messy and unpredictable. Overall, it is a great story, and something different when it comes to vampires. Recommended

Contains: violence, adult language and adult situations

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund



Serpent’s Kiss by Melissa de la Cruz

Hyperion, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1401323967

Available: New Hardcover, Kindle, Nook, and Audio

This sequel to The Witches of East End continues the adventures of Freya, Ingrid and Joanna Beauchamp, witches/goddesses living in the quiet seaside town of East Hampton, New York.  Freya is a sexy bartender; her sister Ingrid is a reserved librarian; and Joanna, their mother, is a talented cook who can raise the dead. In Serpent’s Kiss, Freya’s long lost twin brother, Fryr, has returned suddenly after being imprisoned in Limbo for destroying the bridge between the worlds. Freya’s true love, Killian, may now be in peril himself, as he bears the mark of the trident and is suspected of being the true bridge destroyer.  Ingrid’s boyfriend, a human police officer, has trouble believing that she is a witch, so their relationship is very on again-off again. Meanwhile, Joanna is contacted by the spirit of a witch hanged during the days of witch trials and is compelled to try to rescue her.  Everything is kept pretty light with humor, the foibles of relationships, girl talk about food and love, and some very charming pixies. But the darkness of the superstitious witch hunts, sinister Norse gods, and the threat of the Valkyries’ revenge make for some suspense.  There’s some fascinating information about runes, Norse mythology, and the persecution of suspected witches in colonial America- all evidence of some thorough research on de la Cruz’s part.

I now know that the second book in a series can be better than the first. Where the first book seemed to me chick-witch lit up until the last 40 pages when it changed genres to fantasy, this installment starts out and stays fantasy. Several of the characters have acquired some dimension by now – especially Joanna, who must deal with losing and regaining her husband and children numerous times through the centuries, and who seems the most genuine of the characters.

It is sometimes confusing at the end with mistakes chalked up to memory loss, mistaken identities, the meaning of the serpent, and the corresponding mythological characters. The books seem very Young Adult as opposed to adult in orientation.  I think that libraries serving de la Cruz fans will want to add this book and the sequel when it comes out, as readers will want to learn how these modern day Norse gods and goddesses fare.

Contains: Sex

Reviewed by: Julie Adams



Desdaemona by Ben Macallan

Solaris, 2011

ISBN:  978-1-907519-63-5

Available:  New, Used, and E-Format



Desdaemona follows the story of Jordan, on the run from his parents, who plan to make him immortal when he becomes of age.  While on the run, he helps find other runaways--because who better to find a runaway than another runaway that knows all the best hiding spots and tricks?  Enter Desdaemona, or Desi for short, who enlists Jordan's help to find her sister Fay, who has gotten herself mixed up with some very bad immortals.  Jordan attempts to turn down her request, but, as he’s a horny teenager, it doesn't take much for Desi to convince him to help her out.  As their search begins, so do a lot of crazy and dangerous escapades that make Jordan second-guess his decision to help out Desi, despite his raging hormones.


Honestly, I had a really hard time getting through this novel.  Some sections of the book I really got into, but then others made me wish I was already on the final chapter.  I am glad I stuck through to the end, though, as some of the stuff near the end of the book was quite intense, and I really liked one of the characters introduced late in the book.  I will most likely read the next book in the series to see how things go now that the characters have been fleshed out.  This first book just felt like the author was struggling a bit with getting his voice and writing style sorted out, but I have hope that in future books this won't be an issue for Macallan, as he does seem to have some really good tales to tell.  The fact that he pulls in so many different creatures, going beyond just the typical vampires and werewolves found in urban fantasy, makes him stand out drastically from many of today's urban fantasy authors.  I would definitely recommend giving Desdaemona a try if you can handle a little frustration along the way, as the book does turn out to be well worth it in the end.  Recommended.


Contains:  Adult language and situations


Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson



Isis Unbound by Allyson Byrd

Dark Regions Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-1937128005

Available: Trade paperback


    Allyson Byrd is dead set on turning the genre on its ear. Mission accomplished. Isis Unbound is a first-time Stoker winner, and the award is well deserved.


    Although Isis Unbound combines a variety of genres, she never loses track of the horror element. Steampunk, zombies, historical thriller, mythology, and fantasy - all live on and thrive here.


     In Isis Unbound, the famed Cleopatra and Antony take charge of the world in a parallel timeline and construct an empire with few limits, with the help of the goddess Isis. She assists them in building a kingdom that far outreaches the original Egyptian or Roman empires.


    Then the story fast forwards to 1890 England, where their family still rules, but a wrinkle threatens all; Isis' sister, Nepythys, has murdered her, and with that action, closes off the door to the underworld.


    Rather than taking the predictable route in a zombie story, Byrd sidesteps the clichés with a deft hand, creating an original tale.


    The duo of heroines in the story, Ella and Loli, are the kind of strong females the genre needs more of, and these two live on the page with a fervor. Their jobs as embalmers being trained in the mummification process do not define them, but enhance their personalities.


    Fans of multi-genre novels such as those by the multi-faceted Tim Powers need to check in here and get reading. It's well worth the effort.Recommended.


Reviewed by: Dave Simms



Blackbirds (Book 1 in the Miriam Black Series) by Chuck Wendig

Angry Robot, 2012

ISBN: 978-0857662293

Available in print (new and used), e-book, MP3, and audio-CD form


Among the urban fantasy heroines crowding the market, Miriam Black stands out for her indifference to the good-versus-evil conflict that has those other leather-clad tough girls up in arms. Miriam has never worn leather in her life and is pretty sure that she probably is one of the bad guys. She compares herself to “a discarded Styrofoam cup floating on a lazy, crazy river.” Miriam isn’t out to hurt anyone or cause any trouble, but she knows how to take care of herself, and she doesn’t take any guff from anyone. Ever since a traumatic teen-age experience, Miriam (now 22) has been able to visualize a person’s death if she touches them skin to skin. She witnesses their final moments and knows exactly when the death will occur. For several years, Miriam has been traveling the country, hitching rides and sticking around if a death is close so that she can scavenge money and credit cards. She has unsuccessfully tried to intercede and stop a death, but by now she’s given in to the inevitability of her “gift.” Miriam keeps a notebook detailing her death “reads,” and she makes ominous references to the fact that only a few pages remain in her notebook.


The titular blackbirds show up in several variations throughout the book. At one point, Miriam explains that “Blackbirds are…symbols of death...psychopomps...that supposedly help shuttle souls from the world of the living to the world of the dead.” 


The story follows Miriam as she meets up with a blackmailing con man and gets dragged into his dangerous world. The story is told in three strands: 1. Miriam’s adventures as she befriends and protects Louis, a kindly trucker, and deals with Ashley, her blackmailer; 2. A crime spree committed by two assassins (Frankie and Harriet) as they track down Ashley to punish him for his past crimes against their psychotic mobster boss; 3. an ongoing interview in which Miriam reveals details of her earlier life.


     This is a terrific beginning for what looks to be a great new series, with imaginative world-building and well-developed characters. Harriet reminded me of Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules Winnfield, in the movie Pulp Fiction—always providing her victims with philosophical sound bites and informative tidbits just before she kills them. Wendig’s narrative is compelling, sweeping Miriam and her unfortunate acquaintances along to the bitter end. The humor is dark and sardonic, filled with pop cultural references that liven up the dialogue. Miriam is a great character, a societal outsider who courageously confronts the world on her own terms while dealing with visions that would drive most people to suicide. As Miriam has feverish dreams about Louis’s imminent demise, she is frequently beaten with a red snow shovel, which reminded me of William Carlos Williams’ poem in which “so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow”—emphasizing the importance of the ordinary in our lives. In Miriam’s life, however, even the ordinary becomes a weapon that can be used against her.


Contains: coarse language, profanity, and graphic violence.


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews


The Darkening Dream by Andy Gavin

Mascherato Press, 2012 

ISBN-13: 978-1937945015

Available: New, Used, e-book


In his sinister fantasy novel, Andy Gavin introduces a new horror to grip the town of Salem, Massachusetts during the early 1900’s; vampires. Gavin envelops the reader with his spell-binding imagery fashioning a narrative that will send chills to your very soul.


Sarah Engelmann is pious, devout, and spiritual. She leads a life of sincerity, and this dedication leaves no room for imaginary creatures.  Her life is turned upside down when she finds a young man who has been grotesquely murdered. Sarah receives visions of bloody trees and hears the haunting voice of a long dead woman as secrets from the past begin to arise. Sarah, along with her best friends, and her growing romantic interest, soon become wrapped in a 900 -year old fight in which her very life and soul are dependent.


A blood sacrifice and a battle with the Almighty’s Angel to uncover a most precious treasure lead  the four friends, a sadistic vampire, an immortal sorcerer, and a Puritan warlock on a race.  “Nothing’s ever free…” rings in Sarah’s ears as steadily as the Angel’s holy trumpet sounds, signifying millennium old secrets and visions of a wolf, a beetle, a ram and a vampire that haunt her mind day and night. Her father’s wisdom and teachings, passed down to her, enhance her knowledge of what she is to protect. By combining her faith and intelligence, Sarah attempts to conquer what others had only dreamed of doing.


Secrets are abundant and obstacles appear in as one of Sarah’s friends becomes possessed by witchcraft. It takes all of Sarah’s willpower and faith to break the curse that binds her friend to a demon determined to use her soul for his own bidding. As more deaths occur, and protective forces around Sarah fail, blood starts to flow, opening the entrance to God’s realm. From the ashes, a new Sarah emerges.


Gavin’s horrific novel blends the Puritan faith, magic, horror and a bit of romance together, producing an ominous tale in which one girl’s actions could mean life or death for so many she loves. 


Review by Dave Simms



Broods of Fenrir by Coral Moore

Bared Teeth Publishing, 2011

ISBN: 0615571670

Available: Paperback & multiformat ebook


Broods of rir can't decide if it's urban fantasy or horror, so of course, I loved it. Brand is the rightful king of the Broods (lines of werewolves) but after growing up under the cruel rule of his father, he rejects the Broods to live a solitary life. They force him to return using his one weakness—protecting women. Of course, one has to wonder how a man raised in such a horrible, violent environment manages to survive with any respect for women (or men). But let that question drift away with others like ″Werewolves”?


Broods is engaging, vivid and energetic. And moody. Moody, moody, sexy alpha males, barely holding onto their rage, a “one rightful king to save them all” plot line, and brightly realized characters (spiced with Norse mythology) make for an enjoyable read. Definitely recommended.


Contains: Rape situations, violence, language, sex


Reviewed by: Michele Lee



Dark Hunt by Naomi Clark
QueeredFiction, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1-920441-17-3
Available: Kindle ebook



Dark Hunt is the sequel to Silver Kiss, and the third installment in Naomi Clark’s Urban Wolf series (which began with a short story published in the 2009 Queer Wolf anthology). The series features female werewolf Ayla Hammond, a former lone wolf who has recently returned to her pack, and her (human) girlfriend Shannon. Dark Hunt follows on from Silver Kiss, and sees the couple travelling to Paris to recover and relax following the horrors of the previous story. No sooner have they arrived, however, they are drawn into another adventure – this time dealing with the mysterious creature known as Le Monstre, which has been stalking the streets of Paris. Torn between wanting to spend some time together and repair the damage done to their relationship by the events of the previous novel, and the loyalty Ayla feels to the Parisian werewolves they meet, Ayla and Shannon are once again tested physically, mentally, and emotionally, as they investigate the true nature of Le Monstre.


One of the real strengths of Clark’s writing is her creation of believable characters. Dark Hunt develops her central pair of heroines and introduces a new cast of supporting characters, including the heavily-pregnant young werewolf, Sun, and the on-off couple Clémence and Thérèse, who, like Ayla and Shannon, must negotiate reactions to their sexuality as much as to their lycanthropic nature. Clark’s characters (lycanthropy notwithstanding) are plausible and compelling.


Dark Hunt is also a thriller, and offers a quirky take on some standard paranormal story devices. One criticism would be that the plot is not resolved in as satisfactory way as Silver Kiss, and the ending seems rather abrupt and hurried. However, the final showdown is climactic and brutal, and the narrative flows well until the final chapters. The Kindle edition includes some ‘bonus material’, including a short story about Ayla and Shannon’s first meeting, which is a nice addition.


Dark Hunt is recommended as a well-written and well-crafted female/female werewolf story. It is a must for readers who have enjoyed Clark’s earlier Urban Wolf stories, and belongs alongside other urban fantasy/paranormal novels.


Contains: Some sex and violence


Reviewed by: Hannah Kate


A Dozen Black Roses (revised edition) by Nancy A. Collins

Biting Dog Publications, 2011


Available: Kindle ebook



A Dozen Black Roses was first published as a tie-in novel in the universe of the White Wolf role playing game Vampire: The Masquerade, with Nancy Collins’ established vampire heroine, Sonja Blue (who first appeared in Sunglasses After Dark), as a character.  Part of my initial love for the original book was that it came out when I was involved in live action role playing, so I gleefully imagined some of the characters I had to deal with in the game getting into a showdown with Sonja Blue. Now Biting Dog has released a White Wolf-free version of A Dozen Black Roses, which makes it less like a shoe-horned effort to keep a star author like Collins writing while also pushing White Wolf role playing games, and more like an actual Sonja Blue novel. This revised edition is an opportunity to read the book as it should have been,  without rules and dice and power gamers.


Collins' vampire hunting vampire, Sonja Blue, was one of my first loves in horror (although now the books might be considered urban fantasy). She's a unique character, from her creation story, to her split personality, to her punk rock attitude.  Collins is known for her loving descriptions of ultraviolence, and easily keeps up in a genre that seems to be boy territory. In fact, Sonja shaking up the old boy's network is a key theme in this book, making it all the more fun.


In A Dozen Black Roses, Sonja faces down the two vampire lords of Deadtown, vicious vampires who barely even notice humans, except as pawns in their quest for power and personal indulgence. Though she's not exactly a superhero, she's definitely the “good guy” come to make the other vampires pay.

Highly recommended for public and private collections.


Contains: violence, language, drug use, rape


Reviewed by: Michele Lee



Switchblade Goddess by Lucy A. Snyder

Del Rey, 2011

ISBN: 0345512111

Available:  Paperback, Kindle ebook


Switchblade Goddess is the third book in Snyder's Jessie Shimmer series. I strongly advise you start with the first one, not just so you know what's going on, but also so you understand the extremely graphic nature of the author's style.


In the last book Jessie faced down Miko, a half-demon daughter of the Japanese death goddess. In Switchblade Goddess, we get a good look at Miko's past, and learn that as bad as she is, she's only an instrument in an eons-old battle for human souls, a battle in which Jessie is now a prize. Jessie’s pretty busy tying up loose ends in this book, as she struggles against a deadly infection and tries to save the life of her familiar (who has been infected with lycanthropy) while also attempting to mend things with her boyfriend Cooper and his brother, The Warlock,  Unfortunately, for each problem she solves, another one appears… and she still has to defeat Miko for good, as well.


The Jessie Shimmer books outrageous and enjoyable, total standouts from the rest of the urban fantasy scene. They're a hardcore, punk view in a middle class genre (not that there's anything wrong with UF in the first place). Recommended for public libraries with strong audiences for horror fiction and dark fantasy.


Contains: Sex, violence, language, rape


Reviewed by: Michele Lee


Odd Hours by Dean Koontz

Bantam Dell, 2008

ISBN:  978-0-553-80705-9

Available:  Paperback, hardcover, large print paperback, CD, Kindle ebook.


Odd Hours is the fourth in Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series, a series delightfully mixed with suspense, comedy and the supernatural.  Odd Thomas is a Shakespeare-spouting protagonist who, after losing his true love, longs for a quiet life.  Yet, peace is kept out of reach due to his extra sensory abilities, including communicating with the dead.


In this book, Odd Thomas is employed as a companion in Magic Beach, California.  He is led by a haunting dream of a destructive red tide to protect the mysterious stranger Annamaria.  With help from his ghostly friends (Elvis, Frank Sinatra and pooch Boo) as well as a few earthly angels, Odd faces tough opposition. 


Whimsical characters initiate high action in the very first chapter.  Attacks from police chief Hoss Shackett and his assorted evil comrades provide suspense which never wavers in this fast- paced spin, encompassing less than a day. 


Odd Hours is a recommended purchase for young adult (9th grade and older) and adult patrons of public libraries.  Although previous novels in this series (especially Brother Odd) are better reads—being more intricate, scary and generally entertaining-- fans can’t get enough of quirky, moral Odd Thomas.


Contains:  Violence


Reviewed by:  Judiann Rakes


By the Blood of Heroes: The Great Undead War: Book I by Joseph Nassise

Harper Voyager; Original edition, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0062048752

Available: New


By the Blood of Heroes is set in 1917 during World War I. The German army has introduced a new weapon to the battlefield; a gas that turns the dead into zombies hungry for the flesh of the living, who can be controlled with electrical collars.

When legendary Allied pilot Major Jack Freeman is shot down by a zombified Red Baron over enemy territory and taken captive by the Germans, Captain Michael Burke, a seasoned veteran of trenches, is recruited to lead a small party to go in and rescue him. What Burke uncovers during his mission could spell the end of the Allies and lead to German victory.

Joseph Nassise offers up a compelling alternate history novel that combines zombies, mysticism and a little bit of steampunk, all set during the First World War There is plenty of action that will keep readers turning pages and the characters have been well thought out that will leave readers rooting for Burke and Freeman. By the Blood of Heroes is a must for library collections, as it is not only well written, but crosses multiple genres and will have wide appeal. Nassise has scored a hit with the first book leaving readers wanting more.   Highly recommended.

Contains: violence, murder, some gore.


Blood Rights by Kristen Painter

Orbit, 2011

ISBN: 978-0316084772

Available: new and used trade paperback, mass market paperback; e-book

This is the first book in the House of Comarré urban fantasy series. Set in South Florida in 2067, this is a dark series with a complex mythology of “othernaturals” that includes vampires, shifters, and demonic forces, as well as an inventive species called the comarré (female) or comar (male), who are all platinum blondes with pearl-white skin and golden signum—tattoos that purify their blood. Comarré always dress in white, and with their white skin and hair and their golden glow, they remind the vampires of a forbidden life in the sun. Comarré and vampires maintain a symbiotic relationship in which the comarré produces an extremely rich blood that gives extra power to the comarré’s patron—the vampire who owns his or her blood rights. In return, the vampire produces saliva that, when ingested during the biting process, increases the comarré’s strength. Although they live like pampered geishas, the comarré are secretly trained assassins. How this important fact could be unknown to the vampires beats me, because the comarré live in the homes of their vampire patrons, but that’s the way it works in this world. 

When Chrysabelle, the comarré heroine of the series, attempts to run away from her long-time patron, she is blamed for his murder instead. Chrysabelle’s Aunt Maris sends her to the protection of the vampire Malkolm (Mal), who is anathema—outcast from vampire society and living under a double curse that condemns him to kill every single human he drinks from and listen to their voices in his head. Mal lives on a rusted-out ship with Fiona, a ghost, and Doc, a cursed shifter who used to be a leopard but now can only shift into a house cat. When Chrysabelle finally locates Mal, no one is happy to see her, and she’s not too crazy about them either.

Chrysabelle and Mac spend a great deal of time just getting used to each other’s worlds. Then they and their friends go off to rescue Aunt Maris, who has been kidnapped by the villainess, Tatiana, a powerful ancient vampire who is in league with the Castus Sanguis—fallen angels with demonic qualities and enormous power. Angst levels are high for just about every character. Mal, in particular, is forced to relive some horrific scenes from his past. The book is weakened by its many one-note scenes with the evil Tatiana, as she does one graphically horrific thing after another. 

Chrysabelle is supposed to be 115 years old, but she comes across as an immature adolescent, with lots of whiny sullenness. The idea that she is so skilled with all of her many weapons doesn’t make much sense. Her weapons training occurred during her pre-patron days, when she was very young. That training is a century behind her, but she still has impossibly great skills—hard to believe. The relationship between Chrysabelle and Mal is believable, with both having very different pasts with lots of secrets. For me, this book had a number of first-book weaknesses, but an interesting mythology.

