Review by: Mark Palm
Some people say that they wouldn’t change a thing about their past because they would no longer be the person that they are now. Most of us, whom I think are a bit more honest, would probably love to get a chance to delve into the past and maybe make a small change here or there. That’s probably why time travel stories are so popular.
Unhappenings by Edward Aubry is the latest entry into this genre, and it’s quite a worthy addition. Unhappenings is the story of Nigel Walden, whom at fourteen experiences his first kiss. The girl disappears the next day, with no sign that she ever existed. It’s the first of many such events that Nigel comes to call unhappenings.
Mr. Aubrey rings a pile of changes on these events, and it’s one of the books strengths; the whys and wherefores of time travel theory are in this book, and they are sound. The emphasis however, is squarely upon Nigel, and what such events do to him, and effect how he lives his life. Mr. Aubry does a splendid job in showing us Nigel’s life without excess sentiment but plenty of empathy.
Later in his life he is met but two people from his future, the most interesting being the un-named girl/woman that Nigel bestows names upon, and who gives him just enough information about what is going on to tantalize us, but not enough to whet our appetite.
There are so many twists and turns in this book that it makes it very hard to review in any depth without pouring spoilers all over the place, but just let me say that Nigel discovers that the unhappenings are not a natural event, and he discovers, a Love, and an Enemy. I know that I am sounding as enigmatic as Nigel’s guide from the future, but I can’t help it. One of the joys of this book is enjoying the tightly-woven plot that Mr. Aubry lays out for us; like a house of cards, if I pull out the wrong one, I’ll ruin the book for you, so you’ll just have to trust me.
Mr. Aubry decided to write this book in very short chapters, which works well in keeping us off of our feet as far as knowing when and where we are at, but it does have a tendency to thwart some of the narrative drive. There were a handful of places in the book where I just wanted him to let it roll, but that is a fairly small complaint.
Also, after the leisurely pace of the early chapters there are some major apocalyptic events near the end that are just glossed over, but again, this is Nigel’s story, and the story sticks with him, for good or ill. The ending might strike some as being a bit too down-beat, but I thought that it struck just the right note. Now I don’t know if I would be so quick to travel back to my past.
Review by: Brennan Palm
Once more our minds have been blown to smithereens by Stan Lee. First, he conquers the comic industry, and then he took over the movie industry. Now with the first book in his YA series, Zodiac, Stan seems to have put himself in a position to dominate the book industry. Next all he needs to do is make an award winning video game and he’ll effectively be our entertainment despot.
Zodiac itself is a pretty good book, it’s no Dracula, or Pale Fire, but it certainly is impressive for a first foray into literature. I already know what your first question is going to be, “Is there going to be one of those little scenes where this old guy with white hair and sunglasses is on screen and you’re all like “Hey look its Stan Lee!” No, there is no little scene like that but none the less Stan still managed to shoehorn himself in, as the main protagonist is called, Steven Lee! That’s like me writing a book were the main character is called Brendon Palm.
Other than that the book is pretty good. The plot is pretty straight-forward. Steve Lee wanders into a restricted part of a museum and gets hit by an energy beam that gives him and everyone else in the room, Maxwell a guy with a huge private army who’s gunning for world domination, and Jasmine a girl who’s fighting him, superpowers based on the Chinese zodiac. The rest of the book is basically Steven and Jasmine’s superhero team fighting Maxwell’s superhero team. Like I said it’s pretty straight forward. But then it just grabs you by your nostrils and doesn't let go till the end.
Review by: Stacy Palm
This was not a book I had intended to like. Largely due to the synopsis that is provided for this book - let me just state that it does not do it justice and someone should seriously think about rewriting it. This book had me completely captivated by the end of of the first chapter. I'm not really sure how it happened, but Kricket shot straight to my vivid imagination as one of my favorite characters. For this book to go from one that I was hesitant to read to one that I finished in less than 24 hours is incredible. When I was 95% through, I turned to my husband and said, "You know how some book series end and you can't control the desire to immediately reach for the next book? This is how this book is going to end for me!" Sure enough, I knew I was in trouble when the book ended.
The story is solid, the supporting characters are stellar (baw-da-baw), and the vivid description of a strange new land come together to make one of my favorite new young adult series. If there was anything I would change it would be that maybe the harshness of situations be amped up. Meaning, Kricket, while having a tough life, always seems to get out of binds before anything truly deplorable happens to her, and maybe that is part of the story (part of her gift.) Working with foster kids, I know not too many of them get away from those horrible situations.
All in all, I highly recommend this book for nearly everyone. Anytime characters and settings invade my dreams, I know I've read something magical. This book was magical and I cannot wait to see where the next book takes us.
Review by: Mark Palm
First off let me say that I think that Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, both separately and when working on tandem, are two of the best thriller writers currently working today. They write smart, tense novels full of historic and scientific erudition with clockwork precision and gripping plots. I heartily suggest reading anything of theirs that you can get your hands on.
They are probably most well-known for the Pendergast novels, a series of books featuring the idiosyncratic FBI Agent and a marvelous cast of supporting characters. Blue Labyrinth is the latest book in that series. It’s as good as the rest, just so that you know.
