Where Would You Be Now? by Carrie Vaughn

Where Would You Be Now? by Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (35 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The world as they know it is ending, a new world is taking its place. Among the doctors and nurses of a clinic-turned-fortress, Kath is coming of age in this new world, and helping define it. But that doesn’t make letting go of the old any easier. “Where Would You Be Now?” is a prequel to the novel Bannerless, a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award.

How long would you survive in a world where even the most basic medical care is hard to come by?

Even the healthiest person can quickly run into serious trouble if they develop health problems in a place where medical professionals and proper treatments are scarce at best. Some of my favorite scenes showed what happens to characters under these circumstances. From what I understand, this book is the prequel to a series that will explore this universe in much greater depth. I was impressed by what I’ve seen so far, and I’m looking forward to digging more deeply into how this world works and why some characters worked so hard to provide medical treatment to perfect strangers despite not having enough supplies for themselves.

The world building was weak. While I wouldn’t expect a narrator to go into a lot of detail about how and why modern society has collapsed in a tale of this length, it would have been nice to at least have a brief description of what happened and why the characters no longer have any hope of getting help from the outside world. It was confusing to me to read about them running low on everything from food to medical supplies without knowing why they were in such a serious predicament or how long it had been going on.

Kath was an incredibly strong and compassionate woman. She ran towards the kinds of emergencies that most people would run away from, and she did it knowing that her safety was never guaranteed in those situations in any way. The more I got to know her, the more I liked her. While she lived in a dangerous world, she never allowed the uncertainty of her life to stop her from helping everyone she possibly could.

I’d recommend Where Would You Be Now? to anyone who loves post-apocalyptic stories.

People of the Songtrail by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

People of the Songtrail by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (342 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

On the shores of the sparsely populated American wilderness, a small group of intrepid settlers have landed, seeking freedom to worship and prosper far from the religious strife and political upheaval that plague a war-ridden Europe . . .

500 years before Columbus set sail.

While it has long been known that Viking ships explored the American coast, recent archaeological evidence suggests a far more vast and permanent settlement. It is from this evidence that archaeologists and early American history experts Kathy and Michael Gear weave their extraordinary tale.

People of the Songtrail is the saga of the first European settlers to land on the shores of the new world. It is a story, like so many in America’s history, of the swift and violent clash of cultures, and extraordinary men and women on both sides who are brave enough to work for the fragile hope of peace. A story that has remained untold, until now.

Five Hundred years before Columbus, the Vikings set sail. When they landed and met Native Americans, both worlds changed forever, but none more so than young Thyra, an accomplished practitioner of Odin magic.

The year is A.D. 1002, and warfare has broken out in Europe after King Aethelred’s slaughter of the Danish part of England, the Danelaw. In the midst of the turmoil, a great Viking seeress is kidnapped and her young daughter, Thyra, enslaved.

Thirteen years later, Thyra finds herself aboard a Viking ship filled with colonists headed to Vinland. Though she is a thrall to the wicked Thorlak the Lawspeaker, Thyra has been learning the skills of the Darkness-Riders, powerful practitioners of Odin magic. Her goal is to find her mother. As the mystery of who abducted her mother and what happened to her unfolds, it becomes clear Thyra is not the only person trying to find the legendary Vethild. In England, King Aethelred’s son, Edmund, is massing forces to seize his father’s throne, and the Danish king is just waiting for the clash so he can attack and take England as his own. All sides want Vethild. Some want her alive. Some want her dead.

The story includes majestic descriptions of crossing the ocean during the Medieval Warm Period, a dramatic period of global warming, and murderous confrontations between North America’s native peoples and Vikings. The violence is softened by touches of mysticism and magic that enhance the plot.

The thread that binds the story together is the growing romance between the young Anchorite slave, Kiran, and Thyra. But two of the most complex and interesting characters are the rough-hewn former criminal, Godi Gunnar, and a tenderhearted Native American shaman, old Asson. Asson’s people, the People of the Songtrail, know they must defeat the Viking invaders or they will never be safe.

This marvelous story also features a Glossary of Terms, which is helpful with the Norse terminology used throughout the book.

If you enjoy historical fiction featuring ancient cultures in the American wilderness or sailing the sea with Norsemen, then this story of first contact between Native Americans and Vikings is an absolute must-read!

Kitty’s Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty’s Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC / Tor
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, holiday
Length: Full Length (258 pgs)
Heat Level hot
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Kitty Norville, star of a New York Times bestselling series, is everybody’s favorite werewolf DJ and out-of-the-closet supernatural creature. Over the course of eight books she’s fought evil vampires, were-creatures, and some serious black magic. She’s done it all with a sharp wit and the help of a memorable cast of werewolf hunters, psychics, and if-notgood- then-neutral vampires by her side. Kitty’s Greatest Hits not only gives readers some of Kitty’s further adventures, it offers longtime fans a window into the origins of some of their favorite characters.

In “Conquistador de la Noche,” we learn the origin story of Denver’s Master vampire, Rick; with “Wild Ride,” we find out how Kitty’s friend T.J. became a werewolf; and in “Life is the Teacher,” we revisit Emma, the human-turned-unwilling-vampire who serves the aloof vampire Master of Washington, D.C.

This entertaining collection includes two brand-new works: “You’re On the Air,” about one of Kitty’s callers after he hangs up the phone; and the eagerly awaited “Long Time Waiting,” the novella that finally reveals just what happened to Cormac in prison, something every Kitty fan wants to know.