Contains: graphic, bloody violence.

Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews




Flesh and Blood by Kristen Painter

Orbit (2011)

ISBN: 978-0316084765

Available: new and used trade paperback, mass market paperback; e-book

This is the second book in the House of Comarré urban fantasy series. The othernatural world is coping with the break in the ancient covenant between humans and othernaturals. Othernaturals are showing themselves to humans, and the situation isn’t looking good. Each character is struggling with the situation. Tatiana is plotting to kill Chrysabelle and steal the “ring of sorrows” from her so that she can rule the world is still just as evil and psychotic as ever, killing her lovers in various grisly ways, while trying and failing to capture Chrysabelle and the ring.

  In the meantime, Chrysabelle and Mal are still on the outs after the climactic battle with Tatiana at the end of the first book, which resulted in the death of Chrysabelle’s aunt/mother, Maris. Chrysabelle is angry that Mal hasn’t been in touch and that he refuses to drink her blood, while Mal is mad because Chrysabelle hasn’t contacted him and hasn’t made any effort to help him get rid of his curse, per their agreement in the previous book. As Chrysabelle and Mal try to get back on a friendly level, a new character threatens to come between them: Creek, a member of a mysterious organization called the Kubai Mata (KM). Creek has been sent to Paradise City to retrieve the ring of sorrows from Chrysabelle, but instead, he finds himself falling in love with her, to Mal’s consternation. Mal and Creek each strive for Chrysabelle’s romantic attentions, but neither one gets more than a passionate kiss or two.  A third plot line involves Doc and Fiona, who has become a shade who must reenact her death every single day, which is breaking Doc’s heart.  Doc crosses a few scary lines in his efforts to bring Fiona back to her ghostly, semi-amorphous form. 

As Chrysabelle reads her mother’s journals, she learns new information about her family and about the power of her signum. When Chrysabelle finally decides to help Mal get rid of his curse, things don’t go well, and she must bear the brunt of their misadventure. In this book, we also learn how Doc was cursed and are introduced to the witches who were involved. The plot line combines all of these story threads in a final climactic scene.

One problem with this series is that the characters are so self-serving. Some may do a few good deeds, but each one has his or her own personal agenda, and not one of them is totally trustworthy. For example, the two romantic leads both declare their undying love for Chrysabelle, but both have their own personal agendas above and beyond her well-being. Chrysabelle continues to behave like a spoiled young girl. Besides the fact that she can’t handle the men in her life, she makes idiotic decisions, like walking off alone in a very bad part of town with blood dripping out of various wounds. She has to know from long experience that she’s going to attract hordes of fringe vampires, which, unsurprisingly, she does. Here’s hoping that she begins to show some wisdom in the next book.

Contains: graphic, bloody violence.

Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews



Bad Blood by Kristen Painter

Orbit (2011)

ISBN: 978-0316084758

Available: new and used trade paperback, mass market paperback; e-book

In the third book in the House of Comarré urban fantasy series, Chrysabelle is recovering from having her magical tattoos stripped away during the climactic scene of the previous book, allowing neither Creek nor Malkolm to visit her. Eventually, she forgives them for coming after her through the portal and for infusing her with Mal’s blood to save her life, but all three of them are worried about the possible long-term effects that blood will have on her. As usual, there are several story threads woven through the plot. The main story line follows Chrysabelle and Mal as they team up with Mortalis to retrieve the ring of sorrows and have Chrysabelle’s signum reapplied. This involves a side trip to New Orleans, where they have adventures with various Fae. Another thread follows the ghost girl, Fiona, and her lover, the leopard varcolai Doc, as Doc deals with the compulsion spell put on him by a witch after he walked through her witch smoke in the previous book. The witch wants the ring of sorrows, and she also wants a mysterious half-vampire child that Doc first saw in the final pages of the previous book.

A third plot line centers on the mayor of Paradise City, whose only child is a fake comarré who turns up murdered in an alley. The mayor is just beginning to realize that powerful othernaturals are running amok in her city, and she enlists the aid of Creek and Doc to help her control the growing bloodlust—particularly during Samhain.

A fourth story line follows the antics of the power-mad Tatiana as she sends her vampire minions to try to capture Chrysabelle and Mal. Both Tatiana and the witch have several interactions with one of the Ancients, who also wants both the ring of sorrows and the vampire child. The plot is, obviously, extremely dense with subplots, emotional and physical trauma, and actions and reactions from just about every character.

     At this point, the series is much stronger than it was back in book 1. All of the characters are better developed, and most have their own back stories and motivations. Chrysabelle is not so whiny and sullen this time around. Instead, she seems to have matured a great deal and is now driven to get her tattoos back so that she can go through the portal and discover her long-lost brother’s name and whereabouts. Mal loves Chrysabelle deeply and plans to do everything he can to assist her, while trying desperately not to give in to his voices and drink her dry. Doc must deal with the witch’s curse, and then with the after effects of that curse. Tatiana has to adjust to a major change in her family life while still maintaining her power base. Creek must strive for a balance between his KM constraints and the friendships he has made with Chrysabelle and her crew. If you plan to start reading this series, you should definitely begin with book 1 so that you can keep up with the history from book to book.

Contains: graphic, bloody violence.

Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews



Katja From the Punk Band by Simon Logan

Chizine Publications, 2012

ISBN: 0981297870

Available: paperback and multiformat ebook


Sharp, dark, and with a drug-induced dystopian flare, Katja From the Punk Band is the story of chemical dealers, druggies and dreamers, all on a quest to escape their island prison. An unconventional collection of anti-heroes and antagonists, it's remarkably similar to the gritty tales of Sonja Blue by Nancy A. Collins. It's a toss-up whether the sheer violence wins out over the theme of the struggle to find a better life. But it's all good, dark and fast-paced, like being stuck in a trunk during a drunken joyride. Recommended for horror collections looking for something outside of the same old authors and styles.

Contains: violence, language, drug use

Reviewed by: Michele Lee



Dead Iron by Devon Monk

Roc, 2011

ISBN: 045146396X

Available: new and used trade paperback; e-book

This is the first book in The Age of Steam series, which begins in the isolated town of Halleluljah, Oregon in the late 1800s. Hallelujah has pinned its hopes for prosperity on the new railroad that is inching its way toward them. In this steampunk world, daily life is much as you would expect it to be in the Old West, except that gadgetry is everywhere, with gizmos called matics, or tickers, doing much of the busywork. The matics are made of brass and other metals, and run by gears, usually powered by steam. The people who create the matics—almost always men—are called devisers

The primary source of evil in this world is the Strange, which is made up of evil spirits who cause trouble in a multitude of ways. The good guys include the brothers Cedar and Wil Hunt, both werewolves: Rose Small, an orphaned young woman and  budding feminist who can identify the Strange and may have some magic in her: Mae Lindson, a widowed witch who is especially skilled with curses and oaths: and the Madder brothers, mysterious and eccentric devisers who hunt the Strange as they seek to find a magical artifact that could destroy the world.

The villain is the seemingly human Shard LeFel, a wealthy railroad tycoon who was banished from his Strange homeland and is desperate to get back before the next waning moon. If he can’t return by then, he will die. LeFel has set up his headquarters in three specially built railway cars. The story reminded me a lot of Sergio Leone‘s great classic film, Once upon a Time in the West. Both story lines involve a villainous railroad tycoon; soulless, murderous villains; and heroes who are society’s castoffs. LeFel’s right-hand man is Mr. Shunt, a Strange who is ensconced in a matics body that appears to be human. In order to go through a portal and back into the Strange, LeFel needs the blood of a dreaming child, a wolf, and a witch. The plot follows his efforts to attain all three while the good guys try to stop him. One additional character also tries to stop LeFel; Mae’s husband, Jeb. LeFel keeps trying to kill Jeb, but Jeb keeps rising from the grave—and his one and only goal is to kill LeFel so that he can save Mae’s life.

The story is filled with action, with murderous matics, bullying drunks and a witch-hating mob. The mythology of the Strange is lightly sketched, but if you just keep reading, you’ll understand the concept. The story is told in the third person, and it moves from one person’s perspective to another. In general, we see things from the standpoint of Cedar, Mae, Rose, Jeb and LeFel. After the climactic ending, the surviving characters head East for their next adventures.

The mythology is fresh and inventive, and the characters are complex and well drawn. By the end, I found myself eager to know what will come next for each one. Recommended.

Contains: high levels of graphic, bloody violence.

Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews


Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent

Mira, 2011

ISBN: 978-0778312550

Available: mass market paperback: e-book: audio CD

This is the first book in the Unbound Trilogy, an urban fantasy series. In this world, there are no shifters or vampires or demons. Instead, there are the Skilled—people who are born with special magical Skills, including Tracking (locating a person or object through blood or full name), Seeing (forecasting future events), and Binding (binding people to magical contracts that, if broken, result in pain or death).

The general public is aware of these Skills and use them behind the scenes, which has led to the growth of a black market in which mob leaders attempt to recruit and control as many of the Skilled as they can. The two major mob leaders are Jake Tower and Ruben Cavazos.

The heroine is Olivia (Liv) Warren, whose Skill is Tracking, particularly Blood Tracking. Liv is bound to the cruel and vicious Cavazos, a powerful Binder. Liv’s primary job for Cavazos is to track down his young son, who was spirited away by his mother. She has been unsuccessfully searching for 18 months, and she has just six more months before her contract ends. If she doesn’t find him by then, things will get much worse for her with Cavazos. The scenes between Liv and Cavazos are disturbing, with physical violence on both sides, but with Liv always getting the worst of it.

Liv’s love life has been terrible for the past six years, ever since she was forced to dump her long-time boyfriend, Cameron, also a Tracker. We don’t discover why Liv left Cam until deep into the book, but, trust me, it’s a big payoff. The chemistry between Liv and Cam is sizzling, with just the right amount of sexual tension running through all of their scenes.

Early on, Cam shows up at Liv’s office with Anne, one of Liv’s childhood friends. Anne and Liv, along with two of their friends, accidentally bound themselves to one another back when they were teens, and Anne uses that binding to coerce Liv into tracking her husband’s murderer. She also forces Liv to partner with Cam for the investigation. Soon, Anne’s daughter is put in jeopardy, and Liv and Cam are caught in a confrontation between the Tower and Cavazos crime syndicates. Liv and Cam must try to get around the various oaths that bind them so that they can rescue the girl.

Blood Bound is told in the first person, switching back and forth in point of view from Liv to Cam. This is confusing the first time it happens, but then you get used to it. Vincent handles the difficulties of first person narrative with the ease of a veteran.

Vincent has created an inventive world in which seemingly simple oaths can change people’s lives. Each character has a back story that creates empathy on the part of the reader, and no one is all good or all bad. Even Cavazos and his crazed wife, who are awful human beings, have some good in them. The plot is intricate, and it plays out in a compelling manner. Recommended.

Contains: graphic violence and sexuality.

Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews




Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass

Pocket, 2010

ISBN: 9781439156797

Available: Mass market paperback and multiformat digital

Kira's life is scarred by magic. Unable to touch others because of her power, she is educated both in history and in the skills necessary to becoming a slayer of the creatures of the Shadow. Now, as an adult, she's a powerful Shadowchaser, a fighter for a secret organization dedicated to preserving the balance between Chaos and Light. As a follower of Ma'at, balance is very important to Kira.

A friend brings a powerful—and evil—ancient blade to her for protection, and then ends up dead in an alley. His death exposes connections to Kira she didn't even know they had, and she feels the loss even more keenly. Then a mysterious (and sexy) Nubian warrior claiming to be the blade's owner appears, and when Kira discovers he can touch her without suffering the death that most people do, it changes everything for her.

Shadow Blade is a fantastic Egyptian-themed urban fantasy with a lead character who's the strong, calm type. While Kira has a little snark, she’s not a jerk with a bad attitude, just a woman who cannot connect with humanity and is trying desperately to save it. Shadow Blade a fun, enjoyably complex read. Definitely recommended for urban fantasy fans and public collections.

Contains: sexual situations, violence, language

Reviewed by: Michele Lee





The Hunter by Theresa Meyers

Zebra (2011)

ISBN: 978-1420121247

Available: new and used mass market paperback; e-book


This is the first book in the Legend Chronicles steampunk series, which the author describes as a mash up of the TV show Supernatural and the movie Wild Wild West. In this alternate Old West world, the three Jackson brothers (Winchester, Remington, and Colt) are trying to track down the ancient Book of Legend, which has been broken into three parts and hidden away. The brothers must find all three parts so that they can close the Gates of Nyx, which are currently open, allowing demonic creatures of the Darkin to enter the mortal world. In Darkin legend, the Jackson brothers are the Chosen ones, who will to bring down the Darkin and save the mortal world. Each book will follow one brother as he searches for 1/3 of the book and finds his supernatural soul mate along the way. Since the brothers were raised to hunt down and kill all supernaturals, the fact that their sweethearts are all supernatural leads to countless angst-filled interior monologues, both for the brothers and their soul mates. As the series begins, Colt, the youngest brother, is the only one who knows the importance of the Book. When Colt explains the Darkin problem to Winn and Remy, they agree to help him.

This world is filled with the usual steampunk gadgetry, goggles, and guns. For example, Colt’s weapons are all gear-driven and/or magical, and he rides a mechanical horse. Unfortunately, the steampunk elements serve primarily as props rather than being an integral part of life. We don’t see the townsfolk using any magical gadgetry. We just see the brothers using various gear-driven widgets or steam-powered thingamajigs to get themselves out of tight spots.

Colt must locate and open a well-hidden, underground door that will give him access to 1/3 of the Book. He successfully summons a demon to open the door, but that demon is not exactly what Colt imagined. Instead of a red-skinned, horned monster, he gets a red-headed, curvaceous succubus named Lilly Arliss. Lilly’s master has ordered her to get the Book and to deliver Colt to Hell, but Lilly wants her humanity back, and she believes that Colt and the Book can help her do that. The story follows Colt and Lilly as they search for the door and fall in love along the way, battling a variety of demonic monsters, from stone men to a giant spider, as well as an avalanche, a flood, moving rock walls, trip wires, and lethal traps. Shades of Raiders of the Lost Ark!

With its gadgetry and Old-West setting, one would think that this story would feel new and inventive, but there are too many predictable events and stereotypical dangers. The whole plot can be boiled down into one sentence: Two people from different worlds search for a magical artifact, encounter a variety of dangers, meditate endlessly on their doomed love affair, and make great sacrifices for one another. It’s the standard soul mate plot. Throwing in a handful of gear-driven gadgets doesn’t freshen up the story line. Having said all that, however, if the reader is a huge fan of traditional soul-mate romances and isn’t looking for any new plot twists, this one won’t disappoint. Even if you don’t care for steampunk, you may like the series because the steampunk elements are peripheral to the story line.

No recommendation

Contains some graphic violence and sexuality

Reviewed by Patricia Mathews




The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

Ace, 2011

ISBN: 978-1937007010

Available: New and used mass market paperback; e-book; CD audiobook; MP3



This is the first book in the Shadow Reader urban fantasy series, a series with intricate world building and a well-devised story arc. The primary supernaturals are the fae, who move between their Realm and mortal earth, but are unknown to most mortals, except for vigilantes, who try to kill all fae and their human assistants. The fae king, Atroth, is attempting to put down a rebellion. His best weapon is his human shadow reader, McKenzie Lewis, the series heroine. McKenzie was born with the ability to track a fae’s movements by reading the shadows during a fae’s fissure—their teleportation between dimensions. McKenzie can also see through fae illusions, so the fae can’t make themselves invisible to her.


McKenzie is kidnapped by the rebels because they hope to persuade her to turn against Atroth. For the past ten years, McKenzie has had a romantic (but not consummated) relationship with Atroth’s sword-master, Kyol Taltrayn. They love one another, but the king has forbidden affairs between fae and mortals, and Kyol is such a man of honor that he refuses to go against his king. The rebel leader is the sexy Aren Jorreb, and soon enough, sparks (literally) fly between Aren and McKenzie. In this world, when a fae and a human have skin-on-skin contact, the result is chaos lusters, which are extremely pleasurable miniature lightning bolts that zigzag across the skin. So...very early on, we have a love triangle that isn’t resolved until the very end of the book, although you can see which way things are going much sooner than that. The love triangle is similar to Twilight’s Edward-Jacob rivalry, with Kyol being the dark, brooding, serious one and Aren being the fierce, sardonic, blond one.


Aren knows that McKenzie’s biased beliefs about the rebels are the result of her brainwashing by Atroth, and he is determined to make her understand his side of the story by teaching her the forbidden fae language and telling her the truth about events of the past and present. The story follows McKenzie as she is jerked back and forth from one side to the other, never knowing quite what, or who, to believe. At times, McKenzie comes across as a strong and independent urban fantasy heroine, but at other times, she is a fragile female who must be rescued by one of her big, strong boyfriends. She definitely gets beat up, strangled, shot, and stabbed more than any other character in the story. The overall theme is that the truth is frequently hidden in gray areas that are difficult to see through.


This is a well-constructed mythology with strongly defined characters. The story is told in the first person from McKenzie’s point of view, and the author handles the first-person point of view quite well. Recommended.

Contains a few scenes of graphic violence.

Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews




To Walk the Night by E. S. Moore (Pen Name for Eric S. Moore)

Kensington, 2012

ISBN: 978-0758268723

Available: New and used mass market paperback; ebook


This is the first book in the Kat Redding urban fantasy series. In this world, humans (aka purebloods) are considered prey by the vampires and werewolves who live among them. Vamps and shifters own the night, while the purebloods generally take care of their business during the daytime. Most vamps live in Houses, each headed by a vampire count or countess, and most werewolves live in servitude to the vampires, serving as their daytime protectors. 


     This vampire mythology includes several traditional elements: sun sensitivity, strength and speed, and a deadly allergy to silver. However, these vamps depart from the usual tradition regarding their fangs. Each time a vampire’s fangs descend, they break through the gums and bleed very heavily. Other non-traditional characteristics include their inability to share the blood of other supernatural species and the painfulness of their bites.


The series is set in Columbus, Ohio, where a female vampire—Kat Redding—has made it her mission to kill as many evil vamps and shifters as possible. Known as Lady Death, she slinks around taking down entire vampire Houses. Kat and her brother share a tragic past- they were kidnapped by vampires, and her brother was turned into an insane shifter monster. When Kat escaped, she rescued Ethan, a teenager who is now her agoraphobic assistant, and creates specialized weapons for her nightly hunts.


As the story opens, Kat receives an invitation to visit the Luna Cult, a group of werewolves and purebloods who glorify the werewolf lifestyle. A local vamp House has captured the cult’s leader, and the Cult wants Kat to help them get him back safely. The plot follows Kat as she and the Luna Cult leader plan their strategy and carry it out with disastrous results for almost everyone. A complication arises when a former member of the Luna Cult, who left because it wasn’t militant enough, returns to convince the other werewolves to revolt against the vampires.


Kat’s character is unlikeable and unbelievable. She is just one single vampire with no unusual powers, but somehow she is able to sweep through entire vampire Houses, killing all of the vampires and werewolves without getting a scratch on her. She has a one-note personality- a solitary mood of relentless grimness topped off with a permanent, ferocious scowl. Her knee-jerk reaction to every event is flat-out rage. Since Kat has absolutely no friends or acquaintances (except for poor Ethan, who frequently bears the brunt of her anger), we don’t see her interact with anyone in a friendly way—or even in a neutral or civil manner—at any point in the entire book. The story line itself isn’t bad; in fact, it got better as it progressed. But the total lack of dimensionality and credibility in the main character spoiled the story for me.

Contains: graphic violence, and gore

Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews


Ascension by Sable Grace (pseudonym for Heather Waters and Laura Barone)

Avon, 2011

ISBN: 978-0061964404

Available: new and used mass market paperback; e-book


This is the first book in the Dark Breed urban fantasy series, although there is an  ebook prequel to the series entitled “Before the Fall.” Set in Florida, the series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world just weeks after the gates of Hell have opened to allow all manner of horrific creatures to wreak havoc on the earth. In control of all of the supernaturals is the Ancient Order, which employs immortals as warriors to keep the Dark Breed (rogue Vampyres, demons, and shape shifters, aka lychen) from decimating the human population. My initial impression is that this series, rather than being fresh and inventive, is an attempted knock-off of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Ones series, but with way too much convoluted world building and not nearly enough humor and character development.


