Review by: Brennan Palm
On occasion, I read a book that is so incredible that I feel no matter how hard I try; no review I write will even come close to demonstrating how great the book is in actuality. The Last American Vampire is one of those very few books.
If you did not read Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: also by Seth Gramme Smith, and want to read that book I recommend you stop reading this review, as this review WILL spoil some of that book’s plot.
That being said, this book is the sequel to ALVH, however this story’s narrator is Henry Sturges, not Abe. Our story starts with Henry grieving at Abe’s funeral in Springfield. The selfish vampiric bastard can’t stand the thought of his old friend being dead, and decides to resurrect Abe via vampirism. Much to Henry’s horror, after rising from the dead Abe can’t stand the thought of being a vampire, and hurls himself out the window into the sunlight, disintegrating before he can touch the ground. Afterwards Henry is called to the Union’s headquarters to receive a special assignment. A mysterious figure calling himself A. Grander VIII has begun killing key Union diplomats, Henry is sent to England to investigate, instead he finds Jack the Ripper, whose identity I will not reveal for story related reasons, but he does not find A. Grander VIII. He does however meet in this order Bram Stoker, Henry Irving, and Arthur Conan Doyle, who quotes Sherlock Holmes twice, a character whom he created! That would be like J. K. Rowling quoting Harry Potter!
I’m going to stop there so I don’t ruin too much of the book. While ALVH always had a slight undertone of comedy, TLAV is much more serious though it still has some comedy at times. While the actual prose is only above average in my opinion, the author’s clever use of knowledge gained in ALVH to obscure the truth of its sequels plot is ingenuous. Many historical characters appear throughout TLAV and Mr. Smith presents them as historically accurate as possible. Even I learned a few things about some of my favorite historical characters that I never knew before. TLAV also contains the narrative/antique feel of ALVH it also adds into the mix the assorted funny little facts about being a vampire that Mr. Smith made up, yet they are extremely practical at the same time. Along with the shear amount and complexity of the story The Last American Vampire is the second book of the dozens I have reviewed which I believe deserves a 5 star rating.
Excuse me while I change hats.
As far as I am concerned, a good book is a good book and a bad book is a bad book. Regardless of style, type or genre, this is the criteria to which I have always cleaved.
As a reviewer, however, certain allowances must be made. Different genres require that I wear different hats. To be clear, there have been “YA” books as good as any “mainstream” novel, and many a “classic” novel, if published today, would be under the banner of YA. I love many YA books (a shout out to L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series) and consider them to be as good as any novel published under any label or genre.
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl written by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa B. Sheinmel has a classic form; a young girl from nowhere special discovers that she has powers and a destiny. Usually the story goes further, but this time the authors take it slow. Sunshine Griffith and her adoptive mother Kat move from sunny Austin, TX to dreary Ridgemont, Washington. When they move into their new home things begin to get scary. Sunshine hears footsteps, and voices, and things in her room seem to keep moving when she is gone. Her mother seems oblivious, until one particularly harrowing night, when all hell begins to break loose. The next morning, Kat remembers none of it, and all of the evidence is gone and Sunshine realizes that something is very wrong.
Sunshine is not alone. She befriends a boy, Nolan, who is remarkably helpful, and the two of them begin to work on Sunshine’s problem. For a refreshing change, Nolan is a lot more than just The Cute Guy. In fact, one of the hidden treats of the book is the way that seemingly incongruous things eventually fit together. I cannot really explain more about that, but take word for it, the more attention you pay and the longer the read, the bigger the pay-off in this book.
Now I realize that all of this seems rather prosaic on paper, but the authors make it work. Sunshine and Nolan are both well-realized, and likeable. Most importantly, we come to care for Sunshine, and Kat and Nolan a great deal.
The story is solidly structured, and often genuinely frightening. Nothing to large happens, at first, but the authors do a fine job at making us see how little unsettling events have a way of snowballing into big disturbing events. The writing is solid, if unspectacular, and it gets the job done. One of the real strengths of the story is the firmness of the plot, most of which I cannot reveal without tossing out dozens of spoilers. Almost every niggling detail get rounded up and explained, and tied into a satisfying bow. Even the creepy art teacher, Ms. Wilde, whom I thought was simply atmosphere, has a clear and pivotal role to play.
