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Indecent Proposal

Molly O’Keefe. Bantam, $7.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-0-345-54905-1

Ryan Kaminski, former model turned New York City bartender, is yanked out of her squalid but safe world and into a whole other dimension in the stunning fourth Boys of Bishop contemporary (after Between the Sheets). Harrison Montgomery plans to continue his family legacy of civil service with a run for Congress. His life is old money, public faces, and iced-over private lives. Ryan’s is scraping by, fighting for what you’ve got, and a family who will stand with you through—almost—anything. A no-strings-attached tryst between the two leads to Ryan’s unexpected pregnancy. When reporters begin to harass Ryan’s family and the scandal threatens Harrison’s career, the lovers make a deal for a hasty wedding, a public show of young love, and a private business arrangement. When his cold front meets her fiery spirit, both characters display a remarkable amount of care, selflessness, and chemistry. Their emotional turmoil and mutual confusion feels real, immediate, and wrenching. This is a love story not to be missed. Agent: Pam Hopkins, Pamela A. Hopkins Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Apocalypticon

Clayton Smith. Dapper, $12.99 trade paper (338p) ISBN 978-0-9898068-3-1

Debut author Smith relies more on concept than execution in this postapocalyptic road trip. Two 20-somethings, Patrick Deen and Ben Fogelvee, trek from Chicago to Disney World, traversing what is left of the Midwest and South after 95% of the U.S. population was killed in a baffling chemical weapons attack inflicted by Jamaica. Fellow survivors provide episodic, consequence-free conflict, then disappear from the story as Patrick and Ben foil a train mutiny, outwit a violent band of former day traders by shouting out lines from Wall Street, and flee a religious cult that has resumed crucifixions. Their geeky banter, while fun at first, becomes repetitive and disquietingly inappropriate for the situations they encounter. Smith tries to inject some heft with Homeric allusions and enigmatic nods to Patrick’s motive for the journey, but they seem like afterthoughts, and never disrupt the headlong, reference-laden dialogue or the characters’ ardent fervor for weaponry. There are some painstakingly formulated moments of humor, but both story and suspense are in meager supply. The neglect of character arc and narrative flow result in about as much tension as, well, a trip to Disney World. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Dazzling Darkness

Paula Cappa. Great Lakes Literary, $16.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-883953-61-4

Five-year-old Henry Brooke disappears mysteriously in Cappa’s amateurish paranormal thriller, set in a present day that feels weirdly like the 19th century. Henry’s parents mobilize the entire town of Concord, Mass., in a search for him, and suspicion settles on Elias Hatch, the reclusive keeper of a cemetery that’s always locked. Predictably, Hatch has secrets of his own: the dead in his cemetery are actually quite lively. Worried relatives, dead Transcendentalists, legendary crystal skulls, unnecessary (and clichéd) Vatican investigators, and dubious angelology tangle up in a plot overstuffed with detail. Cappa (Abasteron House) displays evidence of solid research on the Transcendentalists, but her prose is clunky, her characters flat, and her thrills unthrilling. The Concord setting could be almost anywhere. Despite the lack of writerly craft, the sheer quantity of incident does at least mean that the book is never boring. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Otherworld Nights

Kelley Armstrong. Plume, $16 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-452-29834-7

Armstrong revisits her Otherworld series with the first of three planned anthologies. This collection of six short stories and two novellas—one brand-new—focuses on love and family, preternatural intrigue and politics, and zigging where zags are expected. The three best entries involve werewolves. “Chivalrous” may be short, but its story of forbidden college romance between two werewolves packs a major wallop. In the novella “Hidden,” Elena and Clay’s attempt to provide their four-year-old twins with an old-fashioned Christmas is interrupted by the investigation of a young man’s death. Telling the twins about werewolves becomes more pressing for future Pack Alpha Elena when one of them exhibits supernatural abilities. The brief “From Russia, with Love” features a visit from Pack Alpha Jeremy. His plan to relinquish authority to Elena is delightful, and the twins are so precocious it’s a shame the series ended before they grew up. The unfortunately titled “Twilight” is a less interesting examination of vampires, but lycanthrophiles will be very pleased. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Red Tide

Larry Niven, Brad R. Torgersen, and Matthew J. Harrington. Arc Manor/Phoenix Pick, $14.99 trade paper (214p) ISBN 978-1-61242-132-2

This collaborative creation—two chapters by longtime SF author Niven, followed by one each from relative newcomers Torgersen and Harrington—depicts a future where the ease of instant travel leads to significant social problems. The writers trace the evolution of the JumpShift teleportation technology alongside the story of 24-year-old aspiring newstaper Barry Jerome Jansen, aka Jerryberry. He collaborates with brilliant physicist Robin Whyte, the last surviving developer of JumpShift, to solve the problem of “flash riots,” which cost JerryBerry his job. Their relationship provides a narrative peg for the ever-wilder adventures that occur as a teen’s travels go off-kilter due to a bent jumpcard and a misdirected dog thrusts Whyte into the hands of kidnapping hackers. This distant future also offers fractured English, time travel, and hyperintelligent cats. The discordant split between the Jerryberry-Whyte story and the history of teleportation suggests that the writers focused less on the macrocosmic effects of the transformational technology than on the almost offhand ways in which it changed society, destroying some industries and developing others. The lighthearted tone provides diversion, but fails to unify the independently written sections. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Scarlet Tides