This world has three realms: Above (mortal earth where all mortals and a few nonhumans reside), Below (where nonhumans conduct their daily business), and Beyond (home of the gods, aka Olympus). The supernaturals at the top of the pecking order are the Greek gods and goddesses, from Ares and Artemis all the way up to Zeus. The powers of the gods and goddesses are waning, and the search is on for their replacements, the Chosen. Unfortunately, a mysterious serial killer is murdering the Chosen.


The series heroine is Kyana, a half-Vampyre, half-Lychen tracer for the Order. She and her fellow tracers must track down the missing Chosen before they are murdered. Kyana has no love for humans, but she protects them nonetheless, by hunting down and disposing of Dark Breed. 


Kyana is directed to retrieve the key to the gate of Hell so that it can be locked up to prevent more hellish creatures from escaping Above. The key was stolen eons ago by the long-dead Cronos, who was banished because he tried to murder his sons so that they couldn’t take away his power. Cronos wants to come back so that he can take out his vengeance on all the gods and goddesses. Kyana’s partner is the demi-god Ryker, son of Ares. Kyana and Ryker had a sour romantic moment years ago, but they are still attracted to one another. Two other key characters are Haven (a powerful witch and healer) and Geoffrey (another tracer). The four friends collect and interpret a myriad of clues as they search for the mystical key. The book ends with a twist and a cliffhanger, which plays out in book 2. 


Ascension spends a great deal of time on complicated world building, because this series tries to cram in a little bit of everything—from the Greek gods to traditional supernatural creatures to Underworld mythology. Kyana is a stereotypically foul-mouthed, headstrong heroine who is hard to warm up to. The plot has a few serious holes, with the main characters jumping to hugely spontaneous conclusions based on small (or no) amounts of factual information.

Contains: graphic sexual scenes, violence, and gore


Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews


Bedeviled by Sable Grace

Avon, 2011

ISBN: 978-0061964411

Available: new and used mass market paperback; ebook


This is the second book in the Dark Breed urban fantasy series. The story begins just a day or so after Ascension ends, with Kyana trying to accept the fact that she will ascend as the new Goddess of the Hunt. Kyana’s primary problem is that her friend, the witch Haven, is out there somewhere in her new vampyre/lychen form, possessed by the spirit of Cronos, and Cronos is still determined to collect all of the Eyes of Power (e.g., Zeus’ staff, Poseidon’s trident) so that he can return to his corporeal form and take revenge on his sons—not to mention his plans for world domination.


With the world-building out of the way, the plot of this second book is more action-oriented than the first book, although the action is predictable. Kyana and Ryker search for Haven/Cronos, and capture her/him briefly before she/he once more escapes their grasp. Then they start the search-capture-lose sequence anew—and then again, which begins to get tedious. In the midst of all of this repetitive searching, we also have lots of repetitive angst, as Kyana constantly worries that she can’t commit to a long-term relationship with Ryker, and Ryker endlessly agonizes that Kyana will never see him as anything more than an outlet for casual sex. Kyana also reflects endlessly on her guilt for being the cause of Haven’s monstrous condition. 


Meanwhile, back on Olympus, the aging gods and goddesses are becoming weaker and weaker, and some of them as yet have no Chosen to replace them. This problem directly affects Kyana’s small group of friends when, one by one, they are tapped by the gods to be their Chosen—either temporarily or permanently. The ending leaves the Cronos situation hanging in the balance. Midway through the book, the author apparently tries for humor when she has Nettles, an elderly seer, dress for bed in “pink pajamas...covered with tiny gray mice and there were feet...sewn in, a hood stitched into the back.” To top this off, the hood has mouse ears. This little episode is tossed in as an attempt to lighten things up, but the scene is so awkward that it is more annoying than entertaining.


Although the series mythology is over-the-top complex, it is well-defined and works well enough with the story line. The weakness lies with the shallow and predictable characters. The gods and goddesses are like paper cut-outs, with their brittle beauty, fine clothing, and superficial personalities. Kyana is the most predictable of them all—reacting to almost every situation with stubbornness and rage. Ryker is always his lovesick self, trying to believe that Kyana has the ability to be the best that she can be. (I kept thinking of the old commercials for the U.S. Army.)


Contains: graphic sexual scenes, violence, and gore

Reviewed by: Patricia Mathews




Dead Mann Walking by Stefan Petrucha

Roc, 2011

ISBN: 978-0451464217

Available: New and Used



This is the first book in the Hessius Mann series. In this world, dead people can be brought back to life. Unfortunately, the newly revitalized person has none of the attributes of a live human being. Instead, it has the traditional characteristics of a zombie: persistent rotting, lack of emotion, stiffness of motion, dry skin, and wonky memories. Coming back from the dead is called getting ripped: from the acronym for the process: radical invigoration procedure (RIP). Ripped persons are called chakz. Real live people call themselves livebloods to differentiate themselves from the chakz.


Two more new words have found their way into popular usage: The first is D-cap (short for decapitation), which is the main method used to get rid of the chakz that livebloods don't want around anymore. The second new word is hakkers, the name given to drunken gangs of armed livebloods who head for the chak shantytowns on Friday nights to slash and hack as many chakz as possible while the police look the other way.


The main character is Hessius (Hess) Mann, a chak who was executed for murdering his wife when he was a human police detective, but was later partially exonerated and then ripped. This type of ripping is now common due to the Revivification as Restitution Act (RAR), which requires that the wrongfully executed be brought back as chakz. Now, Hess ekes out a living as a private detective, with mostly chakz as his clients. 


As the story opens, Hess is hired by a liveblood attorney named William Turgeon to track down a chak named Frank Boyle, another unfortunate man who was mistakenly executed and then ripped. Frank's father has died and left him a fortune, and Turgeon has been tasked with finding the heir. The plot follows Hess as he locates Frank, only to find that Turgeon is not exactly what he has portrayed himself to be. In the meantime, Hess has been following the TV coverage of a series of murders in which dismembered chakz are discovered around the city—all missing their heads. Eventually, Hess realizes that he has stumbled into a nightmare in which he is on the list to be the next victim of a sociopathic killer.


Although there are a few inconsistencies and illogical events in the plot, this is a fascinating world. Hess is a great character—trying to maintain as normal an existence as possible, but always on the verge of going feral. Petrucha establishes a dark sardonic tone as Hess ruminates about his “life” and wonders how long it will last. Hess's relationship with Misty, his liveblood assistant, whom he saved from crack addiction, is quite heartwarming as they carry out their everyday tasks (e.g., Misty stitching Hess's fallen-off bits and pieces back together) and prove their loyalty to one another. Although the villain is crazy bad and we know his identity early on, there is a nice twist at the end that will probably surprise you. Petrucha has wonderful skills with language, particularly with his gritty metaphors.

Recommended for public libraries.


Contains: graphic violence


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews



Cosmic Forces by Gregory Lamberson

Medallion Press, 2011

ISBN 978-160542408-8

Available: New paperback



In book three of the Jake Helman Files, Jake is hired by Marla Madigan, wife of New York City’s mayor.  Marla believes her husband is cheating, and she wants Jake to gather evidence so she can use it as leverage for a divorce.  Jake decides to take the case, but what he finds the mayor doing is far worse and much more sinister than just sleeping around. 


When Jake follows the mayor on a weekend retreat to upstate New York, he witnesses a ritual murder and is chased by creatures that could only have been created in a lab by Nicholas Tower, who is now deceased.  It seems the mayor has become part of the Order of Avademe, a group of powerful industrialists who have steered major world events for hundreds of years.  Led by Karlin Reichard, the Order, made up of eight men, worship a powerful being.  In order for Jake to bring them down he must join the Order.  He doesn’t believe Avademe exists until he is visited by an emissary from the Realm of Light, and then one from the Dark Realm.  The Realms are looking for a creature that has been eating souls for centuries.  Somehow this “destroyer of souls” and the Order of Avademe are connected, and Jake must once again deal with the supernatural.


Gregory Lamberson is on a roll with the Jake Helman Files.  Well-written and with excellent pacing, Cosmic Forces is a wild ride of Biblical proportions.  Jake Helman is an engaging character, rough around the edges and on par with Kolchak (from the Night Stalker series).  Lamberson’s storytelling is nice and tight and never predictable.  I was completely surprised when the nature of Avademe was revealed.  Cosmic Forces can stand on its own as a novel but I strongly recommend starting from the beginning, with Personal Demons and then Desperate Souls, so you get a real feel for some of the characters and what Jake Helman is all about.  This is a must-get for fans of paranormal detective stories, and I think most horror fans will enjoy it as well. Recommended.


Contains: violence, adult language and sexual situations


Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund




The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson, read by Michael Kramer

Macmillan Audio, 2011

ISBN: 978-1427214584

Available: Audio


Meet Lord Waxillium Ladrian, a twinborn with the powers of Allomancy and Feurchemy. He’s been a law keeper in the Roughs for two decades, but family tragedy has forced him to resume his post as a high lord of his octant in the sprawling metropolis of Elendel. With the wild life of good guys versus bad guys behind him, Wax must return to his roots in high society; however, it’s not long before his life as a law keeper catches up to him, and requires him to use his skills to solve a rather complex series of heists and kidnappings. To face the dangers ahead, and to defeat the enemy, Wax must use his Allomancy power, which allows him to push on metals, and his Feurchemy power, which allows him to alter his weight to become heavier or lighter as needed. But are these enough when facing other twinborns out to kill him?


The Alloy of Law follows Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, but it is not necessary to have read the trilogy prior to reading this title; it stands alone wonderfully on its own. It’s a western meets dark fantasy meets steampunk with some history, science fiction, and romance thrown in for good measure. Lots of action, suspense and dialogue keep the story moving at a pretty quick pace. The story is strongly character-driven with clearly identifiable good guys and bad guys. The Alloy of Law is an incredibly fun read with a great universe built in the background that sucks you in immediately. It’s written for adults, but could easily be accessible by the YA audience.


Kramer is one of my personal favorite readers. His reading is smooth with great intonation and a wide array of voices and accents that are clearly discernable from one another. He is a perfect choice for The Alloy of Law as the story has numerous characters, one of which, Wayne, is a master of accents. Wayne’s role as Wax’s sidekick has him donning a variety of disguises, complete with slight accent deviations, and Kramer impressively wields these deviations with a beautiful lilt. The audio production quality is of the highest standard; audiobook lovers will not be let down with this title.

Both the audiobook and physical book are highly recommended for public libraries.

Contains: n/a

Reviewed by: Kelly Fann




Bobby Singer’s Guide to Hunting by David Reed

It Books; Original edition, 2011
ISBN: 978-0062103376

Available: Paperback and digital


         I read a lot of serious, professional, technical books and articles for work, so when it is my vacation time I prefer to read books that don't take themselves too seriously and are on a familiar topic. I'm looking for books that are candy for my brain.

        While I was visiting friends I picked up a copy of Bobby Singer's Guide to Hunting and started to read. I'm from Wisconsin, where the book is set, so seeing familiar places named as settings for this book in the first few pages gave me even more incentive to read. I quickly discovered that I was actually reading the journals of a desperate man who is trying to record everything he knows before his mind is wiped. Bobby hopes the process of writing down what has happened to him will help his sort out his reality. In essence, he is talking directly to you through his journal entries. His memories focus on some of his more powerful experiences, such as the demonic possession of his wife Karen; hunting down supernatural Ondine on a Trans-Pacific journey; and his eventual acceptance off the supernatural. The entries jump around in time as he flashes back to different points in his life: these memories often trigger his practical side, leading to entries that are more instructional with tips for hunting Angels and ghosts, as well as describing different types of demons classified by eye-color. As I am familiar with Native American Trickster folklore, I particularly enjoyed the entries about Bobby's experience with Anansi who had retired and was playing bridge at the local retirement community.

        Bobby Singer's Guide to Hunting pokes fun at trends in popular fiction. I have noticed that the mystery section at my public library was filling up with what I describe as “craft-based” mysteries: books in which the protagonist not only is enthralled in a mystery but also finds time to share a recipe for apple turnovers or directions for a cable knit sweater that was mentioned in the story line. So when I discovered that this book also included a recipe for the readers I burst out laughing. I have also read a number of “how to survive a zombie apocalypse” style books as well watched various zombie movies and TV series so I found the tip sections humorous.

        It wasn't until I was already 70 pages into the book that my dear friend's husband pointed out that the book I was reading was related to the TV show Supernatural. I have never seen the show so I don't know how well the book supports the show’s themes, but I didn't feel lost with the characters. Maybe the whole “I'm recording everything I know before my memory is gone” device allowed the author to present more background on the characters than normal. I have read books based on TV and movies I have seen before, and the author’s approach can vary. Some books, such as Chronicles of Riddick, are an SAT vocabulary rehash of the movie plot; some, like the CSI books, assume that you already know the characters' back-story from the show; and others, like the Mr. Monk series, are written so you can see the connections and enjoy the story even if you aren’t an avid fan. This book fell into the last of these categories. I found it an easy and compelling read even though I wasn't familiar with the related TV series. Highly recommended.

Contains: N/A


Reviewed by: Sarah Renish-Ratelis


Ghost Story: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, narrated by John GloverRecorded Books, 2011
ISBN: 9781461805625 (MP3 audio)
Available: New Hardback, multi-format audio, and multi-format ebook

     The only wizard to advertise in the Chicago yellow pages has been assassinated, but a little thing like being dead won’t keep Harry Dresden down.  When offered the chance to track down his killer, Harry accepts and is returned to Chicago as a ghost.  He discovers he has some really cool ghostly abilities, which he slyly compares to the X-Men’s mutant powers.  Harry learns that his memories (being only recently dead, he still has all of his) are not only attractive to other ghosts, who want to feed on them, but are also a source of power to any ghostly entity, including himself.  Unfortunately, his powers can’t help Harry contact his friends, who are not able to see or hear him, nor can he touch anything.  On top of everything else, the great and powerful wizard-detective finds that ghosts can't do magic!  Harry then learns ex-cop Karrin Murphy, his apprentice Molly, and all his friends are involved in a desperate battle to defend Chicago against a vicious new enemy, without him there to help.

     The previous titles in the Dresden Files series have all been narrated by James Marsters (remember Spike from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel") but due to a scheduling conflict he was unavailable this time.  The audio publisher, Recorded Books, chose instead to have actor John Glover record Ghost Story.  Some may recall him for his portrayal of Lionel Luthor (Lex Luthor's father) in TV's Smallville.  Glover is a great narrator match for Harry, delivering the right emphasis to Harry's usual sardonic wit and providing rich individual voices for each of the other characters.  The pop culture references from the last four decades of TV and movies had me chuckling and even laughing out loud at times!  Glover also does an excellent job of rendering ghost Harry's soul-searching, as he remembers various events from throughout his life.

     Over the course of the novel, Harry either encounters or reminisces about almost every character (friend or foe) who has appeared in the Dresden Files series, giving Ghost Story very much of a 'life passing before your eyes' feel.  And, as mentioned earlier in this review, memories do have power and readers will get to know their true power when Harry identifies his murderer!  Ghost Story: a Novel of the Dresden Files is highly recommended in any and all formats (audio, print, or ebook) for series fans and libraries, especially those holding the previous titles.  New readers of urban fantasy might also enjoy this ‘walk down memory lane’ introduction to Harry and the Dresden Files series.  My one cautionary note, related strictly to the audio edition, is that fans of the James Marsters recordings may object to John Glover as the narrator for this title. 

Contains: Language, violence, and some gore

Reviewed by: Lucy Lockley, the RAT Queen



The Last Seal by Richard Denning

Mercia Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0956810335

Available: New, Used, and Kindle


        The Last Seal is the first book in Richard Denning’s Praesidium series. Set in seventeenth-century London against the backdrop of the Great Fire, the book is a YA historical fantasy that tells the story of schoolboy Ben. Orphaned Ben is a pupil at Westminster, but decides to play truant one day after an altercation with his headmaster. Looking for something to pass the time in the city, Ben wanders into a bookshop and is drawn into a magical and dangerous adventure. Befriending a thief, a bookseller and a doctor, Ben learns of an apocalyptic battle between two secret societies – and discovers more about his own family history and the role he must play to prevent the catastrophic events to come.


        The main strength of Denning’s book is the meticulous research that has gone into its creation. The author has clearly devoted a great deal of time and effort into understanding the history and geography of London in 1666. From fabrics and building materials, to iconic London landmarks such as Newgate Prison and St. Paul’s Cathedral, historical details are described with care throughout the book.


        Sadly, this strength is also a weakness. Throughout The Last Seal, storytelling, pacing and characterization are sacrificed for historical detail. Tense chase scenes are weakened by constant lists of streets and landmarks; characters’ backstories are cluttered with somewhat clumsy history lessons. Outside of the historical detail, the story is, unfortunately, rather flimsy and predictable. For me, the balance between storytelling and historical research was not struck, and I found it difficult to identify with any of the characters. Added to this was the rather frustrating use of ‘spell words’ (or ‘Words of Power’ as they are called in the book), made up of words from different languages. These – such as ‘Kipofu-Lumen-Glimt’ – read a little awkwardly, and sounded too much like imitations of the spell words used in the Harry Potter series.


        However, it is worth noting that The Last Seal is a YA fantasy novel with a male protagonist, and these are still too few and far between. Denning’s schoolboy hero is a dependable, brave and intelligent, and will appeal to young male fans of Rowling’s Harry Potter. There is only one female character in the book, so I think it’s fair to say that this is very much a boys’ book, which will appeal to male readers (particularly those interested in history) aged 10-13.


Contains: references to Christianity, the occult and demonology


Reviewed by: Hannah Kate




Fatal Circle by Linda Robinson

Pocket Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1439156803

Available: New, Used, Digital


Fatal Circle is the third book in the Persephone Alcmedi series. Persephone Alcmedi is the Lustrata, a fabled witch said to bring balance and justice to the magical world. In the last book she was outed to the other witches of her city and she was forced to save her foster daughter and grandmother from a murderous fae. Now the fae are using her actions as an excuse to declare war on the human magic users. Persephone is forced to publicly disown her family, take a position as a vampire court witch, becoming a pariah to protect herself and her fellow witches. It’s an obligation that only one called to equality and fairness could bear.

Robertson's Circle series is less violence and battle-based than a lot of urban fantasy. For readers that prefer mystery-based paranormal romance, this series is good one. It's dark, emotional, and meaningful, without a lot of the gore or graphic sex. Robertson's lead, too, is set apart from other urban fantasy leads. Persephone is a woman embedded in family and responsibility, not to save the world, but just to do what is right. Fatal Circle is a breath of fresh air in the magical worlds of paranormal fiction, and will whet readers’ ravenous appetites for more. It's a good crossover title that should appeal to readers of both fantasy and romance, and a great addition to public collections.

Contains: language, violence, sex

Reviewed by: Michele Lee


Death Sword by Pamela Turner

Lyrical Press, 2011
ASIN: B004HO63E2

Available: Kindle

One night in a dark alley Karla Black is stabbed by a man who doesn't want her money, her body, or even her life. Instead, he wants to activate her angel side and help her take up the mantle of an angel of death. As if this isn’t traumatic enough on its own, Karla then finds herself stuck with her mysterious not-killer and sucked into a centuries-old drama involving his jealous ex-lover and a series of curses (and nothing is as jealous as, or sets curses like, an angel) More is at stake, though, and Karla, the other angels, and the world at large are in some serious danger.

Death Sword is not perfect. I'd have liked to see some smoothing around the edges, both in the writing and in the emotional content of the story. But it's a lot of fun to read about your home city suffering the vengeful wrath of angels, and Turner has a very interesting take on angels. There’s a great love story, which will make this a pleasurable read for paranormal romance fans, and also a good addition to digital paranormal romance collections.

