Review: The Elder Ice by David Hambling

Lovecraftian weird fiction set in 1920s London. 

In this atmospheric novella, ex-boxer Harry Stubbs is on the trail of a mysterious legacy. A polar explorer has died, leaving huge debts and hints of a priceless find. His informants seem to be talking in riddles, and Harry soon finds he isn't the only one on the trail -- and what he's looking for is as lethal as it is valuable. The key to the enigma lies in an ancient Arabian book and it leads to something stranger and more horrifying than Harry could ever imagine. 

Harry may not be an educated man, but he has an open mind, the bulldog persistence and a piledriver punch -- all vital for survival when you're boxing the darkest of shadows. 

The story of mystery and horror draws on HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos and is inspired by Ernest Shackleton's incredible real-life adventures. 

4 of 5 stars

Debt collector Harry Stubbs has been assigned the case of the late explorer Ernest Shackleton, who left a lot of debts unpaid when he died. Harry is searching for any possible treasure the explorer might have hidden away somewhere that would help repay the debt.

He does manage to find a suspicious box and knows he's onto something when he gets attacked in an alley. Then the added mystery of tracking down his attackers and finding out what part they played in the hidden fortune becomes his priority.

The mystery leads Stubbs to find out more about unusual creatures that can hibernate almost indefinitely and a rare, inexplicable discovery.

This was an enjoyable and quick read. It's set in England in the 1920s and has a strong British tone. Hambling does a good job of setting a mood that feels mostly practical yet brings in an eerie atmosphere when needed. It brought up some interesting paranormal possibilities and does a great job of melding reality with the unreal.

You can find it here on Amazon and here on Goodreads.

Review: The Saint of Liars by Megan Mackie

It's been two months since Rune Leveau, aka Anna Masterson, survived the machinations of the Kodiak corporation and things have been relatively peaceful in the iconic bar, the Lucky Devil.

The peace couldn't last. 

The corporate entities that rule her Chicago are not through with the Finder yet and the other powers-that-be don't intend to be left in the dust. The key is finding the Masterson Files, a computer program with the impossible ability to cast magic. Now the Magic Guild is wanting a word with her and as trouble in the form of the Faerie King converges at her bar, Rune finds herself in the center of warring factions battling it out with bullets and magic. 

Which is exactly the right moment for the cybernetically augmented corporate spy, St. Benedict to come back into her life. But can these two survive the lies that lay between them? More importantly, can Rune get the Saint of Liars to help her answer the one question she's burning to answer: where is Justin Masterson? 

5 of 5 stars!

Rune Leveau thought she understood who she was, but when she gets attacked in an alley and saved by the cyberspy St. Benedict, questions from her past come rearing back to plague her.

Her cousin shows up and has a few answers, but before Rune can really understand her abilities, they are pulled into a mysterious conflict centered around the lost work of Rune's ex-husband.

In this follow-up to The Finder of the Lucky Devil, magic and technology collide and merge in a way I've never seen. Corporations are racing to unlock a technology that would allow computers to cast magic spells, thus leveling the field and making magic users obsolete. Is that a power anyone should rightly have? And what price must be paid to develop it?

At the heart of this war of industry hangs the misery of the broken-hearted. The fate of all magic beings depends on the fragile relationships of a small group. Our heroes must travel into a magically enhanced virtual reality and find the source of its manifestation. If they can work out their differences and work together, if they can set aside their feelings and focus on their destiny, they might find a way to survive this mission. Unless computer viruses destroy them first.

This book was a lot of fun and a great cyberpunk that blends magic with technology in a modern-day Chicago setting. There's more than one tragic couple, and plenty of nail-biting tension.

You can find it here on Amazon and here on Goodreads.

Review: Zombie Club by Sonia Rogers

A group of sixth graders and their teacher find themselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse while on a field trip. Finding their way home from the Civil War battlefield is going to be difficult, but these kids can stand up to the challenge.

4 of 5 stars

This is a middle-grade urban fantasy from a local-to-me author!

A middle school club goes on a field trip and while they're out of town, the zombie apocalypse hits. They have to figure out what's going on, how to get back home, and whether their families have survived!

I enjoyed this story. There's enough suspense that I was worried about these kids and how everything would turn out for them. I have a middle-school age son, so it was easy for me to imagine what he would do in such circumstances, and since it's set in the town I currently live in, this whole adventure became a little too real for me! The students show bravery and cunning, and luckily their teacher knows something about how to handle emergency situations.

I wanted to get to know the characters more, maybe spend more time with two or three in particular. The only drawback to this book was the short length, and with several POV characters, we really only have a small amount of page time with each one.

The tone and pacing was just right for a middle grade book, and the author expertly handles some heavy moments without being too gory.

You can find it here on Amazon and here on Goodreads.