This is the first of a series, so the ending, while not exactly a cliffhanger, is a bit unresolved. Still, the book stands alone just fine. In this day where supernatural YA stories are at least a dime-a-dozen I would make sure to check out The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.
Review by Mark Palm
Full Reviews Available at: http://www.thebookendfamily.weebly.com
Review by: Stacy Palm
I adore books about historical female heroines. They are inspiring and encouraging especially for someone raising a young daughter. I strongly believe that part of the lure of history is the beauty of the knowledge we gain through the passing down of these grand tales. The Legend of Sheba is another shining star among this genre. It is an elaborate, richly told story by Tosca Lee who excels at bringing these amazing individuals to life in our minds.
The Legend of Sheba is the story of a young princess who accepted a life away from royalty only to be brought back to reign in order to save her father's kingdom. She experiences many trials and chooses a difficult path for those times by refusing to marry. The topics of feminism, identity, and self worth are very much underlying topics within this story that are not so much mentioned, but crafted within the story to allow you to think on these after you set the book down. It was absolutely lovely to see the author present a woman that was smart, meditative, and political during a time when women were dismissed as nothing more than a womb to carry a prince.
More so than all the above, it was wondrous to watch how this woman's faith was interwoven throughout her life and how her questioning brought her to Solomon's palace. Many of us believe we know this story, but it is a narrow sided view that usually pins unloving labels upon Sheba. This book allows us to see another side. While we will never truly know what occurred during that time so long ago, we at least have a new side to the coin.
I really did enjoy this book. It was told with a talented hand and kept me wanting to turn each new page as the tale unfolded.
Review by: Mark Palm
Although Spiritualism had been kicking around the fringes of society for a while, it’s no real surprise that in the years after the Civil War ended in 1865 it really started to make inroads to mainstream society. For an era of people who saw death more frequently and more closely than we do now, the slaughter of that war was still staggering.
Things Half in Shadow, by Allen Finn takes place, in that tumultuous time, in Philadelphia. Edward Clark, a Union veteran, is now a crime reporter for one of the city’s largest papers, and because of a knack for sleight of hand and illusions his editor hands him what would seem like a plum assignment; expose the false mediums that prey on the grieving.
Edward doesn’t want the assignment because his knowledge of trickery comes from a fact that he has kept hidden for most of his life; he is the son of a famous magician whom was convicted of killing his wife, Edward’s mother, during a performance.
He takes the job, and the first medium he exposes is Miss Lucy Collins, who is more beautiful than talented. She is also smart, and turns the tables on Edward, blackmailing him with his secrets before he can write his story. Together they decide to finish Edward’s job. Unfortunately, the first séance they attend ends in the murder of a Medium who seemed to actually have supernatural powers. From there Edward and Lucy must untangle the mysterious crime, and others, to clear their names, and save their reputations, and lives.
One of the things that most impressed me by this book was the way that it straddled two genres, horror and mystery. A lot of times that can prove chaotic, but Mr. Finn, with his balanced prose and tight plotting, keeps that from happening. The two main characters, Edward and Lucy are both well drawn, and exceptionally likeable, and the supporting characters, some drawn from real life, are solid as well. The setting and historical backdrop are realistic, but unobtrusive. Mr. Finn really seems to know the details, but he doesn’t show it off.
In case that isn’t enough there is romance, carriage chases, masquerade balls, moon-lit cemeteries, secret societies, hidden tunnels, and tons more. Mr. Finn keeps the whole thing moving, tense and taut, but never spilling over into melodrama. He also reminds the reader how important it was for those in society to keep a good name. Almost as feared as death, a loss of standing was a permanent source of shame, something hard to grasp in these more egalitarian times. It adds an extra level of tension to a story that is already as tight as a tourniquet, and keeps some of the subplots from seeming like digressions.
The last thing that really made this book work for me was that Mr. Finn didn’t give us everything that we wanted. Some things turn out fine, and some don’t, and while many people want their stories wrapped in a pretty bow I applaud Mr. Finn for his stance.
Review by: Avalon Palm
Grave Mercy has everything that I like in a book. It’s dark, and evil dipped in adventure with a bit of love on the side. It has twists and turns, that pull you from one way to the other. From the first page to the last, you’ll be obsessed with Ismae Rienne.
Ismae is a daughter of Mortain: the god of death. She is taken by the abbey of St. Mortain and given a choice; Get married to some boring old dude or become an assassin.