Contains: violence, language, m/m sexual situations, explicit sex scenes

Reviewed by: Michele Lee





Retribution by Sherrilyn Kenyon

St. Martin’s, 2011

ISBN: 978-0312546595 (hardcover) 978-1427212412 (MacMillan audiobook)

Available: New and used


This is book 17 in the Dark-Hunters Series. In Retribution, we are definitely not in New Orleans anymore; instead, we're in the American West. Kenyon switches her mythological pantheons completely as she delves into Native American mythology to tell the story of Jess (Sundown) Brady, a Dark-Hunter, and Abigail Yager, a human who has been infused with Daemon blood and brainwashed into believing that Dark-Hunters are evil killers. Supporting characters for the good guys include Sasha, a werewolf; Choo Co La Tah, Guardian for the North; and Renegade, a Dark-Hunter. The primary villain is Coyote, who is assisted by Snake and a bevy of monstrous magical insects and daimons.


 As the story begins, Jess has been tasked with tracking down a serial killer who has murdered several Dark-Hunters. When he discovers that the killer is a young human girl who looks just like his long-lost love, he's not sure how to react. Then, he learns that along with her Dark-Hunter victims, she has also killed Old Bear, Guardian of the West, which has let loose the horrors that Old Bear was guarding. During a horrific magical wasp attack, Jess and Abigail begin to bond, and the romance kicks in. Both Jess and Abigail are haunted by their tragic pasts. He became a Dark-Hunter to wreak revenge on the man who killed him and raped his fiancée. Abigail is an orphan who was raised by Apollites after the murder of her parents, and she has been told repeatedly that Jess is their murderer. The conflict involves the building of trust between Jess and Abigail and the defeat of Coyote, who is trying to take advantage of Old Bear's death to make a power play of his own. Unfortunately, towards the end of the book, events begin to get convoluted and hard to follow. I read this as an audiobook and kept wishing I had a print copy so that I could look back and double check past events in order to better understand the ending, which involves love, revenge, death and reincarnated spirits, with several confusing flashbacks (confusing, at least, in audiobook form).


As is usual in Kenyon's stories, the humor comes from the sarcastic, wise-cracking dialogue among the characters. The character of Jess is well developed and likeable. The character of Abigail is not so great. She makes one bad decision after another and whines about the consequences throughout the book. I had a hard time believing that Jess would so quickly fall in love with this petulant, pouty woman, especially after she murders not only several of his brother Dark-Hunters, but also a Guardian.

The part of the book that most DARK-HUNTERS fans will love the most is the "Bonus Section," which describes the birth of Ash and Tory's baby.

Highly recommended for all public libraries.


Contains: profanity and some graphic sexual scenes.


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews


Sympathy for the Devil by Justin Gustainis

Solaris, 2011

ISBN: 978-1907992032

Available: New and used


Sympathy for the Devil is part of the Morris & Chastain Supernatural Investigations series. In this series, Quincey Morris is the namesake and great-grandson of the rich young Texan of the same name who lost his life in the final battle with Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel. The modern-day Quincey investigates occult disturbances with his partner, white witch Elizabeth (Libby) Chastain. The author includes lots of genre-related in-jokes that add humor to the stories.


As this book opens, Harold Stark, a right-wing senator from Ohio, is running for U.S. President when he is possessed by the demon Sargatanas. That kicks off a complex plot in which Quincey and Libby must stop Stark/Sargatanas with as little collateral damage as possible. Quincey is still recovering from a Hellburn he received during the climax of the previous book, and that scar will come back to haunt him in this new book. The story unfolds in a series of related, escalating scenes, each focusing on one of several different characters’ involvement with Stark/Sargatanas.


Here are the primary supporting characters:

Mary Margaret (MM) Doyle: Stark's power-hungry human assistant.

Malachi Peters: A former covert government assassin who died, went to hell, and has now been brought back by the demon Astaroth to kill Stark/Sargatanas.

Ashley: a beautiful demon who is sent by Astaroth to assist Peters.

Nestor Greene: a political dirty-tricks specialist hired by MM to get rid of Stark's political competitors.

The Grocer's Son: an assassin Nestor hires to take out the final competing presidential candidate.


Quincey and Libby are separately drawn into the Stark/Sargatanas situation, and then work together to solve the problem. Gustainis hopscotches from one character to another to carry the story along, with each scene building up more and more suspense. All of the characters are well developed, even the two exorcists who get dragged into the mess. Gustainis excels at creating well-constructed, action-packed stories woven from many disparate threads, and this is a prime example. The ending is full of twists and surprises that will keep you guessing up through the last paragraph. Highly recommended for all public libraries.


Contains:  frequent scenes of sexual innuendo. Libby has been known to swing both ways, and the demons are sex obsessed, but all of their sexuality is limited to talk and/or aftermath descriptions. Language in some scenes is provocative and profane. We are, after all, dealing with demons here.


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews




The Urban Fantasy Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale

Tachyon Publications, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1616960186

Available:  New paperback and multi-format digital edition

     As a concept, I am fine with the idea of urban fantasy. One of my favorite reads last year was King Maker by Maurice Broaddus, which was basically a gangland version of King Arthur’s court set in modern Indianapolis. The Crow is another fine example.

     This broad and diverse anthology features three sections: Mythic Fiction, Paranormal Romance and Noir Fantasy. Each section comes with an introduction about that particular sub-genre of urban fantasy, and honestly, those essays were my favorite part of the book. The Mythic Fiction essay was written by Charles de Lint, the Paranormal Romance essay was by Paula Guran(a long time editor, agent and Cemetery Dance columnist), and the Noir Fantasy essay was by bestselling author Joe R. Lansdale.

     As for the stories, I rolled my eyes a lot. Many of them were less than memorable, which led to a lot of subconscious skipping around.  There were some excellent choices as well, though. My favorite stories were the bizarre surrealist tale “Bible Repairman” by Tim Powers; “Haunted House of My Very Own” by Kelly Armstrong; and the classic by Joe R. Lansdale, "On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks”, which I first read when it was released in Skipp and Spector’s classic zombie anthology The Book of the Dead. I was too young to understand the story then, so it was awesome to relive it. These stories seemed more like horror tales than urban fantasy, though, and horror is my preferred genre, so I’m biased.

     I do think that, regardless of my opinion as a reader and a critic, this book SHOULD be in every library collection. This is a growing new subgenre and I think this book is an important look at how and why it exists.

     It should be noted that if you’re looking for gritty urban horror and noir of the fantastic, Tachyon published a collection by Joe R. Lansdale called Crucified Dreams. While it might not be a good fit for all urban fantasy readers, I think it was a far superior collection.

Reviewed by: David Agranoff




The Blood Bond by Bey Logan

B & E Productions, October 2010

Available:   Paperback, Kindle, and iTunes app at

     Bey Logan is well known to kung fu movie nerds like me, as the expert voice on the commentary tracks for Dragon Dynasty's line of DVDs. I have listened to every one of them that has come into my hands. The man knows everything there is to know about kung fu movies. He has also worked as a screenwriter, producer and actor, so when I first heard about his novel I wasn’t surprised to learn it had started life as a screenplay. The film was directed by and starred cult movie star Michel Biehan.

     In the forward, Logan wrote that he was happy with the finished film, but he enjoyed the story the way he wrote it before two other screenwriters altered it, so he adapted his own screenplay into a novel.

     It is the story of a woman, Deva, a warrior given the job at birth to protect a Dalai Lama-like holy man named the Karmapata. When the holy leader is nearly killed on a diplomatic mission to Thailand on Deva’s watch, there is a desperate search for anyone with a matching blood type. One by one, a bizarre cult of zombie-like warriors kill everyone in the country that can provide the correct blood for a transfusion. Based on a vision, Deva heads into the far north of Thailand and finds John Tremayne, a burnt-out American former special ops solider. As luck would have it, he has the same type of blood needed for the transfusion. Together they must battle strange cult warriors across the country, racing against the clock.

     Logan is a screenwriter, and he speaks the language of the action film fluently. One of my favorite reads of last year was Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro’s Vampire Apocalypse novel The Fall, which also read like a movie. There is a feeling and pace that filmmakers bring to novels. They use quick cuts and don’t waste words. I really liked that about Blood Bond, which felt in every way like a Hong Kong action film that had to come in at 90 minutes exactly, to have the most viewing possible in the day.

     Blood Bond isn’t deep: it’s a fun read, and fans of Logan’s work and Asian action films will see it as a very clear movie in their heads. That is not to say that Logan did not give the novel some touches film cannot. The warrior Deva’s back story is nicely woven into action, and one brutal scene on page 74 painted a wonderful picture, and gave great depth to a side character in the narrative. Fans of Asian action films in contemporary settings will not want to miss this potboiler novel.

Reviewed by: David Agranoff



The Templar Chronicles by Joseph Nassise

Bad Moon Books, 2010


Available: New and used


         The Knights Templar are the secret military arm of the Vatican. The Templars stand between ordinary people and the supernatural forces of darkness that most folks are unaware of. Cade Williams, leader of Echo Team, the best black-ops team the Templars have, will do whatever it takes to protect the world. He is also searching for The Adversary, the creature that killed his wife and left him not only scarred, but the recipient of strange powers.


The Templar Chronicles contains three novels: The Heretic, A Scream Of Angels, and A Tear In The Sky. Each book tells a separate story about Cade Williams and Echo Team, weaving Williams' quest for The Adversary throughout. In The Heretic, Echo Team must keep the Spear Of Destiny from falling into evil hands. In A Scream Of Angels, the team must find out what went on in a top secret research facility. Finally, in A Tear In The Sky, Williams and Echo Team discover an invasion force gathering on the Otherside, preparing to attack our world. All the while, Williams searches for the truth behind the death of his wife and the origins of his unnatural abilities.


In Cade Williams, Joseph Nassise has created a fantastic character. This is the kind f hero that I love: a broken man, still trying to do what he can to make the world a safe place. Williams follows his own code, and has no problem breaking the rules of the Templars, if that's what it takes to get the job done. He's loyal to those who have earned that loyalty. His love for his wife drives him forward, ever searching for answers.


The members of Echo Team are well fleshed-out, each unique. There are no cookie cutter characters here. The history and organization of The Templars if interesting, and the forces of darkness  they face are scary as Hell. Nassise blends action and character moments deftly, keeping a steady pace throughout. He writes with a clean style, never getting bogged down in overly descriptive passages, yet he doesn't skimp on the details. This is Stephen King meets Tom Clancy, with military action and horror served up in equal portions.


I hope that Nassise writes more adventures for Cade Williams and Echo Team. This is high quality writing  that I highly recommend for libraries and fans of great storytelling.


Contains: Strong language and violence.


Reviewed by: Erik Smith



Warehouse 13: A Touch Of Fever by Greg Cox

Pocket Books, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7434-9173-0

Available: New

Warehouse 13 is a top secret government facility, where agents track down and store items of supernatural power (think Ark Of The Covenant). Peter Lattimer and Myka Bering act as agents in the field, while Artie Nilesen, Claudia Donovan, and Leena work at the warehouse (most of the time), doing research, inventory, and providing support for Peter and Myka. When a psychic healer, with powers that really work, shows up on the radar, Artie sends Pete and Myka to track her down. What they find is that she has a glove with the power to heal. But gloves come in pairs, and unbeknownst to the agents, there is a man with a strange glove traveling up the east coast, leaving sickness in his wake.  Meanwhile, Artie, Claudia, and Leena have problems of their own, when an artifact "awakens" and breaks out of the warehouse.


Warehouse 13: A Touch Of Fever is a media tie-in novel, based on the original SyFy series, Warehouse 13. Greg Cox, king of the media tie-in, does a fine job or recreating the feel of the show. The characters behave as they do on the show; the dialogue sounds right (I could practically hear the voices of the actors as I read); and the plot moves along briskly, bouncing between Pete and Myka as they are running down the gloves, and the other characters dealing with problems in the warehouse. The history of the artifacts is plausible (you know, for a supernatural story), and the resolution involves plenty of pulse- pounding action.


The problem with media tie-ins is that you KNOW nothing permanent is going to happen to the main characters. It's not the fault of the writer, it's just the nature of the beast. Cox does what he can to create tension, but when you can't maim or kill your characters, the tension can only go so far. Still, it's a fun book, based on a fun show, and i recommend it for fans of the show, people looking for a fun story, and libraries looking to build their media tie-in section. 


Contains: TV violence 

Reviewed by: Erik Smith





Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
Penguin, 2011
ISBN: 0441020313
Available: Hardback, paperback, new & used multiformat digital

My biggest complaint about the Southern Vampire Mysteries series so far has been the lack of detectiving. Sookie doesn't so much sneak around to try to find out what's going on as she ends up sucked into it, often by someone targeting her or someone she loves. But this book is different. The first chapter opens up with someone firebombing Merlotte's. Then Sookie and Eric have a fight over vampire politics that might just be leading to a break up, and the vampire in charge of the area makes it very clear he wants Sookie, Eric and Pam all dead.

Sookie's been on the edge of a paranormal burn out for a while, and while she rallied back from being tortured two books ago, she's lost a lot of her tolerance with people lying and manipulating her, but unfortunately seems to be too weak to actually take control of her own life (and seeing as that life includes fae royalty, alpha werewolves and powerful Viking vampires, it's not a surprise).

Dead Reckoning has a somber tone, as if Harris is headed for a wrap up of her series. Her strength is still in an amazing level of character building, often in sneaky ways. While before Sookie always seemed to land on the side of happy-for-now it almost feels as if she's headed for a sad end, an element that will keep readers tuned in for more. Dead Reckoning deserves a spot in public collections not just because of the series' popularity, but because it's a good, off-beat tale with a fair amount of re-read value.

Contains: violence, sex, language

Reviewed by: Michele Lee



Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Roc, 2003

ISBN: 0451459407

Available: Paperback (new & used) & multiformat digital

The king of complicated, Chicago's only professional wizard is back in Butcher's fifth Dresden Files novel. Harry agrees to go on a paranormal talk show to meet a man who's been searching for Susan, his half-vampire love. But he gets more than he bargained for when all the other guests are there to meet him as well. There's a count of the Red Court there to challenge Harry to a duel in an effort to end the war between the Red Court vampires and the White Council, which rules the wizards. There's also a priest from the Catholic Church who wants to hire Dresden to find the stolen Shroud of Turin. On the way out, a hit man from Chicago's top mob boss tries to kill Harry, and Detective Murphy calls, wanting Harry to help out with a strange murder case.

Harry's not alone though. Susan shows back up (and saves his skin a number of times) with half-vampire powers. And Michael is back, with the other sacred sword-wielding Knights of the Cross. The latter is an element that's done especially well as Butcher manages to take a world where fairies and werewolves and vampires are real and also write beautiful, strong Christian characters instead of flat, stereotypical antagonists wearing crosses.

The Dresden books are quite popular, and despite being cautious in a urban fantasy-over run world, are very good as well. Dresden might have started out as a parody of UF, but Butcher's strength in complex storytelling and just as vivid and complex characters pushed this series up to a ringleader of the UF gang. It's also a fantastic addition in the sense that it brings a much needed male point of view to the genre, without excluding female characters as strong and capable on their own. Highly recommended for public collections, as these books give back a great amount for their purchase price.

Contains: violence, some gore, sex, language

Reviewed by: Michele Lee




Dying Bites by D. D. Barant

St. Martin’s, 2009


Available: New and Used

In this fresh take on the vampire myth, FBI Special Agent Jace Valchek is a 30-something, non-magical, human profiler specializing in the criminally insane. One night, she is snatched up from her earthly home and pulled through a portal to an alternative earth: same cities, countries, geography; similar history; similar technology.  Here's the big difference:  the population is composed primarily of vampires (called pires), were-creatures (called thropes—from lycanthrope), and golems (called lems), with a tiny minority (1%) of humans, many of whom have magical talents. The humans are treated like most minorities, with disdain and with restrictions on their civil rights.  Some of the pires and thropes also treat them like prey, nicknaming them OR, for Original Recipe.  Naturally, there is a human resistance movement: the Free Human Resistance (FHA).

In Dying Bites, Jace is forced to sign a contract promising to locate and capture the human leader of the FHA, who is suspected of carrying out a series of hideously violent murders of pires and thropes.  If and when she captures the killer, she can go home.  Jace's search eventually leads her to an encounter with an ancient god who comes (literally) straight from the works of H. P. Lovecraft.

The supporting characters for the series are Charlie (Jace's wise-cracking lem partner, animated with the spirit of a Tyrannosaurus Rex); David Cassius (Jace's cute pire boss and a possible love interest); Pete Adams (a handsome thrope medical doctor with a mysterious past and also a possible love interest); Gretchen (a pire team member and Jace's BFF); and Damon Eisfanger (a thrope forensic scientist).  

The story line is generally engaging, but as in all first-of-the-series books, there is a lot of necessary exposition to introduce the world and the characters. The humor comes primarily from the sarcastic, teasing dialogue between Jace and Charlie, who is the most sentient (and best dressed) golem I've ever encountered. Recommended.

Contains: Graphic violence

Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews


Death Blows by D. D. BarantSt. Martin’s, 2010
ISBN: 978-0312942595
Available: New and Used

This is book 2 in The Bloodhound Files series.  In Death Blows, FBI Special Agent Jace Valchek, transported from our world to one inhabited by supernatural creatures, must solve a series of killings that are closely connected to comic book art. Comics are illegal in this world since an incident decades ago when they were a source of murderous magic that caused a number of deaths.

 The villainous serial killer who is Jace's ultimate target is Aristotle Stoker (named after you know who), a tall, handsome, and dangerous human who lives off the grid and knows how to keep himself hidden at all times.  He challenges Jace to turn her back on her contract with the supernaturals and join the human resistance movement to save her own species.

The story line is generally engaging, except for where the plot bogs down in a plethora of comics history. If you love comics (e.g., Bizarro, the Flash, Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol and Invisibles, Alan Moore's Watchmen), this won't bother you at all, but if (like me), you're not a comics enthusiast, you may find that the endless metaphysical intertwining of the mythos of comic art with the ongoing criminal investigation functions as a plot detractor rather than enhancer. The humor comes primarily from the sarcastic, teasing dialogue between the characters. Recommended.

Contains: Some graphic violence

Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews




Graveminder by Melissa Marr

HarperCollins, 2011

ISBN: 978-0061826870

Available: New and Used

Melissa Marr is the author of the Wicked Lovely series of young adult novels. This is her first novel for adults.

           No one ever really leaves the small town of Claysville. Most folks live there from birth to death, and those who move away come back before they die. In this creepy (but romantic) horror story, Byron Montgomery recently returned to help his father in the family undertaking business, and early in the book, Rebekkah Barrow comes home for her grandmother's funeral. Beka's grandmother, Maylene, was found dead in her kitchen, seemingly mauled by an animal. Strangely, the local sheriff doesn't plan to investigate the "accident”: whenever he thinks about it, he gets a migraine headache. Byron and Beka ask a lot of questions, but get no answers as more bloody bodies accumulate, and a mysterious, hungry teenage girl roams the town. As it turns out, in Claysville the lands of the living and the dead are closely accessible to one another. Under the town lies a shadowy, dangerous land ruled by the arrogant Mr. D (aka Charles), master of the dead.  It is up to Byron and Beka to return some hungry dead to their proper place and to make peace with their new roles in life.

           Beka is the step-daughter of Maylene Barrow's son, so she isn't really Maylene's blood relative, but the two became close over the years. Maylene frequently took Beka with her as she visited the town's many cemeteries, sprinkling a mysterious liquid on the graves from a silver flask and whispering, "Sleep well, and stay where I put you." If you take that quote and match it up with the book's title, you can figure out what Maylene's role was. Beka believes that her grandmother did this out of the kindness of her heart, but, she soon learns that Maylene’s motivation was much more complex.

           Beka's relationship with Byron began when he was her sister's boyfriend back in high school. Although Beka and Byron were attracted to one another, he already had begun a romance with Ella, so when Ella committed suicide shortly after she saw Byron kissing Beka, Beka felt, and continues to feel, so guilty that she has never been able form a relationship with Byron, even though she has always loved him.