I have been reading the Pendergast books since the very first one, Relic, and while they are almost all stand-alone books I suggest reading them in order, just because it’s wonderful to watch two masters take a group of characters and a concept, and run with it. If you want to know how much I think of this series I would simply say that Pendergast is the modern Sherlock Holmes. He is very different from Conan Doyle’s legendary hero, but is every bit as interesting.
Now as I said earlier these novels are marvels of plotting which makes them devilishly difficult to review without giving out a ton of spoilers.
The Blue Labyrinth finds Pendergast caught up in a fiendishly complex mystery that involves his very strange and rather twisted family history, and a sinister government contractor out for revenge, and a whodunit style murder at a museum. There are also crooked cops, secret organizations, the Brazilian mob, and as always tons of science and history, are delivered in a style both smart and economical.
All of the events are connected, of course, and it’s wonderfully absorbing watching Pendergast, and the cast of supporting characters connect the dots. All of the characters, from Detective D’ Agosta to Margo Green, to the new characters, are all spot-on. Most riveting is the expanded role of Constance Greene, the enigmatic ward of Pendergast. She plays a large role in this book, and is simply wonderful. Always smart, cultured and mysterious, we find that in Blue Labyrinth that she is deadly as well. Near the books end she, Green, and D’Agosta are all wrapped up in a dizzying finale of mystery and violence that had me flipping pages like crazy.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Constance get a book or two of her own. She is that interesting of a character, and that is one of the ways that you can recognize the merit of these books. Nearly every character seems like they have a whole story and we are just waiting for the authors to get around to telling it. So in case you can’t tell, get The Blue Labyrinth, and then go get the rest of the books written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Then read them.
Review by: Stacy Palm
I'm so very sad that this series is ending. I will miss these characters and this world, which has been so lovingly created by Cynthia Luhrs. If you are new to the Shadow Walker world I urge you to treat yourself to reading this series. It has it all Highlander Hotties, Rogue Pirates, Good and Evil Fae, Dragons, and Gods.
Once I started this book, I was hooked! Half way through I was posting that it was one of the best books of the series. This was a sad story to tell, Monroe's story. We've seen the drinking begin to tragically disassemble his life piece by piece and it all comes to a head in this final installment of the series. The story is solid and ties everything up so we are not left questioning anything.
I will be honest, and it's not just because I did not want this series to end; the last 25% of the book was jam packed with everything. In making certain that everything was tied up, it may have hindered some of the narrative prose that I've come to love from this author. There was enough going on for an additional book. I would have like to have had the final war more detailed and I would have loved to have some sense of what the new world was like. Especially with it's newest inhabitants - don't want to spoil the surprise!
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, I loved the series, and I can't wait to read more from Cynthia Luhrs.
Some time ago I was in the library when I saw a cliché of an old blue-haired lady browsing the Agatha Christie section. She went to the librarian, book in hand, and asked for something similar. The librarian suggested Gone Girl. Now Gone Girl is a great book, but for a fan of Agatha Christie, it is probably a bit too much to handle.
That story came back to me as I was reading The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth. It’s a compelling, powerful novel, but reader beware, because it’s very strong stuff. What else can you expect from a book set in Hell?
The Devil’s Detective is the story of Simon Fool, one of three Information Men working in Hell. The job of an Information Man is rather like that of a detective, except that in Hell nobody really expects justice, or anything remotely like it. A series of murders, grisly even by Hell’s standards begins to change all of that. Two angels are visiting at the time, Adam and Balthazar, and are in a series of bureaucratic negotiations with Elderflower, a high ranking dignitary from Hell, and Fool’s superior. They all play pivotal roles in the book, along with the two other Information Men, Summer, and her lover, Geordie. They are all well-drawn characters, and are all, to an extent, sympathetic. This is Fool’s novel, though, and as the plot unfolds we watch him slowly coming to understand his job, and what he can accomplish even in a place as bad as Hell.
Mr. Unsworth is almost scarily imaginative (once again, appropriate for a book set in Hell), and his vision of Hell and its inhabitants, particularly one called The Man of Plants and Flowers, is startling and original. The brutality of the book, though, and its dark tone take some getting used to. Early on, I felt like the darkness was going to overwhelm me, but if you hang in there, the payoff is very worth it.
I am not over-exaggerating here. Some of the scenes, and not just of the murders, are stunningly brutal. Mr. Unsworth’s endless innovation, and his care and compassion for the story and its characters are like a beacon, shining in the darkness. At first the light is dim, but by halfway through this novel I was hooked. For a series of murders to be brutal by even the standards of Hell was a tall order, but Mr. Unsworth pulls it off. The results are disturbing and often bloody and grotesque, but Fool’s humanity, his humility and perseverance show that a little bit of justice can be achieved, even in Hell.
Watching Fool track down the killer is a taut and intelligent mystery, but even if it wasn’t the book would be exceptional for its backdrop. In my reading life I have come across a lot of Hells, but Mr. Unsworth’s is right up there at the top. I have to give it Mr. Unsworth. He has written one of the best books that I have read in a while, and he it’s all about Hell.