So she begins her training as an assassin. Finally, after years of waiting, she is sent to eliminate her first target. She goes and kills him but there is a mistake. A man comes to explain this to the abbey, his name is Gavriel Duval.
Ismae and Gavriel are sent out on an adventure with lots of death and disguise, and they just might fall a bit in love too.
Review by: Mark Palm
If it isn’t already clear, I love books. I really love what I call bookish books. Works like Pale Fire and Little, Big, that can exist only as a book. In this era when novels are sometimes optioned for films before they are even published, it’s a rarity to find bookish books, and even more rare to find good bookish books. Fifty Mice is one such book, and while it’s no Pale Fire it’s very, very good.
Jay Johnson has a very average life, a boring job, a steady girlfriend he may marry, but one day he is abducted, drugged, and questioned by faceless bureaucrats, with name tags reading John Q. Public and Jane Doe,and his paper trail is erased. He is told that he is in a Federal Witness Protection Program, and he will be staying in it for his own safety for a long time. The problem is that he has no idea why. What makes it even more unsettling is that the whole thing feels like a slap-stick horror movie, and Jay is stuck in the middle. It’s a daring move, but Mr. Pyne makes it work.
Jay is then removed to Catalina Island, where he has to say until he can reveal whatever it was he was supposed to have witnessed. The only way out that Jay can see by shifting through the lies, half-truths and false memories of his past, until he finds, or makes up something that will get him out. Making this even more difficult is that he is sharing a house, and it seems a life with a mysterious woman Ginger, and an enigmatic girl Helen, who may or may not be Ginger’s daughter.
A bare look at the plot makes this book look like a thriller, and Mr. Pyne has that down cold. All of the elements are there, from the tense narrative to the careful plotting. In truth though, this book is about much more - questions of the nature of memory and reality and identity are all raised, and all are done in the flow of events, subtly entwined in the narrative flow. The language itself is gorgeous, evocative and dream-like, and very apt to the whole feel of the book. It’s Jay’s story, and it is his voice that guides us through this Kafka-like maze, so Jay is the clearest character. All of the rest of the people, particularly Helen and Ginger, are spot-on as well. If all that isn’t enough Mr. Pyne takes it up a notch higher because he manages to meld the tension of a thriller, with the trippy aura of Magic Realism, which I might tell you is no mean feat. Mr. Pyne pulls it off, and he does it with ease.
What I enjoyed most about this book is what I spoke of earlier; its bookishness. Sure a talented ambitious film-maker could possibly make a movie out of this, but I doubt that he would do it justice. Fifty Mice is such a balanced concoction of, voice, prose, character, and a twisting, turning surreal plot that I would be thrilled to see Mr. Pyne get the big money that a film adaptation brings, just so that he could keep writing books like this one for a long, long time.
Oh yeah, and I know that I used the word book a lot in this review. Let’s call it a solid demonstration of the use of repetition.
Review by: Brennan Palm
Here we go again… again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again. That’s exactly how many again’s Benjamin January would have to say if he ends up having to find another friggin’ lost treasure… AGAIN!!! That’s right not once, not twice, but thirteen times he’s had to find a lost hoard of gold so everybody he loves doesn’t die. At this point he doesn’t even want to find any more treasure. He just wants to sit down and retire in New Orleans and drink from the crystal goblet he probably got from one of the last treasure troves he found.
That being said originally I didn’t know Crimson Angel was the thirteenth book in a series. I was reading it and I was thinking, “This book actually has a tremendously smart plotline, yet at the same time it also has absolutely no energy.”
Then I figured out it was the thirteenth book in the series and I thought so that’s why this is so boring. The mystical x factor is that it’s jumped the sharks’ ten novels ago and so all excitement hath been drained from it. A main character got killed off and it somehow didn’t create the smallest amount of suspense. If this book had some more energy in it, it might actually have been decent, But that’s a “what if?” question.
In short reading Crimson Angel is like watching blackstrap molasses slowly drip from a silver spoon. I’m not saying that because I’m one of those baboons who can only enjoy shoot’em ups and racing movies, because I’m not one of those people, but because it actually is that boring.
