Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Gentleman Vampire: The Undead Have Style - L.A. Lewandowski

I have to say that this is the first book I've ever read that featured a tango-dancing vampire as one of the main characters.

Natalie, who's an author, is in the process of getting over Mike, the guy she threw out of her house after he cheated on her. One morning, after drinking herself to sleep the night before, she wakes up to discover someone has been through her closet and has laid out a chic outfit for her. Somehow or other, a stylish vampire named David has moved himself into her basement. He takes Natalie on as his personal project, and before long, he has renovated her diet, her health and beauty regimen, and even her house. And it turns out he is as much of a fan of the tango as she is. Pretty soon, the two of them are getting lessons from an unusual dance instructor so they can compete in the vampires' annual tango competition. Of course, there's a similar competition coming up in the human world, and Mike and his new partner are considered to be the dance team to beat. Anyone want to bet whether there will be a showdown?

I didn't completely buy Natalie's willingness to let David take over her life. Classical vampires use mind control to subdue their human companions, but David doesn't do that -- instead, Natalie just kind of goes with the flow. To his credit, he doesn't bite her, either. Oh -- and did I mention he's gay?

I don't typically read chick lit, but My Gentleman Vampire was a cute, fun book.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Yucatan Dead (A Kate Jones Thriller) - D.V. Berkom

Like all good thrillers, Yucatan Dead starts off with a bang and keeps going.

Kate Jones wakes up, realizing she's been kidnapped. And it doesn't take long before she figures out who is behind it: a former lover who also happens to be a Mexican drug lord. He's after her for the money she took when she left him, and since then, every attempt she has made to start a normal life anew has ended with the people she loves in trouble.

In a twist of fate, she manages to escape from his clutches yet again, and falls in with a shadowy paramilitary organization that uses less-than-legal means to combat the drug trade. The head of the organization gives her a choice: get out of Mexico and go back to her life in the States, or help him bring down her former lover. But Kate knows that leaving would only mean continuing to live on the lam.

This is the first of Berkom's six Kate Jones books that I've read, but I didn't have any trouble following the goings-on -- the author fills in just enough back story to clue in the reader. The pace is fast, the characters believable, and the editing excellent. I enjoyed Yucatan Dead, and now I may have to go back and read the previous books in the series.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pinball (The Gatespace Trilogy) - Alan Seeger

Steve Denver has kind of come unstuck in time.

One day, he looks up from his attempts to focus on writing his next novel, and sees some kind of metal monster heading for his home. He subdues it, more or less accidentally, and follows it to its source -- an interdimensional gateway that wasn't there the day before.

With a little ingenuity, Steve goes through the gateway and pilots through the green void on the other side, until he finds himself on another world. When he manages to get back home, he discovers more time has passed than he thought. You would think that would convince him to stay home -- but no, he's got to go back. And this time, the other world he lands in is not a welcoming place. How he gets back home again, and how his repeated efforts to set things right with his family after his time travels have mucked it up, make up the plot for the rest of Pinball.

Travel to alternate universes is a time-honored sci-fi trope, of course, and Seeger's book owes much to previous stories in this vein. But there's a good bit of humor underlying the gee-whiz technology in Pinball that isn't typically present in sci-fi (Kurt Vonnegut excepted), and I thought the humor added to the fun in this book.

I did think the early part, before the giant robot shows up, went a couple of pages too long. But in all, Pinball was a fun read.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Sword and the Sorceror -- John R. Phythyon Jr.

The Sword and the Sorceror is somewhat of a rare thing in epic fantasy these days: a hero's journey in which the hero isn't a young adolescent.

The book opens with Gothemus Draco's death scene. He's poisoned by Lord Vicia, a power-hungry member of the Council of Elders of Eldenberg, and his end comes at a dinner with the whole council, the other members of which are clearly okay with this. And why not? Gothemus is the most powerful wizard in the Known World, after all. And with him out of the way, they can seize the Eye of the Dragon, with which Gothemus has kept evil subdued, and rule the Known World their own way.

But as is usually the case, it's not just the council that wants the Eye of the Dragon. It was a gnome named Elmanax, who claims Gothemus stole the gem from him, who convinced Vicia to poison Gothemus. He wants the gem back so he can go home. And then there's Gothemus's brother, Zod the Fearless, who had always expected to rule the Known World with Gothemus just as soon as Gothemus finished fiddling with the legendary sword named Wyrmblade and turned it over to him.

But Gothemus has a son. And although Calibot rejected his father's legacy years before, Gothemus isn't done with him yet. Calibot has built a nice life for himself in the neighboring city-state of Dalasport; he's chief bard to Duke Boordin and has found happiness with a courtier/soldier named Devon. Then Gothemus's intern, the hapless Liliana Gray, shows up, with posthumous orders from Gothemus to turn over Wyrmblade to Calibot -- and the reader just knows nothing in Calibot's life will ever be the same.

I thought The Sword and the Sorceror was a light, fun read. My only complaint is the author's tendency toward over-description. For example, I did not need to be reminded every time Gothemus's name was mentioned that he was the most powerful wizard in the Known World.  But Phythyon resolves the various plot threads in an original and satisfying way. And hey -- dragons. What's not to like?