This book is a must for Kitty fans. A simple statement, but it really does apply because Ms. Vaughn presents a bunch of short stories that showed the development of what we now know and love about Radio D.J, and my favorite werewolf, Kitty Norville.

I included in the page count the explanations that the author included at the end of all the short stories because they read well, are entertaining by themselves and provided greater insight as to what was going on at the time she wrote them. It was a fascinating process.

There are too many to write a review for individually and even though I rated the heat level as hot, most are spicy or sensual but since one made it to the hot level, the whole book has to be labeled as such.

I really enjoyed Ms. Vaughn’s personal interpretation of the Bible story, Daniel and the Lion’s Den. In fact, it was perfect because it made so much sense and it worked with the ‘facts’ as we know them. It was fun.

Actually, I’m really sick of books about zombies but I found myself completely engrossed in Ms. Vaughn’s twist on the subject. It was a breath of fresh air and she even touches base at the end of the book as to the research she’s done and why she took the stand she did. I like her version a whole lot better because I agree with the author — it’s waaay scarier.

What I found intriguing and had me bouncing in my seat were the stories that had Rick in them. Surprisingly, there is quite the undercurrent about his character. I’d read the one about the military lab and the unicorn and the selkie in another anthology but never could I have imagined that the vampire in that had any connection to Kitty’s world. Call me floored.

Ms. Vaughn saved the best for last and that is the story about Cormac. Oh, Wow! To be able to get inside his head? To get his point of view from inside prison? What an amazing ride. And to finally find out about how he and Amelia came together was awesome. The tale gripped me and had me reading wide-eyed through the whole thing. Also, I found those little comments that Cormac made relating to Amelia absolutely delicious. I sense a sub-plot and I have high hopes that the author isn’t just teasing her fans but will someday figure out how to bring that to light in a way to satisfy romantics at heart. As it is, this story alone was worth waiting for.

Between Rick and Cormac, they made the purchase of this book a winner and I’m a very satisfied reader. Some publishers have books out on popular series that don’t contribute much to the forward movement but re-hash what’s already been written. Kitty’s Greatest Hits doesn’t do that. I found value in understanding more of the background while at the same time it presented me with new questions and interest in the series.

A cute addition to this anthology is the behind scenes look at one of Kitty’s callers on the radio show. It tickled me because I DID remember the caller- though I can’t remember which book it was in – and I had an ‘awww’ moment at how it ended. I enjoyed it and thought it clever of the author. Why? Because it created a more solid world-building atmosphere where a reader could feel like a part of it; like they could travel to another city somewhere and actually find some of Kitty’s world. Or see it someday on the silver screen. When an author can successfully incorporate other mundane aspects of the world her characters live in and still entertain, garner interest and make them feel like they’re still visiting Kitty and pals, it’s well done and worth taking the time to read.

Another great lure is the background tale of the relationship between Ben and Cormac. They’re cousins but it’s more than that. Based upon the series, I understood that they’d been through a lot and they always had each other’s backs but there is one tale that brings understanding as to just how far back it goes, and the trials and tribulations they survived to get to the point of being where they are now in the series. Fascinating stuff.

Kitty’s Greatest Hits is the best book to get for fans of the series, especially if they have a special place in their hearts for Cormac, Ben and Rick. Those three guys are a trifecta for Kitty. Each one has a role that showcases the heroine’s growth as a character and this book explores for readers just how special they are. Add in those other intriguing tales from the author’s imagination and this is a real winner that entertains as well as informs. I can’t wait until the next Kitty adventure!

Immortal Curses (Another Chance to Win)

As a kid, I always used to think that Immortality would be a wonderful thing. I still sometimes believe that. However, like many of you, I read Anne Rice. And suddenly I became aware of all the other problems that come with Immortality—namely, at some point, all the people you love, if they aren’t immortal as well, they… depart. Then what do you have? Add into that the problem of keeping immortality secret—folks would get suspicious, and you couldn’t really hang out with your fifth-generation grandkids.

So immortality kind of lost its flare in that respect. It did hang on in the Writers Brain though. I love working with immortal entities. But I’ve developed my own set of reasons for each set-up as to why immortality isn’t a fantastic existence.

I prefer to have more dangerous reasons, not just that the heart will hurt. Though that is reason enough in itself. I like curses. I like dealing with the things beyond others control. The forced Immortality that made Armand such a memorable character in The Vampire Chronicles.

And I especially like putting that curse on characters who were, prior to the curse, good and decent people.

Say, like, honorable knights who fought for noble ideals.

Like maybe the Templar Knights… who were only guilty of the same curiosity all of us share. A curse, perhaps, you or I might suffer because we share the base fault of man.

Templar Knights who were decent, noble men who are now damned to fight for eternity, their souls growing ever darker, until they are shells of what they once knew and become knights veined with evil, destined to destroy all they’ve pledged themselves to.

Tor seemed to like that idea too, and the first book in The Curse of the Templars releases in January. The second in September.

Will they be saved, or will they suffer eternal damnation?

For more information, you can visit The Curse of the Templars on my website.

In the meantime, if you comment below, and share your thoughts on what immortality would be like, I’ll draw a random name, and although you’ll have to wait just a bit longer, I’ll send you a signed copy of Immortal Hope. I’ll post the winner here along with follow up instructions.