Reviewed by: Stacy Palm
Anyone who reads our blog knows that without a doubt I'm a huge paranormal romance fan, and I agree with you that I proclaim many books within this genre as the next best series. This book is no exception - I love (Ash) this book! I will admit this book started off at a bit of a slower pace, but once it get started it was so good! It has all my favorite key elements: independent kick-ass heroine, evil guy whose really good, crazy sexy characters who make you swoon (yes, I said swoon!), and a story that keeps you pivoted to the book until the end.
This book picks up 5 weeks after book one and our characters are again trapped in turmoil over the stone. I'm not going to give anything away, but we do get to meet numero uno bad guy that was only talked about in book one and he doesn't disappoint - you will loath him. My only complaint is that we did not get very much of Lyre in this book, but all the moments with Ash make up for that.
Review by: Stacy Palm
Release Date: March 17, 2015
I was absorbed in this book for the duration I was reading it! This is truly a captivating tale, one that lives and breathes in the readers every sense. From the very first chapter I was hooked. The characters are so vividly imagined that I had no issues knowing these people. I felt carried away on their journey with them and it was a wondrous journey! There were blissful moments, secret moments, and even scary moments. The setting was just as opulent as the characters, each and every locale shoppe transported me right to the spot.
I do not like to give anything away, but I will say that the story starts with a lone girl running away from a turbulent past. However, this novel is not so much about running away, but running towards (...who we are, what we dream, our inherited destiny?) The story was richly conveyed through imaginary on scale with the artisans discussed within this novel.
This novel was so precisely devised that I have no issue proclaiming it as one of our 2015 TOP PICK books! This is a must read book, and I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to read and review this new release from a very talented author.
The Curse Servant, by J.P. Sloan
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Date of Re-Release: February 26, 2015
Cover Artist: Conzpiracy Digital Arts
The one person standing between Hell… and an innocent girl… is a man without a soul.
A regular life isn’t in the cards for Dorian Lake, but with his charm-crafting business invigorated, and the prospect of a serious relationship within his grasp, life is closer to normal than Dorian could ever expect. In the heat of the Baltimore mayoral campaign, Dorian has managed to balance his arrangements with Deputy Mayor Julian Bright with his search to find his lost soul. Dorian soon learns of a Netherworker, the head of a dangerous West Coast cabal, who might be able to find and return his soul. The price? Just one curse.
Sounds easy… but nothing ever is for Dorian. A dark presence arrives in the city, hell-bent on finding Dorian’s soul first. Innocents are caught in the crossfire, and Dorian finds it harder to keep his commitments to Bright. When the fight gets personal, and the entity hits too close to home, Dorian must rely on those he trusts the least to save the ones he loves. As he tests the limits of his hermetic skills to defeat this new enemy, will Dorian lose his one chance to avoid damnation?
Review by: Mark Palm
Forgive me if am mistaken, but I believe that it was Cornell Woolrich who stated that one of his favorite ways to write a thriller was to take a character who was, for instance, a doctor. Being a doctor wasn’t what they did, it was who they were. Then throw that character into the deep end, and watch them as they got out, using the characteristics they defined them.
That seems to me like an excellent way to describe The Curse Servant, and The Curse Merchant, the first two books in an exciting new paranormal series by J. P. Sloan.
Dorian Lake is a Hex Merchant. It’s just what he does, but what he is. Mr. Sloan takes Dorian, who has a penchant for talking before he thinks, and piles a heap of problems on his lap. He’s assisting a political campaign, protecting a stack of dangerous supernatural books, trying to be a decent inner-city landlord, and maybe has lost his soul. There is a secret organization tracking his every move, and he’s got girl problems as well. That’s without giving away any plot spoilers.
These books are narrated by Lake, and his voice is spot-on, funny, smart, a bit of a wise-ass, but clearly caring for his friends, and trying with all his might to do the right thing. I am not always the biggest fan of series, but I am looking forward to the next book by J, P, Sloan.
About the Author
Find J.P. Sloan Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Curiosity Quills Press (CQ) is a small hybrid publishing company specializing in genre fiction of the highest quality. With 150+ titles in our catalog already and approximately 6 new books coming out each month, there’s never a dull moment at CQ. We work with major retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Audible to ensure that you, the reader, can find whatever you are looking for at your convenience.
Founded in 2011 by Eugene Teplitsky and Lisa Gus, CQ was initially a resource portal for writing and publishing, created in an effort to help writers, like themselves, survive the publishing industry. After rapid success, CQ morphed into publishing press that over time has solidified its share in the market. Now we spend our days searching for the next great escape!
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