           Marr does a good job of building suspense, all the way to the end. Her lead characters are well developed, if a bit bland and humorless. Beka has so much guilt and angst built up inside her that she is almost painful to watch. I'd love to have read more about Mr. D, particularly his relationship with Alicia, one of the former Graveminders. The two of them are a much livelier and amusing pair than Byron and Bekaand kind of scary. A sequel is in the works and the book is now in development for a TV series. Recommended for all libraries.

Contains: Non-graphic violence

Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews







Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

Hyperion, 2011
ISBN: 978-1401323905


        Melissa de la Cruz is well known for her YA vampire series, Blue Bloods. Witches of East End is her first series aimed at adults. Honestly, the writing comes across as a little self-conscious- even her prologue does more telling than showing, and although adult readers might have more breadth of knowledge and vocabulary than the YA audience, it’s hard to get lost in the first few pages of a book when you’re trying to figure out what or where Brigadoon is or how a town can be a conundrum. Many of the characters in the book are drawn from Norse mythology, which is kind of neat, but also isn’t immediately obvious because de la Cruz doesn’t identify which witch is which. Names like “Joanna” and “Norman” don’t even give a clue to the origin of the circumstances of the main characters. Even though mistaken identity is central to the plot, it would have been nice to get some background information.

        The story begins with the three witches, Freya, Ingrid, and Joanna, breaking the restrictions that have been placed on them by the Council. At first, their actions are beneficial, but things get out of control, and all three of them make some extremely bad judgment calls. Their decisions caused severe consequences, and I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. Really drop. But, even though they were questioned by the police, charges and remonstrations seemed to just melt away. And since the mythical characters weren’t ever really identified or connected in a clear way, I felt very confused as to what was actually happening, although near the very end some of this was clarified. Secondary to the events directly affecting the witches was a storyline about a magical toxin in the water with the potential to bring about Ragnarok.

        De la Cruz can tell a great story and create compelling characters, and that sometimes shines through here, particularly with Freya (I had some issues with her stereotypical representation of Ingrid as a librarian). A lot of the time, though, it seemed like she was lost in the mythology of the world she’d created and the tangled lives of minor characters, or trying too hard to capture her target “adult” audience. In an effort to fit everything in, the ending seemed rushed, although the cliffhanger ending will definitely leave readers wanting more.

        De la Cruz already had crossover adult readers with her YA books, and they may enjoy this, especially because there are brief (and intriguing) appearances of some characters from Blue Bloods, but I think she’ll be more likely to lose readers than gain them with this book. Still, with the popularity of the Blue Bloods books and the genre,  Witches of East End is highly recommended for adult fiction collections in public libraries.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski




Shady Lady by Ann AguirreRoc, 2011
ISBN: 0575093994
Available: New & multiformat digital

The third book in Ann Aguirre's Corine Solomon series, Shady Lady expands the world setting (a curiously vampire-and-werewolf-free universe that still has plenty of magical conflict to spare) tenfold in this one volume. Home after defeating the demon that ran the town she grew up in (and had a hand in her mother's death), Corine is ready to settle back into her role as a thrift shop owner and explore the new extent of her powers, gifted to her by mother postmortem. Then Kel, the mysterious killer who claims to be the Hand of God, shows up and tells her he's there to protect her from a notorious Mexican cartel leader who is out for Corine's blood.

Aguirre pulls no punches with this book. Her characters pop off the page, making the conflict all the more real, and her style brings so many places, from the streets of Mexico to the depths of the jungle to vivid life. (And the classic macho movie addition of a gun-laced chase scene shows girls can play with action tropes as well.) Aguirre's books are the place to go for raw action and grit, threaded through with a sense of human tenderness. Highly recommended for public and private collections, especially those oriented toward paranormal or urban fantasy tastes, but this series also holds a strong appeal for readers who love a good action flick.

Contains: sex, violence, language

Reviewed by: Michele Lee




Night Child by Jes Battis

Ace, 2008

ISBN: 0441016022

Available: Mass market paperback and multiformat digital


Tess is a forensic cop (kinda) in a world populated by demons, vampires, and mages. Her most recent case is a dead vampire with no signs of trauma and the address of a thirteen year old girl in his pocket. The girl, Mia, reminds Tess very much of a childhood friend who died traumatically in a fire, giving Tess plenty of fuel to protect Mia and make sure she doesn't end up like the dead vampire.

Close to the end of the book the bad guy says to Tess, "You couldn't do your job right if your life depended on it...You screwed up paperwork, botched evidence, showed up late, clocked out early, got hopelessly confused on your way to the bathroom, and you couldn't even work the photocopier." I don't remember Tess trying to use a photocopier, but sadly the rest is true. Tess is a extremely weak character. She blatantly ignores protocol (despite constant warnings), irritatingly complains about being too old and not powerful enough (she's 24), leaves crime scenes when she's supposed to be in charge, takes an underage suspect to her house after she's been banned from contact with the girl, and almost gets her killed. Everyone, including Tess, gets wrapped up in science tech talk, which would be fine for a forensic novel, but the voice is exactly the same every time, which makes characters sound like parrots of each other. And instead of “sciencing up” the magic, Battis mucks up the science, saying that magic (or materia) is really just dark matter and mages can manipulate it..magically.

While there are good ideas here, like the demons, they aren’t enough to save the book. As a reader, one can see why Tess hasn't advanced anywhere in life, and I had to wonder if Battis wasn't just writing the wrong thing, trying to hammer a more classic fantasy or horror novel into an urban fantasy shape. In short, there are better urban fantasy and paranormal procedurals out there for public and private collections.

Contains: violence, language, sexual content

Review by Michele Lee




Embers by Laura Bickle

Pocket, 2010

ISBN: 1439167656

Available: New, used & wide-release digital

Anya is an arson investigator in Detroit who has just discovered a ritual symbol and a countdown on the floor of a burned warehouse. She's also a Lantern, charged with elemental fire magic, and a devourer of wandering spirits (a gift she reluctantly puts to use in her off time work as a ghost hunter). Her private and professional lives are about to collide when she finds out her firebug might be a Lantern too.

Embers is different in a number of ways. Detroit and its decay play a very important role in the tale. Anya herself isn't just a private detective, she has an official role in the law enforcement of the city. Also, the villain in this book is one of the most human, sympathetic bad guys to be found in urban fantasy. Embers also simultaneously deals with traditional occult such as demons, ghosts, paganism, as well as more exotic, fantasy occult such as Lanterns, elementals, and Ishtar. Plus, it has one of the cutest, best sidekicks ever, a salamander (fire elemental) named Sparky. Recommended as part of paranormal romance and urban fantasy collections, public and private.

Contains: sex, Language, violence

Reviewed by: Michele Lee




Blood Crimes: Book One by Dave Zeltserman

Amazon Digital Services, 2010

Available: New

ISBN: Kindle Edition


Jim thought when he escaped from Serena, the vampire that turned him he would be free of her and her companion, Metcalf, but he hasn’t been that lucky. Jim and his girlfriend Carol keep moving on to new cities, Jim feeding on the dregs of society, with Carol acting as bait. Serena has continued to search for Jim since his escape. She sets a private investigator on Jim and his feeding pattern is discovered, leading Serena right to him. While Serena is occupied with Jim, Metcalf has continued to carry out his sadistic experiments. A vampire himself, Metcalf wants to know exactly what can and cannot kill a vampire. His tortuous experiments are carried out on people he has infected. Those poor individuals deemed unworthy to be turned are instead forced to be “cattle”. Strong language, gore, violence, and sexual situations give the first book in Dave Zeltserman’s series a high-octane feel. The fight scenes are graphic and leave you feeling as breathless as the characters. Highly recommended. 



Contains: Strong language, gore, violence, and some sexual situations.


Reviewed by: Brandi Blankenship



Descendant by Bob Freeman

Belfire Press, 2010

Available: New and used

ISBN: 978-1-926912-00-4

            Selina Wolfe and Martin Crowe work for the FBI's Paranormal Operations Division. Each has special abilities that make them perfect agents for taking on gargoyles, werewolves, ghosts, and anything else that goes bump in the night. A string of bizarre murders in Indiana pulls Wolfe and Crowe into a mystery involving demons, angels, and a plot that could rip asunder the veil between heaven, hell, and this little mudball we call home.


            Descendant is like the bastard lovechild of The X-Files, H.P. Lovecraft, and Doctor Strange; and I mean that in the most loving way possible. "Book One" is almost a miniature anthology. Four separate adventures are tied together by an underlying subplot. It’s a nice introduction to Wolfe and Crowe, highlighting their personalities and abilities, and introducing characters that will become integral to the main story. Whether using guns or magic, these agents kick ass. This is high-octane action that still manages to be creepy as hell.


            "Book Two" is the meat of the story, a mystery/horror/ mythos hybrid that delivers on every level. Twists and turns abound, and just when you think it's over, THERE'S MORE! Freeman keeps the story moving at a good clip, with barely a chance for readers to catch their breath.


            I'm a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and other authors of the classic pulps, but they can be a bit verbose. I was concerned that Bob Freeman would fall into this category, but, though his writing has a bit of that pulp flavor, his is a refreshingly modern take. His characters are fully formed with interesting back stories, and he leaves out just enough to leave the reader begging for more. The supporting cast is just as intriguing as Wolfe and Crowe. And the twists! Oh, the twists. You can (almost) never be sure who is good and who is working for the downfall of humanity. When an author can keep ME guessing, that's good writing.

            I can't wait to find out what is next for Wolfe and Crowe and their cohorts. I highly recommend  Descendant for libraries and, well, everyone.


Contains: Violence, gore, strong language, and sex


Reviewed by: Erik Smith

Note: The author Bob Freeman is a reviewer and contributor at


Hallowed Circle by Linda Robertson

Simon & Schuster, 2009

Available: New, used & digital (multi-format)

ISBN: 1439156786



The second in Robertson's Persephone Alcemdi series, Hallowed Circle follows solitary witch Persephone as she deals with her new roles in life as a guardian of a friend's orphaned daughter; caretaker of her aging grandmother, the mysterious Lustrata; girlfriend to a werewolf rock star; and a vampire-bonded contestant in the bidding for High Priestess of the area coven. The contest for High Priestess has a real Clue feel, which will draw in mystery lovers. Persephone balances magic with a day job and mortgage making for a solid, enjoyable read. Full of magic, murder and mystery, Hallowed Circle is grounded in a theme of responsibility, not necessarily to save the world, but to do the right thing for the people and community.


Less dark or brutal than other urban fantasy on the shelf, Hallowed Circle will definitely have crossover appeal to paranormal romance readers. Its price and solid readability make it a good choice for public collections and private readers who can't get enough of paranormals.


Contains: language, sex


Reviewed by: Michele Lee




Sepulchral Earth The Long Road By Tim Marquitz

Damnation Books 2010

Available New Paperback

ISBN 9781615720750

               It’s been two years since the dead began to rise, pissed off and looking to murder any living humans they could find.  Whatever survivors remain are struggling to stay alive by any means necessary.  A necromancer, Harlan Cole, is determined to set things right or die trying. 

               I literally read this 42-page book in just over an hour.  I love post-apocalyptic zombie stories, and this one is no exception.  I also enjoyed the added element of angry spirits….although they’re not all angry.  Harlan is a necromancer who has a friendly spirit guiding him in his mission to “close the breach”, and his motivation is apparently the peaceful rest of his dead wife and child.  This is the first installment in a series so we are only told so much, but it’s quite an excellent tease.  There’s a great scene in a grocery store where thousands of maggots are manipulated by an angry ghost to attack Harlan.  It was wonderfully descriptive and disgusting—I loved it. 

               I thoroughly enjoyed The Long Road.  If Tim Marquitz continues to write the coming books in Sepulchral Earth as well as this one then he and Damnation will have quite a hit on their hands.  The cover art by Jessy Lucero is fantastic.  Highly recommended.

Contains: violence, gore and adult language 

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund





Temple of the Dead (Sepulchral Earth 2) By Tim Marquitz

Damnation Books 2010

Available New Paperback

ISBN 9781615722716

Harlan Cole’s story began in Sepulchral Earth: The Long Road and Tim Marquitz has continued his story with Temple of the Dead. Harlan is a necromancer on a mission. Two years after the uprising of the dead, Harlan is determined to close the rift between dimensions that allowed the spirits of the dead to come back and inhabit corpses.  This rift was created through a combination of technology and magic. 

               Harlan’s spirit guide, the Professor, has led Harlan to one of the facilities responsible for the rift.  This facility, called Delphi, contains The Oracle, which provides a window into the dimension of the dead.  Walter, another guiding spirit inhabiting a corpse, will lead Harlan and his newfound companion Cam to the Temple, where the rift is being held open.  Unfortunately for them, the necromancer Alejandra will do everything to stop them.

               I loved The Long Road and couldn’t wait to read Temple of the Dead….I was not disappointed.  Tim Marquitz has packed a load of blood, gore and heartbreak into a 40-page novella.  There is no filler- it’s all action.  The writing is fantastic and the story flows very nicely.  There is also some beautiful cover art by Jessica Lucero.  When I reached the end of the story I was shocked. It’s a huge twist that I certainly wasn’t expecting.   I’m REALLY looking forward to the next installment.  Temple of the Dead gets a rare five stars out of five from me. Highly recommended.

Contains:  violence, blood and gore

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund



Hiram Grange And The Chosen One by Kevin Lucia

Shroud Publishing, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-9827275-0-8

Available: New

When five young women are brutally killed in Belfast, Ireland, and all indications point to a supernatural cause, Hiram Grange is on the case. With his usual bag of tricks, magical items and low-tech weapons, the Jodie Foster-obsessed Grange must deal with tentacled beasts, perverted school officials, and Mab, Queen of the faerie folk. What does all of this have to do with an innocent young art student, and why does Mab think she would be better off dead? If Hiram doesn't find some answers soon, it could mean the end of the world.

Hiram Grange And The Chosen One is the fourth book in the Hiram Grange series, but, as with all the others, it can be read on its own, and if you are a fan of classic pulp adventure, or just want to lose yourelf in a fun, scary story, read it you should. The action is nearly nonstop, as wave after wave of threats rain down on our lovable antihero.

It can be tough to fight real demons when your inner demons are doing a fine job of beating you down. Hiram is a very flawed man, and it is those flaws that make his heroism that much greater. Kevin Lucia grasps this concept and runs with it. His writing is clear and focused, bringing new depths to the character, and his monsters, steeped in Lovecraftian tradition, ooze with menace. Why are tentacles always so creepy?  While Lucia doesn't answer that particular question, he does create a fast-paced, magic-drenched, and tragic new chapter in the Hiram Grange mythos.

    I highly recommend Hiram Grange And The Chosen One (as well as all the books in the series) for libraries and horror/adventure fans alike.

Contains: Strong language, violence and gore, and some sexual suggestions.

Reviewed by: Erik Smith



Desperate Souls(The Jake Helman Files) by Gregory Lamberson

Medallion Press, 2010

New Paperback 385 pages

ISBN 978-160542170-4


    In this second installment of The Jake Helman Files, the former cop, now private investigator, has discovered that zombies really do exist.  While looking into the disappearance of a woman’s grandson Jake discovers that the drug Black Magic is turning its users into zombies….literally.  Prince Malachi and his voodoo sorceress girlfriend Katrina have run all of the other drug lords out of business and they are poised to take over the entire city.  They have also eliminated the availability of any other street drug in order to push Black Magic.  Jake has found himself in the middle of one of the most vicious crime sprees to hit the city, due in part to a bad economy, cuts to services and a threatened strike by the cops.   After Jake is almost killed by a gang of zombies—twice—he is determined to find out what is behind their existence and the emergence of Black Magic.  With a little help from the psychic next door and Jake’s ex-partner Edgar, who is investigating a series of gruesome machete murders,  Jake hopes to rid the city of this threat to its stability.


    Part paranormal fantasy, part crime drama, and part horror, Desperate Souls is a great read.  The character development is spot-on, and Jake himself is very likeable.  The pace of the story holds up the whole way making for quite a page-turner.  Greg Lamberson has done his homework, making sure that police procedure is realistic and the voodoo-created zombies quite believable. There are twists to this story that left me saying “holy crap!” and that was even before the unpredictable ending.   While you don’t need to have read Personal Demons (book one of The Jake Helman Files) to follow the story in Desperate Souls, I do recommend reading Personal Demons first.   With plenty of action, gore and the supernatural, Desperate Souls is highly recommended.

Contains sex, adult language, violence and gore

Colleen Wanglund



Red Sails by Edward M. Erdelac

Lyrical Press, inc., 2010


Available: Kindle

    Vampires, werewolves, pirates, human sacrifices and cannibalism with intermixed explosions – the perfect horror combination. In Edward M. Erdelac’s novelette Red Sails, set in the early 1700s,  a vampire captain and his crew of pirate werewolves sail across the ocean taking down ship after ship, stealing their cargo and murdering most of the crew, but saving a few to dine upon or to hunt for sport. Domincan priest Timoteo and British marine Jan’s ship has been destroyed, with the crew savagely murdered in the process. Unfortunately for Timoteo and Jan, the vampire captain, Absolon Vigoreaux, has chosen to save them as a treat for the werewolves to hunt in sport on a remote island. With the help of a native on this island who desperately wants to save her tribe from having to continually deliver up human sacrifices, Timoteo and Jan devise a way to overtake the captain and his brood and possibly save themselves.

    The pace is quick starting within the first few pages, and it never relents. The fight scenes are grisly, the pain is raw, and the landscape is beautiful. The contrast between its destruction and beauty is poetic.

    I thoroughly enjoy reading Erdelac’s works, as he is a master craftsman. His knowledge of the subject matter shines through and his prose is unparalleled. He writes almost lyrically with incredible detail and care taken in choosing each of his words. Red Sails is a fine example of a wonderfully written piece. I highly recommend Red Sails for an adult horror collection.

Contains: Graphic violence

Review by Kelly Fann




Wings Over Manhattan by Don D'Ammassa

Bad Moon Books, 2010

ISBN: 9780984460137

Available: New

        Fallon is a private eye during Prohibition, and is used to dealing with the dregs of society. But when he agrees to act as bodyguard for the daughter of a powerful criminal, Fallon enters a dark world that he never knew existed; a world outside of our own, filled with unspeakable horror.
I love mixed genre stories, and with Wings Over Manhattan, Don D'Ammassa has a winner. He takes a hard-boiled detective story and mixes in a generous helping of horror, Fallon is a down on his luck P.I., whom D'Ammassa imbues with all the grit of Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade. He's quick on his feet and quicker with a gun. But guns won't help him when the author goes from Raymond Chandler territory into a neighborhood better suited to the likes of H.P. Lovecraft.  D'Ammassa writes both genres well, bringing to life both the Prohibition-era streets of the city and the shadowy corners where evil dwells. Gangsters and demons share the page without overshadowing each other. My only complaint is that the book is so short. I could have spent quite a few nights with Fallon as he fought danger both natural and supernatural. I can only hope that D'Ammassa writes more stories featuring this compelling character. Highly recommended for library collections and horror fans alike.
Contains: Strong language and violence.
Review by Erik Smith



Betrayal (Book 1 in the Blood and Ashes series) by Michelle Acker

Damnation Books, 2009
ISBN: 9781615720569

Available: New

Betrayal begins in a fantasy, medieval world where Sorea seeks to defend her land and her family the only way she knows how: with a sword in her hand, under the guise of a fearsome male mercenary, Gareth. She and her companion Daryn traverse the earth in search of the evil sorceress Valina, who kidnaps and subsequently sacrifices children to amplify her dark magic powers. Through their travels, Sorea and Daryn experience brutal battles, bloodshed, and the slaughter of friends and family as they try to ignore their deep-rooted love for one another.

As a female reader, the inclusion of the word “rape” several times in the first six pages was extremely jarring and I immediately became concerned that this would be a central focus to the novel. While rape is definitely an underlying theme in Betrayal, it did not remain “in your face” past those first six pages. Sorea never forgets the rape of her sister, as it was this pivotal action that set her on her path as a warrior. Since Sorea is in disguise as man, she is always concerned with the potential risk of her own rape should her identity as a woman be revealed.  Michelle Acker creates a beautiful world as the setting for Betrayal and incorporates powerfully deep characters within it. With a sound plot and expressive language, the reader connects with the characters? pain, love, loss, and anger. At the end of the story, a slew of questions remain to be answered in the next installment of the series. Recommended for adult fantasy horror readers and public libraries.