Be sure to also check out our book giveaway running from 1/21/20/15-1/23/15 for book 1 and 2 of The V Trilogy!
What could be better than winning a great book? Two great books! To help celebrate the release of book two of The V Trilogy: The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant written by Joanna Wiebe; BenBella Books in conjunction with The Bookend Family is giving away the first and second book in this exciting series.
The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant
"So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.
One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in… and why.
As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it."
The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant
"Life and death, light and dark, spirit and flesh-on Wormwood Island, the lines are always blurred. For Anne Merchant, who has been thrust back into this eerily secretive world, crossing the line seems inevitable, inescapable, destined.
Now, as Ben finds himself battling for the Big V and Teddy reveals the celestial plan in which Anne is entwined, Anne must choose: embrace her darkly powerful connection to a woman known as Lilith and, in doing so, save the boy she loves...or follow a safer path that is sure to lead to Ben's destruction at the hands of dark leaders. Hoping the ends will justify the means, Anne starts down the slippery slope into the underworld, intent on exploring the dark to find the light. But as the lure of Lilith proves powerfully strong, will Anne save others-only to lose herself?"
REGISTER TO WIN
Review by: Brennan Palm
Holy Tragi-comic-horridy Batman! Just when you think Horns (Joe Hill) is enough, another book that you can’t quite put into a genre pops up out of the blue, and it’s just as good! Not that it’s riding on Horns coattails, as The After House is more of a Thriller/Romance/Ghost story type book.
Our story begins with Captain Elijah Gasper whaling on the Atlantic. Eli’s been at sea some time leaving his pregnant wife and daughter at Cold Spring Harbor. Suddenly the whale he’s hunting turns and attacks the ship, and then we go to modern times where we meet our second protagonist, a woman called Remy who’s recently divorced her husband Scott for cheating on her. She and her daughter Olivia have recently moved into an old cottage in Cold Spring Harbor. Suddenly things turn for the worst, and things get weird. Everybody feels like they’re being watched then houses are trashed, yoga studios are nearly burned, cars with our main protagonist and a bearded ghost yelling “ Hard to port!” are nearly driven off a hill, people are stampeded, and cattle raped. The last two actually didn’t happen but you get the idea. Also the same time this is happening Remy thinks she’s met the love of her life Hugh, mayor, museum owner, ghost believer, occasional rebound guy, and limey millionaire. Who cares let’s just see if he gets killed or not.
I give The After House 4 stars. It’s got a great story and interesting characters (minus Hugh) No mind blowing prose or grammar, but it’s okay (by okay I mean good).However, it has a lot of good throw away lines (like Han Solo). Now all it needs to be a classic is ninjas (ninjas make anything better). In short my eyes were glued to the page (screen).
Review by: Mark Palm
I was surprised by The Blackhouse. When I first started reading it felt more like a horror novel than anything else, but slowly it morphed into a police procedural, though one of a rather different kind.
A brutal killing on the isle of Lewis, north of Scotland brings Edinboro detective Fin Macleod to the Outer Hebrides to investigate. He was raised on the beautiful and desolate island and as he starts to investigate the crime he also travels back into his turbulent past.
One of the best things about the novel is Mr. May’s knowledge and feel for the island, its customs, traditions and climate. His characters, particularly Marsaili and Artair and Donald, are solid, and the details of their lives are finely drawn. It’s obvious the Mr. May knows these islands, and sees them clearly; they aren’t paradise, and they aren’t hell, but rather a particular unique piece of the planet.
The book uncovers Fin’s past in alternating chapters as he slowly discovers the crime, and of course the two are closely entwined. The tension was slow and simmering, and as the novel unwinds Fin’s past becomes more and more enthralling. The biggest problem that I had with the book that except for a few brief moments this book was exceptionally bleak. It was almost always interesting, but several times I had to pause to shake away the cobwebs. The crime, while fascinating, is not really that much of a surprise, and makes that parts of the book that deal with that somewhat less than satisfying. Fin’s current life also seems like little more than a back-drop for when he gets to the island, and although the details are as sad as any in the book, they feel oddly muted, as if they took place off-stage, and that they are nothing more than background.
The island itself is perhaps the most interesting character in the story. It would seem that Mr. May is going to write other books set there, and since this book was a good solid thriller I look forward to reading the next one.
Review by: Avalon Palm
Charlie Homberg never fails to impress me. Her first book, The Paper Magician, was out of this world. Its sequel, The Glass Magician, is out of this universe. There are many reasons it amazes me. The main reason being that…
I completely don’t know how to answer that sentence. There are so many reasons that books become good books. This book manages to use all of them. Good plot? Check. Excellent characters? Check. Action? Romance? Suspense? See previous answer.
There are so many twists and turns in this book that it should be introduced to Disneyland.
The Glass Magician: “Oh hey there Mr. Land!”
Disneyland: *Is crushed by the supreme awesomeness that is this book*
I definitely cannot wait for the triquel!