David Hair. Quercus/Jo Fletcher, $26.99 (704p) ISBN 978-1-623-65829-8

The second volume in Hair’s Moontide Quartet (after Mage’s Blood) is mostly dizzying movement, plunging headfirst into a convoluted series of plots, unraveling alliances, and tightening nooses. The great Leviathan Bridge, which was built by mage Antonin Meiros and connects the continents of Yuros and Antiopia, only rises from the roiling tides every dozen years. Now that it has appeared again, Yuros launches a savage crusade against Antiopia, using evil Inquisitors as the vanguard of its attack. Young mage Ramon Sensini is thrown into the middle of the war while executing a dangerous plan to save his family. Meiros’s widow, Ramita, pregnant with twins, is rescued by his daughter, Justina, who trains her in magic that develops in sync with her pregnancy. Ramita’s former flame Kazim is thrust into a plot to destroy Meiros’s mage order, forced to use the soul-drinking magic that he despises. Some parts of the plot that feel slower or less tense are only the eye of the storm, and will keep Hair’s fans satisfied while the storm builds. Agent: HMA Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Olympus Confidential

Robert B. Warren. Dragonfairy (www.dragonfairypress.com), $16.95 trade paper (372p) ISBN 978-1-939452-48-1

PI Plato Jones infiltrates a group of humans with plans to overthrow Zeus in a clumsy novel that can’t find the right tone. In an attempt to be breezy and cynical, Warren (Murder on Olympus) goes heavy on pop-culture references while failing to give readers a reason to care about Plato. Blatant objectification of women bogs down the narrative in a failed attempt to marry noir style with modern raunch. The action is often driven by people other than Plato, whether it’s Plato’s foil, Felix, breaking them out of prison or a secondary character forcing the book’s climax. Certain ideas work well, such as using Underworld shades of famous fighters as prison guards, but threads are left dangling and too many things go just right. The mix of tragedy and comedy chains down the plot; unlike Andromeda, no Perseus can save it. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Prince Lestat

Anne Rice. Knopf, $28.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-307-96252-2

Compared to the poorly received Blood Canticle (2003), Rice’s newest Vampire Chronicles installment is triumphant. The Voice, a mysterious power, is compelling older vampires worldwide to annihilate the more newly made. Not since the massacre committed by Akasha, the original Queen of the Damned, have so many vampires been killed in one of Rice’s novels. The narrative is often nonlinear; in many chapters the elders reveal their backstories before heeding a young vampire’s frantic pleas for them to convene in Manhattan to uncover the Voice’s agenda and stop it. All wait for Lestat to lead them, but he remains reluctant until the last minute. Rice fills the dense story with plenty of deliciously gory mythology, but many of the info-dumps are bone-dry. Lestat’s journey from brat to prince fits his personality, but his attitude irritates even during the book’s fascinating climax. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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They Thirst

Robert McCammon. Subterranean
(www.subterraneanpress.com), $80 (616p) ISBN 978-1-59606-562-8

Apocalyptic catastrophe collides with deeply intimate fears in this hardcover incarnation of McCammon’s 1981 paperback horror novel. L.A. homicide detective Andy Palatazin’s search for “The Roach,” a serial killer, entangles him in a plague of folklore-inspired supernaturalism that mirrors—and lends a more palatable face to—the human sleaze and nihilism upon which it feeds. When coffins are robbed at Hollywood Memorial, the fates of reporter Gayle Clarke, photographer Jack Kidd, and Det. Palatazin are irrevocably interwoven with the mentally disturbed Walter Benefield and an army of soul-damaged Outsiders. Personal culpability and domestic tensions are juxtaposed with Old Testament morality, anchored by minute detail and sensuous atmosphere. Pathos and tragedy reverberate beneath bawdy sexual tension and violence in a seamless fictional cocktail for genre devotees. As readable today as when first published, this savage yet elegant shock show succeeds as crowd-pleasing storytelling as well as a time capsule of the 1980s horror aesthetic. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Sinking Suspicions

Sara Sue Hoklotubbe. Univ. of Arizona, $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-8165-3107-3

Set in 2004, Hoklotubbe’s amiable third Sadie Walela mystery (after 2011’s The American Café) finds the Oklahoma Cherokee pursing a new career as a travel agent. When Sadie is on an introductory trip to Maui to meet the folks at Playin’ in Paradise Travel, her neighbor, WWII vet Buck Skinner, goes missing. Buck’s troubles with the IRS and the discovery of a pair of murder victims turn the search for Buck into a manhunt led by Delaware County’s Sheriff Percy O’Leary and aided by Sadie’s lover, Lance Smith, police chief of Liberty, Okla. In Hawaii, Sadie meets a young woman, Pua Keola, whose mother, Tutu Lehua, shares some WWII reminiscences that point to a startling personal connection. On returning home, Sadie joins the hunt for Buck in an effort to prove him innocent of the murders, but her relationship with Lance suffers in the process. New readers will want to seek out the author’s earlier novels. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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