Contains: Graphic violence, rape and torture

Reviewed By: Kelly Fann



Blood Oath : The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth

Penguin Group, 2010

ISBN: 9780399156359

Available: New

    In Blood Oath, White House staffer and political superstar Zach Burrows is suddenly assigned to be the partner and liaison to Nathanial Cade, a 140 year old vampire bound to serve the President of the United States.  In their first mission together, Zach and Cade find a shipping container of body parts, determine that a near unstoppable supernatural threat is about to be unleashed upon the country, and they race to prevent it from occurring and find out who is behind it.

            Blood Oath combines action, suspense, mystery, and horror to create a paranormal/occult thriller. It is the first book in a series, and has the feel of an introductory book, with exposition giving the reader background on how Cade came into the President’s service and introducing other, presumably recurring, characters. Despite this, I was hooked. Blood Oath is not a character-driven book- both Zach and Cade are fairly stereotypical- but Farnsworth keeps a gripping plot moving along. The story is a page turner from the very beginning, and future stories promise more of the same. Horror and paranormal genre readers will find familiar story elements in Blood Oath, but although it is a tale with familiar tropes, it is told very well and worth picking up.  Blood Oath also has the potential to reach beyond paranormal and horror genre readers, and may appeal to thriller readers as well.  Highly recommended  

Contain: Violence, gore

Hiram Grange And The Digital Eucharist by Robert Davies (Book 3 in The Scandalous Misadventures Of Hiram Grange)
Shroud Publishing, 2010
Available: Pre-order
         When Hiram Grange, a hash smoking, absinthe drinking, sex-addicted investigator of the paranormal, is asked to look into the Occlusionist Movement, not only does he have to deal with an all new threat to life as we know it, but old enemies return to make things even more complicated. Demons, cultists, and The Digital Eucharist all push Hiram to the edge. The question is: does he have what it takes to make it back?
        Hiram Grange And The Digital Eucharist is the third book in the five book Hiram Grange saga. Each novel is written by a different author, and Robert Davies certainly holds his own in comparison to the first two. He has a crisp style that never gets bogged down. Without a word wasted, Davies clearly conveys everything we, the reader, need to know about Hiram and those who populate his world. He writes scenes of graphic horror with the same skill he uses to create scenes of humor so dark a gallon of cream coudn't lighten them.
        The story moves at a quick pace, and my only complaint is the ride is over too soon. From the sacrificial Jodie Fosters (you have to read it), to brainwashed cult members, Hiram faces one challenge after another, with barely a moment to catch his breath. If you like lots of action, in an old-fashioned pulp style, this  is the book for you.
        I would be remiss if I failed to mention the cover and interior artwork by Malcolm McClinton. It is beautiful work that deserves to be appreciated on it's own. I would love to see Shroud publish a book of Hiram Grange artwork.
         I highly recommend Hiram Grange And The Digital Eucharist for libraries and horror fans.
Contains: Violence, gore, strong language
Reviewed by Erik Smith


The Butcher of Box Hill/Monster Town by Logan Savile
Bad Moon Books, 2010
Available: New
          The Butcher of Box Hill/Monster Town is a collection of two novellas, both following the tale of monster hunter JD Enron. Enron is a member of the Brotherhood of the Hand, a clandestine Catholic organization set up to capture and kill monsters that threaten humanity.  In the first novella, The Butcher of Box Hill, JD Enron is a newly promoted Section Chief, who receives intelligence that there is a nest of monsters in the isolated town of Box Hill.   In Monster Town, which takes place after the events of Box Hill, Enron, now a private monster hunter, is hired to by a mysterious woman to track down her daughter who has run away to Monster Town, where all the monsters that the Brotherhood of the Hand has captured have been incarcerated.  Enron comes across as a stereotypical action hero; he has amazing combat skills with a smart-ass attitude. I actually found the secondary characters in Monster Town more interesting than Enron himself.  The stories are very fast and readable, and Monster Town has some enjoyable twists.  The weakness of the titles is Enron, who fails to ever break out of the mold for a stock action hero. The author, Logan Savile, is actually two authors, Steven Savile and Brian M. Logan, and they have developed an interesting world.  There is a promise of a Monster Town novel at the end of the collection, and I will be curious to see if they are able to do more with Enron in a longer form. 



Shift by Rachel Vincent
Mira, 2010
ISBN:  978-0-7783-2760-8
Available:  New and Used

            Faythe and her werecat family and friends are back in yet another adventure in this fifth installment of Rachel Vincent's werecat series.  During the continued debate from the previous novel, Prey, regarding whether Sanders will keep his spot as Chair of the Territorial Council or not, the clan is attacked by a new group of shifters, the Thunderbirds.  It appears that the Thunderbirds are specifically targeting the tabbies of the group, so they try to sneak off to safety, only to end up having the youngest, Kaci, and also Faythe, snatched away.  Faythe convinces the Thunderbirds to allow her to seek out the person they are truly hunting and in return asks for herself and Kaci to be set free.  They agree to this and let Faythe go in order to fulfill her mission. Faythe's father sends both Marc and Jace to help her.  Here the tension builds as, if you recall from the previous book, Faythe and Jace had a one night stand that Marc (who is Faythe's boyfriend) does not yet know about... and of course, that one night stand has led to some mixed and confused emotions for Faythe.  Will the trio being able to complete their mission, or will all of the emotions come crashing down on them, and cause them to get delayed in completing the task at hand?
            The werecat series continues to enthrall me, which means I'm going to be saddened once I read the next and final book.  The Thunderbirds were a great addition to the "cast" of this series and I am suspecting we will hear more about them in the next novel.  There was a major emphasis on the Thunderbirds, obviously, since they were the big "baddies" of the book, but there was also a major focus on the love triangle that is going on between Marc, Faythe, and Jace.  I kept waiting for Faythe to finally spill the beans to Marc regarding what had occurred between her and Jace and was shocked by how the story finally got laid out on the table. Not nearly as shocked as Marc, of course, but this sure built up the tension level in the book!  I'm not sure whether Marc will ever forgive Faythe, and yet I don't know if she truly could love Jace after knowing how things are between her and Marc now.  There are many loose ends regarding this and also the battles going on between the various groups within the series for Vincent to wrap up in the final novel of this series.  I'm highly looking forward to it.  Shift, along with the rest of this series, would be a great addition to any library's urban fantasy collection.  Vincent is a must read to this genre's fans!
Contains:  Adult Situations, Adult Language, Violence
Review by Rhonda Wilson


Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Ace, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-441-01715-7

Available: New and Used

    Charlaine Harris' 9th installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series is a big transition book for the Were population of the small town of Bon Temps. At the start of Dead and Gone the Weres finally decide to go public. This is a huge deal, and the reactions of the townsfolk vary greatly. However, shortly after the announcement is made, there is a murder behind Merlotte's, and a Were has been crucified. The question is, is the murder related to the big announcement, or is there another reason for this horrible killing?. Sookie, with the help of her two favorite vampires, Eric and Bill, does everything she can to track down the person responsible, yet, as always, seems to put herself in more danger in the process.

    The Sookie Stackhouse series is still going strong with this latest novel. I enjoy the way Harris balances out the mystery, humor, and romance in all of her books. She seems to know just what the perfect mix should be! I didn't enjoy this book as much as some of the earlier ones because it wasn't as focused on the vampire community as it was on some of the other characters in the series, and I am hoping that Harris will go back to spending more time at Fangtasia (the vampire bar) and other vampire hang-outs in future books. But other than that complaint, I have none! I always look forward to Harris' books and am already eagerly awaiting the next one. Highly Recommended!

Contains: Violence, Adult Language, Adult Situations

Review by Rhonda Wilson




Bleak History by John Shirley

Simon and Shuster, 2009


Available: New

    John Shirley is an underrated trailblazer in both science fiction and horror, Shirley's cyberpunk predates William Gibson, and his psycho-sexual splat punk horror predates Clive Barker. While Shirley doesn’t have the sales they do, he has the respect and blurbs of his peers. I suspect in this culture where TV and movies carry more weight than cult novels, one great adapatation is all it will take for Shirley to be discovered and freed from the genre ghetto. The project that is most likely to do just that is Bleak History, Shirley’s most mainstream novel, more easily tagged in the popular highly marketable genre of Urban Fantasy.

    The plot sounds simple on the surface. The thin line between the world of the living and the dead is breaking down. Certain people like Gabriel Bleak the main character have powers over the supernatural. There is an agency that is monitoring the magic outbreak and recruiting people.  I admit I was yawning a bit in the early pages. It is the extremely weird and original plots of Shirley's novels (check out City Come a Walking or Three Ring Pychus for out-there plots) that set his work apart from standard science fiction or horror.

I should have trusted Shirley to rise above and make a very original piece. Once the story starts to unfold, amazing things happen. I dog-eared page 159 as the page where my imagination started cooking. It's not that exciting stuff doesn’t happen before that, it's just that's when the story really takes flight.

    The hard part for me as a reviewer is that a reader deserves to discover the details as the book unfolds. As the thin line between the natural and supernatural falls apart the thin line between our rights and tyranny also falls. In many ways Bleak History is about how we as a society or a country deal with threats. What if the threat was not terrorists, but magic? What would a country that has two political parties supporting the Patriot Act and one defending the use of torture, do to protect itself from a world where the power of the supernatural was really in the hands of people?

    Shirley has written a novel containing intelligent action, horror and fantasy that will appeal to readers young and old.  Bleak History should be in libraries around the country. Highly recommended.

Contains: mild violence, brief references to drugs and sexaulity.



Black Jack Derringer: Book One: Ace of Spades by Karen Koehler
Skullvines Press,2009



    In this “weird western” novella Karen Koehler introduces us to a wild and untamed post-apocalyptic world. In the midst of this chaos, female bounty hunter Alice West is hell bent on making it in a male dominated society by any means necessary, even if it means teaming up with a front man to give her “business” some legitimacy. Enter Mr. Treen, an albino card hustler, who does more than just lend a face to her enterprise. Populated throughout with interesting characters culled from an endless parade of similar fare, Ace of Spades reads like Tombstone on acid.

    At little more than forty pages, Ace of Spades is lightning paced. The reader comes away with an interesting snapshot of the author’s vision for a world gone wrong, and what it takes to survive living on the edge of civilization. It feels comfortable and familiar, which lends the story some weight. All in all,  a fine start to what will certainly be an ongoing series.

Suitable for public and private collections, Ace of Spades is peppered with violence and adult language, but not to the extreme.

Review by Bob Freeman

Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner
Angry Robot, 2009
Available: Coming Soon
    Tim Waggoner has expanded upon a previously released novella, Necropolis, to take readers on a wild ride with a zombie private eye name Matt Richter. Richter lives in a shadowy realm known as Nekropolis that is made up of various beings such as vampires, lykes, demons, etc... Richter meets up with Devona, a half-vampire, who is distraught about losing a special artifact of her father's called the Dawnstone. Richter offers to help her retrieve said artifact. Of course, that's easier said than done, and Matt and Devona run into all sorts of trouble along the way!
    Nekropolis is an urban fantasy that also weighs heavily on the mystery angle. Waggoner did a wonderful job with this story and I'm thrilled to hear that there will be two follow-up novels. Waggoner’s writing is very descriptive. While reading I was able to picture all of the various beings included in the story and see them battling it out. Nekropolis would be a great addition to any library. Fans of the paranormal will also enjoy Nekropolis, as it crosses several genres. Recommended.
    Contains: Mild Violence, Drug Usage, Profanity
Review by: Rhonda Wilson


The Black Act by Louise Bohmer
Lachesis Publishing, 2009
ISBN: 978-1897370162
Available:  New

    The Black Act is set in a richly detailed fantasy world and tells of the adventures of the fifth generation of Wise Women. The book centers on twin sisters, Claire and Anna. At the beginning of the book, Claire witnesses her Guild Mother's death while Anna is out.  Before Anna discovers that Claire learned the truth from their Guild Mother before her passing, Claire runs off, seeking more information to go along with what she has learned.  Anna tries to uncover the secrets from her own scribe teacher, Rosalind, and also find her sister.  In the meantime, Claire's methods of discovery have reawakened a curse as well as a battle between the Wood People and the Dalthwein Clans. Anna and Claire must find the truths they need to know about their pasts in time to figure out a solution to end the present battle.
        The Black Act is a very creative story that keeps the reader wanting to know how things are going to turn out.  Bohmer describes the world and all of the various groups of people in vivid detail. You can really picture them in your mind, especially the Wood People as she detailed them to every root!  Throughout the book there are a lot of flashbacks, which tend to get a little confusing. Still, The Black Act flows well and is very enjoyable.  Horror fans, especially those that like a lot of fantasy mixed within will really enjoy this new author. I highly recommend that libraries get a copy to introduce readers to Bohmer's writing style.
Contains:  Sexual Situations, Violence

Review by Rhonda Wilson




Wild Blood by Nancy A. Collins

White Wolf Publishing, 2006

ISBN: 978-1588468789

Available: New

  After his mother dies, Skinner leaves everything he knows behind to find his birth parents. His search for "the father of his flesh" introduces him to some of the darkest parts of human society, the darkest of which isn't human at all. After a stint in jail, a breakout and several days riding along with his cell mate on a crime spree, Skinner stumbles upon a speed-metal band, who, instead of flinching from his other, bestial side, show him their own. The band of werewolves are on a journey of their own, headed

to an epic vargr (werewolf) gathering where they'll ritually battle for the right to mate with the females of the race. Skinner finds himself caught up in a violent dominance game, provoked by the beautiful, manipulative werewolf Jez.

  There's a lot to this story, and much of it involves gushing of various bodily fluids. Collins' books are traditionally no-holds-barred when it

comes to "onscreen" blood, violence and sex. She lovingly describes what other authors skip. Wild Blood is a story where the rules are constantly changing and anything can happen. It's likely a better addition to a private collection than a public one, simply because of the intensity and level of the physical horror.

Contains: violence, sex, bestiality, rape

Review by Michele Lee



Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Roc, 2001

ISBN: 0451458125

Available: New

  There are four types of werewolves in wizard Harry Dresden's Chicago; werewolves, those who use their own magic to change into wolves; hexenwolves, those who use other people's magic to shift shape;

lycanthropes, who change into beasts mentally, but not physically; and the elusive loup-garou, people cursed to change into a supernatural monster that resembles a wolf in the same way that a Harley resembles a child's first bike. In Fool Moon Harry is helping his cop friend Murphy find the cause of a series of beastly murders, but instead of just finding one kind of shape shifter he seems to be crossing them all.

  Book two in the popular Dresden Files series pits wizard Harry Dresden against supernatural street gangs, an Internal Affairs investigation, secretive FBI agents, the mob boss of  Chicago, a cursed philanthropist, and his non-human fiancée. Dresden also faces the ire of Murphy, who is still holding a grudge against him for not telling her all about the magical world of the Nevernever. Noir flavored, with a

higher body count and more personal damage that the first book, Fool Moon is a good read for lovers of paranormal mysteries as well as those who like the urban fantasy feel but might not be into kick-ass heroines. With ten books already out in the series and more guaranteed to be on the way, the Dresden Files series can be an excellent cross-genre choice for fantasy, mystery or horror readers, since it encompasses and redefines all three. Note: The Dresden Files also has a media tie-in. The SciFi channel recently hosted a series of the same name based on the books.

Review by Michele Lee



The Lunatic Cafe by Laurell K. Hamilton

Jove, 2004 (reissue)

ISBN: 978-0515134520

Available: New

  Anita Blake has quite a reputation. The Lunatic Café, book four in her ongoing adventures, thrusts the necromancer and vampire slayer into a battle between Marcus, the sadistic and ruthless alpha of the St. Louis werewolf pack, and his challenger—her fiancé Richard.  Pushed "to do the right thing" by Anita and his lesser wolves, Richard is trying to make his half-hearted challenges into a real attempt to take the pack.

  Complicating things, or maybe just pushing everyone over the edge, is Marcus, the reigning wolf leader, who hands Anita a list of mysteriously missing werewolves and hires her, on penalty of pain or worse, to find them. As Anita gets deeper and deeper into the shape shifter community she learns how many people are depending on Richard to overthrow Marcus--some with their very lives—and also that there are many more skin changers missing than anyone suspected.    The Lunatic Cafe jumps headlong into werewolf politics, proving that Hamilton can build just as rich and complicated of a presence for the furry monsters as the undead. This very popular series seems to be almost as immortal as its lead characters. Those who think the Anita Blake books aren’t horror-influenced haven't experienced Hamilton's lovely trees of skeletons, cannibalistic shape shifters, and brutal supernatural slayings for themselves. Recommended for public library collections.

Contains: violence, sex

Review by Michele Lee


Blue Moon by Laurell K. Hamilton

Jove, 2002 (reprint)

ISBN: 978-0515134452

Available: New

    Anita Blake thought she'd seen the last of her fiance, Richard, when she ran into the arms of another man after watching Richard eat a man. But her loyalty to the alpha of the St. Louis werewolf pack runs deep, so when his brother calls at 3am to beg for Anita's help, she can't say no. When she learns that Richard is in jail, accused of rape, with his secret on the line and mere days until the full moon, she packs up her vampire guardians and blazes in ready to save a man who seems to have only hate and lust left for her.

    Blue Moon is a turning point in the Anita Blake books- the first book in the series where the balance tilts toward romance and emotion. Action and suspense are still present, though. It is fast-paced and beautifully written, with an exciting climax and gripping emotional intensity.  Blue Moon has a rich, full plot, with close to the best combination of Anita's uncompromising attitude, a supernatural mystery and the twisted power of love found in any book in the series. It is also one of the rare books in the series that leaves the vampires for other plots, and takes a well- deserved delve into Hamilton's take on those with fur and claws.

Contains: violence, sex

Review by Michele Lee


Stray by Rachel Vincent

Mira, 2007

ISBN: 978-0778324218

Available: New

  Faythe is a sassy werecat searching for freedom in an environment where

females of the species are rare and desirable. She's in college, trying to live a normal life when she is attacked by a stray werecat on campus. Her pleasure at handling the fight on her own is quickly suppressed when her ex-fiance shows up to take her back to the

family ranch. Female shifters, including Faythe’s friends and members of her family, have disappeared. Faythe's father suspects that someone is collecting fertile werecat females, and he's determined to keep his daughter safe.

  A hybrid of dark fantasy and paranormal romance, Stray will appeal to readers looking for more than just a love story, and for something beyond unrelenting fear. Stray is a fine addition to private and public fiction collections.

  Contains: violence, sex, attempted rape

  Review by Michele Lee



Rogue by Rachel Vincent

Mira, 2008

ISBN: 978-0778325550

Available: New

    This is Vincent's second book starring Faythe Saunders, one of the only female

werecats in the U.S. Faythe is training to be an enforcer for her Pride.

After cleaning up the discarded body of a stray, Faythe and her boyfriend Marc return to

the Pride's ranch to discover the corpse was not one of a kind. Faythe takes an active part in tracking the killer, who is leaving a trail of strays across her territory, as well as a serial killer that appears to be choosing victims that look like her. Faythe must stop them both, even if one of them might just be part of her past come back to haunt her.

    Rogue is tighter than Vincent's first book, Stray. In this book, Faythe takes an active, physical role in the protection of her Pride. Rogue leans more toward horror than the dark-tinged fantasy of Stray. Faythe is a compelling character, making Rogue a fine addition to public and private libraries and likely to be quite popular with readers.

Contains: violence, sex

Review by Michele Lee


Quantum Moon by Denise Vitola

Ace, 1996

ISBN: 978-0441003570

Available: Used

  Quantum Moon is the first in a series of strange lycanthrope novels set in

a future where the world is under one government and everything is rationed: food, fuel, and even water. Poverty and despair are a way of life. Ty Merrick is a district marshal (a cop) and she also happens to be a lycanthrope. But her painful transformations and

personality changes around the time of the full moon are more physiological than metaphysical and rarely involve fur. This is a strange combination since rampant desperation has led to an upswing in superstitious beliefs.

  In Quantum Moon, Ty and her partner LaRue are on the case of a murderer

who killed the overweight wife of a lawmaker. In a world where food is strictly rationed, she is somewhat of a rarity. Ty herself commonly has to go without water, power or

food, but it is her job to find this privileged woman’s killer. Ty also has to “play nice” with a doctor who wants to use her lycanthropy to his own ends. Part police procedural, part werewolf book and part dark science fiction, Quantum Moon is one of the more unusual cross genre books out there.

Review by Michele Lee


Opalite Moon by Denise Vitola

Ace, 1997

Available: Used

ISBN: 978-0441004652

    Ty Merrick isn't exactly a good person. She's more likely to steal evidence from crime scenes than bag it, she complains (a lot) and seems to have a serious grudge against the world. She's also not exactly a lycanthrope, but one day after falling unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning she wakes up and something has changed. She calls herself a lycanthrope because part of her mind goes feral on the full moon and the days leading up to it bring spasms she calls stretches, physical growth that later reverses and enhanced senses that fade away on the waning moon.

 Opalite Moon is the second book in the Ty Merrick series. In this one Ty and her partner LaRue are working the murder case of three members of a secret society call the Opalites (part trailer trash, part hippy, part gypsy).The murder mystery is decent enough, but the real draw to these books is the world setting. Ty lives in a dystopian future where the whole world is under one corrupt “humanitarian” government and the people are commonly starved of everything they need to survive. Vitola's version of lycanthropy is different, but likely not to the taste of typical werewolf fans. The overwhelming air of unfairness and poverty and the bitterness of the main character may make this book a hard one to swallow, but readers of dark science fiction may want to give it a shot. .

Review by Michele Lee


Manjinn Moon by Denise Vitola

Ace, 1998

Available: Used

ISBN: 978-0441005215

    Manjinn Moon is Vitola's third Ty Merrick book about an unusual lycanthrope living in a dystopian future. In this book, the government has abandoned the poor, overpopulated District One as a monster hurricane hits. Merrick and her fellow cops have been tapped to fortify the area while also tracking down a killer with psychic powers and discovering a government conspiracy that knows far more about her than she'd like.

  Vitola's world is more about the science fiction than the werewolf, though the premise of a future world so short in natural resources that the poor people trade on supernatural hopes and dreams can be interesting. This book builds on the previous two in terms of world building, so those who enjoyed the first two books will enjoy this third book as well.

Review by Michele Lee



Pride by Rachel Vincent
Mira, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7783-2649-6
Available: New

    Third in Vincent's Werecat series, Faythe Saunders is facing challenges more intimidating than ever.  You'd think being a werecat is difficult enough, but in this book she is facing the werecat tribunal, on trial for her life as they believe she has committed murder!  Not only that... there is a new tabby in town and this tabby is different than any they have ever seen.  Faythe is on a mission to help herself and the tabby keep their lives!
    Faythe is definitely not a young tabby anymore!  Pride shows how much Faythe has grown up by how she takes control of so many situations and makes decisions without waiting for the Alphas to give her the go ahead.  She is head strong and definitely heading in the direction of taking over her father's position one day.  This book seems to be a "key" book in the series to show what her role will be one day.  There is a good mix of paranormal, dark fantasy, and mild horror within this book... as well as a touch of romance and humor so it should fulfill the wants and desires of most readers.  I highly recommend it as an addition to any library.
Contains:  violence, adult situations, adult language

Review by Rhonda Wilson



Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Ace Fantasy, 2007

ISBN: 9780441014897

Available: New and Used

      Kate Daniels is a mercenary hiding a dark secret. Science and magic are waging war in post-apocalyptic Atlanta, and shapeshifters, vampires, and stranger things, have established themselves successfully, while skyscrapers are crumbling and electronics are useless pieces of metal. The creatures of the city are mere pieces of debris caught up in the drift.

In Magic Bites, Kate’s mentor, a Knight of the Order of Merciful Aid, has been killed in one of a series of bizarre slayings that has set the Masters of the Dead and the city’s shapeshifters at each other’s throats. The Order is unwilling to put itself in the middle, and doesn’t hesitate to exploit her personal grief to settle the problem, appointing her as an emissary. To find her mentor's killer she must face down the Beast Lord as well as the Masters of the Dead, necromancers who ride vampires around from the safety of their citadel. Magic Bites is a strong mix of fantasy and horror spiced with dark humor. It's something different for dark fantasy, paranormal horror and fantasy fans, which should earn it placement in private and public collections alike.


Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

Ace Fantasy, 2008

ISBN: 9780441015832

Available: New and Used

    Andrews shows her horror roots in the second Kate Daniels book. Set in a world where magic and science are fighting for dominance, and tearing the landscape up in the process, Kate Daniels is a mercenary and Knight of the Order of Merciful Aid, charged with cleaning up paranormal messes (like the guy with a true, fire-fleshed salamander threatening to burn down the city in the opening scene). A set of missing maps, stolen from the Beast Lord, Curran, spins out this tale which pits Kate against a magic surge- a sudden, powerful flux of magic that will mean disaster for science and extreme power for all the magic borne creatures of Atlanta. Worse yet, an ancient Celtic War deity has decided to harness the surge in order to come back into the world. Kate, allied with the city’s shape shifters, will have to stop the rebirth, or face the death deity on the battle field.

      Andrews’ books are fast paced, spiked with dark humor, a bit of lust, and plenty of action. The post-apocalyptic world setting adds a lot of interesting appeal and take readers into sinister places that lighter fantasy often avoids. Magic Burns is a standout dark urban fantasy novel, and Andrews is building a large audience with each offering. Magic Burns would be an excellent addition to fantasy or supernatural horror libraries, both public and private.



Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews
Ace Fantasy, 2009
ISBN: 9780441017027
Available: New

    Set in a post-apocalyptic Atlanta broken by a dominance battle between elements of science and magic, book three in the Kate Daniels series precariously and expertly balances the growing romance between the Beast Lord and Kate, the revelation of Kate's dark secret, and an underground Bloodsport-style competition between supernatural creatures.
    When Kate's friend Derek is beaten, brutalized and left to die Kate's investigation leads her straight to the Midnight Games, where the strangest creatures of the magical world battle for a legendary gem. But the Reapers, who are prime suspects in Derek's attack, are after the gem for other reasons, reasons that would be very, very bad for the magical and non-magical inhabitants of Atlanta alike.
    The most focused of the series so far, the time in this book is split well between Kate's emotional attachments and past and the miasma of death, blood and battle that surrounds the Midnight Games. Rarer still, Andrews brings quite a few elements in from all over the globe, establishing her world as one of the few to deviate from a primarily white-Western-European mythical world. The inclusion of Greek, Nordic, Japanese and Indian elements makes this book a fine addition to libraries striving for a more multicultural collection.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Ace Fantasy, 2006
ISBN: 0441013813
Available: New and Used


    Mercy Thompson is unconventional from the beginning. She's a mechanic for a small town, not to mention a tattooed skinwalker who can become a coyote at will. Mercy was orphaned by a magical father before she was born, and fostered by werewolves, and although she doesn’t truly belong with them, Mercy feels a connection to the wolves, no matter how intense and violent they might become.
    When a stray werewolf shows up at her shop begging for a temporary job, she gets sucked into a plot that threatens the lives of the area alpha as well as the werewolf Merrok (ruler) who helped raise Mercy. Mercy is not necessarily violent or intense. She is weaker than most of the supernatural creatures around her. But her calm, somewhat defiant persona makes her an easygoing viewpoint character surrounded by werewolves and vampires that are straight out of horror movies. Mercy is the calm point of the dark, violent world. She knows
when to fight back, when to let strong characters handle things, and how to quietly defy the big bads without having their ire crash down on her.Something of a softer dark urban fantasy book, due to Mercy's charm, the world is no less bloody, violent or horrific than most other werewolf books. This one is likely to catch the eye of readers who love dark fiction that's not unrelenting in terror or gore.

Prey by Rachel Vincent
Mira, 2009
ISBN:  978-0-7783-2681-6
Available:  New


    In Rachel Vincent's fourth installment of the Shifters series, lots of action takes place.  The novel starts of with several of the werecats, including the main character, Faythe, traveling through the "free territory" in order to meet-up with Faythe's boyfriend, Marc, while en route to deliver a new werecat mother, Manx, to a temporary home while she is on trial for murder.  Unfortunately, the group is ambushed by a large pack of stray werecats.  At first, the thinking is that the strays were after the tabbies, Faythe and Manx, but when Marc later turns up missing they realize there might have been a bit more to the ambush.  Now Faythe and the rest of the south-central Pride are on the search for Marc in hopes that he is still alive when they find him!

Rachel Vincent continues on with a very well-written and tight series.  I feel that this book is the most emotional of the series so far.  As I’ve read all of the books, I've gotten attached to the characters, and the events in this particular book really got to me. I found myself crying for the whole of two to three chapters.  Vincent is an author to keep an eye on for new books, as hers truly are "new".  She keeps the storyline interesting and fast-paced with fresh ideas that haven't been done before.  Highly Recommended.

Contains:  violence, adult situations, adult language

Review by Rhonda Wilson



Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

Ace Fantasy, 2007

ISBN: 9789441914736

Available: New and Used


            There's something almost soothing about Mercy Thompson, mechanic and skinwalker, adopted werewolf and friend to the fae. She's the kind of urban fantasy heroine who can walk through a door without some sort of power challenge. She keeps a junked out car in the middle of her yard to disturb the local Alpha's view, “forgets” to tell people things to avoid fights and uses their own training, body language and tempers against them.

            In the second book in the series, Mercy's vampire friend Stefan asks for her help, and ends up dragging her into one of the darkest plots imaginable.  Briggs pulls no punches, pitting the almost sweet, barely supernatural Mercy against a demon-possessed vampire whose very presence threatens the emotional control of vampires, humans, werewolves and fae. Mercy has to step up and find the vampire and his maker before more people die, particularly the people she's come to care about.

            Blood Bound is a solid supernatural mystery shot through with veins of true darkness and a collection of odd and intriguing characters. The Mercy Thompson books already have an established audience who should be pleased to find this one included in the library stacks. Recommended to public and private libraries.

 Review by Michele Lee



Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Ace Fantasy, 2008


Available: New and Used

            Coyote walker Mercy Thompson has faced killer werewolves and has gotten mixed up in vampire feuds, but in Iron Kissed she is roundly told to keep out of fae business. Her friend and mentor, Zee, is being set up for the murder of a cop (who wasn't exactly innocent), by the local cops, and the Gray Lords are willing to sacrifice Zee to keep fae secrets hidden. But Mercy refuses to abandon her friend, no matter what everyone around her says, or what it might cost her.

            This is possibly the darkest Mercy book so far. Still reeling from the events at the end of the last book, Mercy is questioning herself and her actions. This book takes her to terrible places, where the reader might have trouble following her. Briggs expertly portrays the fae in the tradition of Grimm's fairy tales, complex creatures that despise humans, except as toys, but are strangely dependent on them.

            Iron Kissed and the other books in the series are recommended for public libraries, and for private collectors who like dark fiction, but might be tired of the familiar tropes of horror.

 Review by Michele Lee



Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

Warner Books, 2005

ISBN: 0446616419

Available: New and Used

    Kitty Norville is the newest member of her local pack, and by fluke, starts a late night advice show for supernaturals that takes off in ways she never anticipated. Both her alpha and the local vampire lord want her show shut down, but in a rare act of defiance Kitty fights for it, which ends up costing her.
Kitty and the Midnight Hour is a very uncomfortable book. The pace is off, parts feels skipped over entirely, there's no real resolution, and, worse, Kitty herself is a overly submissive woman in an abusive relationship with everyone in her pack. It's very hard to get into this one and the repeated sexual and emotional abuse is enough to seriously put off some readers. However the Kitty series appears to have a large following, and it may be necessary to include Kitty and the Midnight Hour in public collections due to demand. However, readers buying for their private collections should read before buying to see if Vaughn's style is to their tastes.
Review by Michele Lee



The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin
Viking, 2008
ISBN: 078-0-670-01988-5
Available: New and used

    A Hu-Li is a two thousand year old Chinese werefox in the body of a fifteen year old girl playing the role of a Russian prostitute. After
falling for an insatiable Russian werewolf she finds herself caught up in the epic quest for the super-werewolf, a fabled creature among were-beasts, who will someday appear and reveal the truth of all things.
    The Sacred Book of the Werewolf isn't a horror novel, but a skeletal core built mostly of a love story, twined with esoterica and padded with meaty social and political commentary. It's a slow read, a hard read with many asides, which while darkly humorous are hard to digest en masse. But there's a beautiful end, where even A Hu-Li shucks the pretensions of sex and beauty and even tails, that will resonate with readers who can make it that far.
Review by Michele Lee



The Midnight Eye Files: The Sirens by William Meikle

Black Death Books, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-9799881-2-7

Available: New

    Poor cover art may turn many away from this book… a poor synopsis on the back will discourage many more.  In fact, the synopsis on the back is completely irrelevant.

In this second book in the Midnight Eye Files series, PI Derek Adams and his agoraphobic sidekick are hired by an old woman to head to a small town in the north and retrieve her son so he can attend his father’s funeral.  What follows delves deeply into the ancient Norse mythology including sirens, Odin, Loki, a shape shifter and some not-so-friendly locals. 

    Although this is classified as horror, and it does contain a monster, this book is more of an irreverent supernatural crime thriller.  If it weren’t for the heavy use of profanity, I would recommend this as a young adult novel. Even though it lacks gore and isn’t really frightening, it is a fun book.  If you are looking for a light read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then reading this can make for an enjoyable time.  The gore is light, and there are references to past sexual contact (and men with the wounds to prove it).  The book does contain heavy profanity from a specific character, adult subjects such as suicide, and gore.Age appropriate for 15 and up.

Contains: Sex, violence, monsters, gore, profanity.

Review by KDP


Evil Ways by Justin Gustainis


ISBN: 1844165930

Available: New

    Evil Ways is a sequel to Black Magic Woman, and the second installment in an urban fantasy series starring paranormal investigator Quincey Morris, great grandson of the infamous Texan who battled Dracula alongside Van Helsing in the Stoker classic, and his partner, Libby Chastain, a practicing white witch.

    Evil Ways is a plot-driven story, and the author creates a near frantic pace as he establishes an intricate mystery with a broad cast of characters. There’s plenty of character development to draw readers in and keep them coming back for more, both for the protagonists and for federal agents Dale Fenton and Colleen O’Brien, who appear as recurring characters. Mr. Gustainis shows considerable skill in keeping the reader invested in the story with atmospheric storytelling, and his spartan prose keeps the serial from becoming bogged down.

    Gustainis utilizes many of the conceits found within the urban fantasy genre, but brings enough of a unique voice through to elevate this series above the majority of its peers. Plenty of action and an explosively intricate plot combine to make Evil Ways a novel well worth reading. Readers advisory note: fans of urban fantasy and occult detective novels , particularly of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, will enjoy this book. Recommended for private and public collections.

Contains adult language and situations

Review by Bob Freeman


Gypsy Blood by Steve Vernon

Five Star, 2008

ISBN: 9781594147067

Available: New

            In Gypsy Blood, we meet Carnival, a half gypsy who is a fortune-teller and also a part-time slayer of demons and other creatures.  His dead father’s soul is trapped inside him, and acts as a guide, counselor, and foil for Carnival.  In Gypsy Blood Carnival  falls in love with a vampire, and promises to take care of her, which includes killing people to provide her with blood. As Carnival searches for a way to “cure” his vampire lover, he is embroiled in larger demonic plans.   Carnival is an interesting character, who, despite his  impressive occult skills, is deeply flawed in his decision making.  Steve Vernon has an amazing imagination and his storytelling skills work their magic here, making Gypsy Blood an engrossing read. Readers advisory note: This is a no-holds-barred story, with graphic depictions of gore, sexuality, and rape, so be cautious in recommending it to readers of dark and urban fantasy. However, it may appeal to readers who normally wouldn’t consider reading fantasy, such as those who enjoy the more extreme and graphic horror of Edward Lee or Tim Waggoner.


The Chronicles of the Planeswalkers Part I: Alliances by B.T. Robertson

Lachesis Publishing, 2007
ISBN-10: 1885093500

Available: New

The Chronicles of the Planeswalkers Part I: Alliances is a fantasy tale that takes place on the plane of Vaaluna. Although the title says 'part I'  this is not actually the first part of the story arc(part zero precedes it), and readers who start with this book will feel like they have missed something.

The story follows Aerines, a Krayn elf, on his search for a magical book that will help him learn to use his magic and find his destiny. He is accompanied by a wizard and his bizarre staff, a giant, an odd little fellow from another plane, a father he doesn’t get along with, and several other battle-hardened elves. Their trek takes them across Vaaluna, a plane on the brink of war, where dark elves, chitinous creatures, and half man/half dire beasts are preparing to take over the world. Adding to the chaos, assorted pirates and villains are seeking the pieces of an elfstone tied to an ancient god.

The Chronicles of the Planeswalkers Part 1 has some original ideas that separate it from the crowd. For instance, the wizard’s staff is sentient- able to talk and even cast spells. The wide variety of characters and scenes, and the intriguing plot twists will hook readers and keep them turning pages. The developing relationships between friends and enemies are suspenseful and sometimes surprising, and give the story a fresh feel. At times, though, the book is confusing. There are several point of view shifts, and some of the names are similar enough that it was easy to mistake who was speaking, such as the wizard Aeligion and the elf Aerines. Even so, the book is a pleasure to read, and brought me back to my Dungeons and Dragons days.  The Chronicles of the Planeswalkers Part I would certainly make a nice addition to any fantasy collection.

Review by Bret Jordan



The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski



Available: New

    The Last Wish is a translation of a collection of related stories about Geralt de Rivia, a witcher. Witchers are mutant sorcerers who hunt monsters for pay, but Geralt has a conscience when it comes to his job, and his strength of character is sorely tested in these stories. The Last Wish is more of a dark fantasy than a true horror novel, and some of the tales have a touch of fairy tale to them. The story “A Grain of Truth” provides a unique look at Beauty and the Beast, and “The Lesser Evil” presents the reader with a twisted Snow White-like character. The Last Wish is an action packed, monster filled book with exciting and interesting characters and solid plotting. Recommended for the dark fantasy section or general collection of any library. Note: The popular video game The Witcher is based on this book, making it a potential bridge to reading for video game lovers. The Last Wish was originally published in Poland in 1993, and has just recently been translated into English. More of Sapkowski’s work is being translated into English and published in paperback, so readers who enjoy The Last Wish will have plenty to look forward to.

Review by Bret Jordan


A Whisper of Southern Lights (Book 3 of The Assassin Series) by Tim Lebbon

Necessary Evil Press,2008


Available: New

    There are some writers with so much talent that they transcend their subject matter. Such is the case with Tim Lebbon and A Whisper of Southern Lights. For those who have followed The Assassin Series from the start, this is another action-packed thriller in just the manner that we’ve come to expect. At only 65 pages, Lebbon fills every nook and cranny with an overwhelming input of sensory data. Every step of the way you feel like you’re a part of the story, that you’re in the Japanese work camp, in the thick of the jungle, in the sewage line… and Lebbon makes you truly feel the weight of the centuries old conflict between the Demon Assassin Temple and Gabriel, whose thirst for revenge for the murder of his family spurs him on. I cannot recommend this series highly enough. Tim Lebbon is a treasure. This book is for readers with a thirst for high-octane adventure stories, fans of historical horror (World War II), and anyone who enjoys well written prose.

Contains: Adult language, Violence

Review by Bob Freeman



Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher  

New American Library, 2006

ISBN: 0451460855

Available: New

    Proven Guilty is book eight of The Dresden Files, a series of detective novels featuring Harry Dresden, the only wizard listed in Chicago’s yellow pages. In Proven Guilty, Dresden and his partner Karrin Murphy battle phobophages, supernatural creatures that feed on fear. These appear during a horror film convention, where they take on the shapes of movie monsters and attack the attendees. This is a great set-up for a story, but Butcher never really follows through. Instead of battling monsters, the novel’s pace slows to a crawl as Dresden spends his time playing politics with other wizards.  Readers hoping for the wizard-detective versus monsters battle the story promises will be frustrated. The “fear-monster” conflict never takes center stage, and when it does materialize, it’s not very frightening. Butcher’s tongue-in-cheek style, while occasionally amusing, disrupts the action and takes the bite out of situations that might otherwise have built to genuine suspense. The story is also interrupted by unnecessary and intrusive exposition and narration.

     Unfortunately, Proven Guilty can not stand on its own merits. Butcher does not include enough background information, so newcomers may find themselves lost. In fact, halfway through I found that I had no idea what was going on. Additionally, the story trails off, with nearly every conflict introduced in the novel left unresolved. The book really feels like a place holder between books 7 and 9, and does set up the next book nicely, so fans of The Dresden Files will probably want to read it. Newcomers, however, will want to start at the beginning and work up to this one, if they’re still interested when they get here.

Warning: This is book eight in The Dresden Files, which is a series of detective novels featuring Harry Dresden, the only Wizard listed in Chicago’s yellow pages. This series is also the basis of the show “The Dresden Files” on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Contains: violence and “adult situations.”

Review by Horror Master




The Blackburn & Scarletti Mysteries Volume II by Karen Koehler

KHP Publishers, 2007

ISBN: 0979988101

Available: New

    FBI agent January Blackburn and Father Dorian Scarletti,a dhampir (half human/half vampire) working for the Vatican, are off on two new adventures.  The first involves the investigation of a murder in New Orleans that has a supernatural angle to it.  In the second story Blackburn and Scarletti investigate the supposed haunting of a soap opera set that has Scarletti facing demons of his past.   Koehler continues to deepen the relationship between Blackburn and Scarletti, and also explores Blackburn’s bond with Scarletti’s mentor, The Jackal, who saved her life in the first volume by making her his ghoul.  The writing is solid with continued character development and exploration. Koehler presents interesting individual stories that feed into the larger story arc. The Blackburn and Scarletti Mysteries, Volume II, will appeal to wide range of audiences, including those who enjoy paranormal mysteries and urban fantasy as well as horror readers.  Recommended for public libraries.
Contains: Violence



The Desert by Bryon  Morrigan

Dark Hart Press

ISBN:  0978731867

Available: New

    If only every author’s first novel could be so fun. And that’s exactly what you get with Bryon Morrigan’s debut, a fun and exciting “man versus monster” story that invokes elements of Aliens and Top Cow’s short-lived comic series Inferno. Set in Iraq, The Desert is one part military drama and one part horror novel as we follow soldiers into Hell, and we’re not being metaphorical here. Morrigan handles the military angle with a deft hand and his characters are very believable. You can tell that the author is writing from experience, as the people and places they populate leap off the page. The overall story is engaging, though the pacing is a bit off at times. What’s most compelling about this novel is that it is not your run-of-the-mill horror story. It is original and draws you to the edge of your seat on more than one occasion. Bryon Morrigan has the right stuff and is well on his way to becoming an exciting new face in a genre in desperate need of just that. Readers advisory note: Fans of military fiction, as well as readers who appreciate a good monster tale, will enjoy this book.  Highly recommended for public library collections. Contains: Adult language, Violence .

Review by Bob Freeman


Tapestry of Dark Souls by Elaine Bergstrom
TSR, 1993(reissued 2007)
ISBN: 1560765712
    Tapestry of Dark Souls is one of a series of books set in TSR’s supernatural roleplaying universe, Ravenloft. The first third of the book is written in first person by a merchant’s wife. She describes monks who spend their entire lives in a hidden monastery guarding a magical tapestry with the ability to capture and contain evil beings. The most powerful creature within the tapestry, Morgoth, wants out, and calls out for help from those willing to venture into the evil land. A greedy merchant and his wife answer the call, but before they can return home, the merchant is trapped in the tapestry, and his wife bears Morgoth’s son, Jonathan. When disaster strikes the mother, the monks decide to raise the child themselves. In the meantime, Morgoth watches over his son and tries to influence him. The rest of the book concentrates on Jonathan and his story. When the boy leaves the monastery, he travels to a nearby village to start a life of his own. Werewolves, goblins, witches, and other dangerous creatures live in the woods around the village, sometimes even taking villagers who wander into the forest during the daytime hours. In the midst of these events, Jonathan is plagued by the mistrust and jealousy of the townspeople. Eventually, he is tricked into helping Morgoth escape from the tapestry, causing the fall of the monastery’s guardians and the possible rise of an evil high lord who sees people merely as food for his vampiric needs. Tapestry of Souls had many plot twists and surprises, and was a suspenseful and entertaining light read. Tapestry of Souls is a must for anyone collecting Ravenloft books, and would make a nice addition to a horror section of any library. Review by Bret Jordan
Contains: Violence, Gore .   Review by Bret Jordan

Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon- Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner
Berkeley Trade, 2005
ISBN: 0425202526
Available: New and Used
    Julie Kenner turns the world of a stay-at-home mom on its head to present us with a fun, fast, and entertaining read. Kate Connor retired from demon hunting long ago, but when a demon crashes through her kitchen window and attacks her, battling evil must, reluctantly, go to the top of her to-do list. Balancing the needs and wants of her teenage daughter, her toddler, and her loving (if politically ambitious) husband, already a challenge, becomes even more difficult when she must deal with the demands of demon hunting and the secrecy required. Kenner is right on target in describing the situations and emotions mothers deal with, like leaving a child in day care for the first time, Some readers will find that she’s a little heavy on the foreshadowing, so the “mystery” of the story isn’t much of a puzzle, although there’s plenty of action in between playdates and grocery runs. Carpe Demon is lighter in tone and less graphic than other books in the “chick lit with fangs” genre. While readers of the Sookie Stackhouse and Betsy Taylor sagas may enjoy Carpe Demon for its paranormal angle, Kenner writes the kind of screwball humor that fans of Jennifer Crusie might appreciate. On the whole the book stands alone, but I was glad to see the author left room for a sequel. With any luck, Kate Connor will continue to navigate the treacherous waters of motherhood, marriage, and demon hunting with wit and success, and take us along for the ride. Carpe Demon could fall into general fiction or romance collections as well as paranormal fiction. Highly recommended for public libraries, and a good choice for teen readers looking for something to follow up their Buffy reading spree. Contains: mild language, references to sex, violence(on several occasions Kate fights and kills demons in human corporeal form) kidnapping and threats to small children, and references to a parent or spouse dying.
Sequels are: California Demon
Demon in my View (due to be released in July 2007)
Review by Francesca the Librarian





Something From the Nightside by Simon R. Green

Ace, 2003

ISBN: 0441010652

Available: New and Used 

    This is the first book in Simon R. Green's excellent Nightside Series. John Taylor is a man with an uncanny knack for finding lost things.  In this book, John returns to his birthplace, the Nightside, to find a missing girl. The Nightside is the dark center of London where's it's always 3AM and gods and demons wander the streets with more ordinary mortals.  John's life in Nightside isn't exactly easy: he's being stalked by creatures intent on killing him for no apparent reason and when that's not happening, he's being hailed as the future king.  And there's the pesky timeslip that John and his client fall through, showing the end of the world as we know it and the uncomfortable news that John caused it.  Currently, there are seven books in the series, the majority of them held together by the plot thread of whether John finding out who his mother is really will destroy the world.  This series is great for combining horror with high humor (if your sense of humor is skewed and a little dark) and the supporting cast is great.  Recurring characters include: Razor Eddie, Punk God of the Straight Razor, Deadboy, Shotgun Suzie (more often called "Oh god, run, it's her!"), and a surreally perky secretary. Highly recommended.  You can find this series in the sci-fi/fantasy section of the bookstore. Review by Havoc


-- Agents of Light and Darkness

-- Nightingale's Lament

-- Hex and the City

-- Paths Not Taken

-- Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth

-- Hell to Pay



The Pressure of Darkness by Harry Shannon

Five Star, October, 2006
ISBN: 1594144702

Available: New

    Jack Burke is a man with connections, a former special forces operative who makes ends meet by doing various odd jobs for the mob, the government, and private individuals. Jack is hired to investigate the particularly grisly death of horror novelist Peter Stryker by Stryker's daughter. The police want to rule it as a suicide, but she isn't convinced.   Jack's investigation leads into the world of the occult, where he faces a menace that seeks to kill most of the people on the planet.  Shannon has put together a solid horror tinged adventure, with elements that will appeal to readers in different genres, including mystery, action/adventure, and occult fiction. Jack is an intriguing and fascinating character who will draw readers in.  Jack is complex- he doesn't think in terms of black and white and must make certain ethical compromises in order to survive and thrive.  Fast-paced and engrossing, The Pressure of Darkness is a book readers will want to finish in one sitting.   Burke has very much the feel of F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack character and fans of Wilson's books will definitely enjoy The Pressure of Darkness. Recommended.  Contains: Violence and Gore



Alabaster by Caitlin R. Kiernan, illustrated by Ted Naifeh

Subterranean Press, August, 2006
ISBN: 1596060603

Available: New

    Alabaster is a collection of short stories about Dancy Flammarion, a young albino girl from Georgia who is on a mission to slay various monsters and demons.  Dancy is directed in her mission by an unseen angel who only Dancy can hear. Even the reader is not privy to the angel's words or instructions.  In addition, Dancy has the occasional conversation with animals both dead and alive.   Caitlin Kiernan paints Dancy as a reluctant, unassuming, supernatural assassin who is focused on her target and will walk away from other malevolent creatures.  The monsters in the book remind me of James Bond villains, down to the gloating monologues. They all have unique features and characteristics and are imaginatively drawn. In addition,  they all seem to know about Dancy and her monster slaying deeds, but instead of killing her quickly they tend to talk to her or toy with her and die because of it.   Where Alabaster falls short is in the action department. Kiernan builds up the tension, so the reader expects action, but she doesn't follow through. Kiernan has developed an incredibly interesting and sympathetic character in Dancy Flammarion, but the execution is awkward, and Dancy's adventures would benefit from more descriptive detail about and emphasis on the action.     



Afterlife Battlefield by Johnny Ostentatious

Active Bladder Press, December 2006

ISBN: 0976172933

Available: New

    Zack Fury, feeling all alone in the world with no hope for the future, takes his own life with the help of a twelve gauge shotgun.  Instead of finding himself in either heaven or hell, Zack wakes up in the world of Holcyon, where suicides go.   Zack meets Melody, an Australian singer who committed suicide by enticing a crocodile to kill her. They find themselves in the middle of a war between the forces of good  and evil, with the fate of the whole dimension hanging in the balance.     Johnny Ostentatious has created a fantastic world in Holcyon, blending  traditional mythological elements such as the gorgon Medusa and the Egyptian god Anubis with creatures of his own design.   Instead of giving us the usual stock hero, Ostentatious gives us Zack Fury, a rebellious punk who can't seem to do what he is told.  Unfortunately, there is an awkward and confusing detour in the plot that interrupts the flow of the story, but even so Afterlife Battlefield is a really fun read, with a touch of the absurd. While the author populates Holcyon with people who have committed suicide, it is clear in the story that the author has  an anti-suicide message without getting too preachy about it.  Recommended.  Contains:  suicide, violence


Slayer by Karen Koehler

KHP Publisher, March, 2002 (1st ed.)
ISBN: 0967922003

Available: New and used.

    No, this book isn't about a teenage vampire slayer from Sunnydale. Karen Kohler instead introduces Alek Knight, a half-human, half-vampire who works for the Vatican, enforcing the rules that vampires and other supernaturals have to live by.   Alek is one slayer in a coven, or collective, of slayers.  Alek uncovers a secret concerning the genesis of the vampires and the church's plans for them that pits him against his mentor and the other slayers.    Koehler does a great job of creating her world with a balance of the Roman Catholic Church policing the vampire community with the slayers.   Alek is tormented on many levels, in turning against his mentor and father figure, dealing with tragic events in his past, and his conflict over his companion on his quest, Sister Theresa. This erodes his image as a take-no-prisoners mega-slayer. Alek comes across as more fragile than tragic, and the exposition spent on his various torments stops the forward momentum of the story.  The story is populated with colorful and interesting characters and  the world she creates is an intriguing one.    This is one book of a number set in this world which lends itself to many potentially fun tales.  Koehler's books set in this world have the potential to become a staple of the genre.  Other titles set in this world include The Blackburn and Scarletti Mysteries,  Vol. 1, and Dark Miracle. Contains: scenes of sexuality, gore, and strong language.


The Blackburn & Scarletti Mysteries, Vol I  by Karen Koehler

KHP Publisher, June,  2006
 ISBN: 0976791471

Available: New

    The Blackburn & Scarletti Mysteries, Vol I   consists of two novellas. The first novella, Sins of the Father, introduces us to FBI agent January Blackburn and her new partner, Father Dorian Scarletti,  vampire and agent of a special division of the  Vatican that deals with the paranormal.   Scarletti and Blackburn team up to solve a particularly gruesome murder of a Chicago thug  with the words "I REPAY" written on the mauled body.   In the second novella, The Hyde Effect, Blackburn and Scarletti track down a vicious killer who leaves wolf hairs by the body in another supernatural murder mystery.   In Blackburn and Scarletti, Karen Koehler has given life to her protagonists, creating them with frailties and foibles.  Scarletti's affiliation with the Catholic  Church  also adds a twist to the stories.  The plots of the novellas move at a good pace and does a great job of keeping the reader involved in the story while providing background on characters and past events.    Readers will be hooked by the characters and the many unanswered questions introduced in this first volume.  Koehler has presented a very strong start to a new horror mystery/adventure series. Recommended. Contains: Violence and a little gore. 



Necropolis by Tim Waggoner

Five Star, October, 2004
ISBN: 1410402150

Available: New and Used

    Tim Waggoner presents a horror based mystery/adventure tale in Necropolis.  Necropolis is a city created in another dimension where all sorts of supernatural creatures have migrated, fleeing humans.  Matthew Adrion, a once-human cop killed in Necropolis, has returned  as a zombie with a soul, who works as a private detective for the various denizens that inhabit the dark city.  Devona, a half vampire, asks for Matthew's help in recovering the Dawn Stone, a powerful artifact in her care.  In his quest to retrieve the Dawn Stone, Matthew travels all over Necropolis, meeting all sorts of interesting creatures. Waggoner does an excellent job of crafting a complex supernatural world that flows seamlessly into the story, making it easy for the reader to get caught up in the action rather than lost in minutiae. Necropolis is one part mystery and one part adventure with a brilliant horror base.  Highly recommended. Contains: Violence




Shadows Over Somerset 1: A Cairnwood Manor Novel by Bob Freeman

KHP Publisher, April, 2006
ISBN: 0976791447
Available: New and Used

    Shadows Over Somerset is the first book by Hoosier author Bob Freeman. Freeman's ambitious first novel introduces us to the Cairnwood Clan, a family with an ancient and terrible secret.  Michael Somers is the youngest of the Cairnwood family who was removed from the family by his mother when he was young, he is unaware of his family's curse.  Michael is brought to the Cairnwood family mansion in Somerset, Indiana at a time when an ancient evil threatens the family.  Freeman fits a great deal into the book, including vampires, werewolves, and witches. His story has a serious tone rather than the humorous banter that characterizes the work of Wm Mark Simmons, but there are definitely some entertaining moments! I thought that vampire flunkies Dawn and Eve were wonderful characters and stole the show for some of the book. Reading Shadows Over Somerset is like putting together a puzzle. Freeman introduces different characters and events at the beginning of the story, and it takes time to understand how they all fit together.  Shadows Over Somerset is intended to be the first in a series, and it has enough open plot lines to intrigue the reader. It will be interesting to see how Freeman develops the series. Contains drug abuse, sexual situations, violence to children, and gore.





Nightlife by Rob Thurman

ROC Fantasy, March, 2006 
ISBN: 0451460758

Available: New

    The second book I have read this week with the main character named Cal, coincidence...why yes.  In this book Cal is short for Caliban, a half human half elf with an elf father and a human mother. Elf in this case doesn't mean friendly beautiful pointy eared D&D character, rather a dark malicious creature with lots of pointy teeth dedicated to violence.   Cal is on the run from his father's people with his older brother Niko trying to keep him alive.  Along the way they meet all sorts of creatures from fairy tales and myths including trolls, vampires, and a banshee.   As a character it is hard to really like or sympathize with Cal, he seems to be very much the perpetual victim and it is really the secondary characters , like Niko, that carry the story. This is Thurman's first book and I look forward to reading his next offering. His imagination comes through in his writing, which makes the story fun to read . Contains: Violence and a little gore.

One Foot in the Grave by WM Mark Simmons
Baen Books, April 1, 1996

Available: New and Used
    Poor Chris Csejthe. He can't remember last night, and now he finds that his wife and daughter are dead and that he is slowly turning into a vampire.  This is the first in a series of books centered on Chris and his adjustment to life in the very complex and hostile world of vampires, werewolves, and the supernatural. Simmons is a talented writer and includes some classic dialogue. Contains some violence and sexual situations.

Dead on My Feet by WM Mark Simmons
Baen Books, September 6,2005
ISBN: 1416509100

 Available: New and Used
   The continuation of the misadventures of Chris Csejthe. In this book Chris has been tracked down by both East Coast and West Coast vampire communities, in addition to having to deal with zombies, paramilitary groups, and a virus that threatens humanity. Simmons has a knack of for packing as much into his books as possible. On top of all of the undead action, there are also passages where characters spend time philosophizing about the existence and nature of God. Second in the series. Contains violence.

Habeas Corpses by WM Mark Simmons
Baen Books, November 1, 2005
ISBN: 1416509135

Available: New and Used
    The third installment of the misadventures of Chris Csejthe, who is now head of the New York Domain of Vampires. He has to battle not only rivals for his leadership for the New York Clan of Vampires but a mysterious other who is out to spill Chris’ blood for a different reason altogether. Simmons packs a lot in his books, and this one includes not just vampires but Native American spirits and the Third Reich.  Somehow he brings it all together in a coherent plot that is fun to read. I will be looking forward to his next book. Third book in the series. Contains violence and sexual situations.

Heretic: The Templar Chronicles by Joseph Nassise
Pocket Books, September 27, 2005
ISBN: 0743470958

Available: New and Used
    While Simmons' books mentioned above contain fun dialogue and humor. Massise’s book is a no nonsense horror adventure novel. The book is centered on Cade Williams, a man who has supernatural abilities and is a member of a special operations unit of the Knight Templars a division of the Church meant to battle the supernatural and protect humanity. In this first book the Knight Templars are under attack by necromancers attempting to find the powerful relics. Contains violence.

Infernal: A Repairman Jack Novel by F. Paul Wilson

Forge Books November 1, 2005
ISBN: 0765312751

Available: New and Used

    This is the ninth in the Repairman Jack series, the continuing saga of Jack, a fix-it man who solves problems that normally can't be resolved through legal means.  Jack finds himself in the middle of a conflict between two extra dimensional forces.  In this book, Jack finds himself having to help his brother, who has gotten himself into trouble. Jack must track down who has killed a member of his family.  A fine addition to the Repairman Jack series that leaves you wanting more.   Contains violence



Urban Fantasy Series

Tanya Huff’s Victory Nelson books- Blood Debt, Blood Price, etc.

Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake and Meredith Gentry books

Kim Harrison’s “Rachel Morgan” books starting with Dead Witch Walking

Kelley Armstong’s “Women of the Otherworld” Bitten, Stolen, Dime Store Magic

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books Moon Called

Mercedes Lackey  “Children of the Night” “Jinx High” “Burning Water” “Sacred Ground”



Horror Adventure Series Lists from Havoc:

Vamps: Tanya Huff's Blood books. There are five books, about the adventures of retired cop Victory Nelson and Henry the vampiric bastard son of Henry VIII. Really. Also includes demons, werewolves, mummies, zombies, and ghosts. And, of course, the shortest yet most deviant sex scene ever: We kicked the dead bodies out of the way so there would be room on the floor. Go, Vicky! Found in sci-fi/fantasy. This series continues with the Smoke books, featuring Tony. So far, wizards and ghosts. Some people will probably care that the lead character is gay and lusting after an increasingly less straight guy.





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