Review by: Stacy Palm
What a wild unexpected ride this book provided! We all know there are a gazillion good books available right now (what a wonderful time to be a reader!) So choosing the next book to read becomes a bit difficult; let me help you out - This is the next book you should pick up. I grabbed this book at the last minute and I'm so very thankful I did. There are many things to love about this book, but two of the big ones are Ash and Lyre. Oh my, my, my did the author give us a wonderful Christmas present when she conceived of these two daemons. At the beginning I was afraid the main character might get a little lost among these two, but the author did a fine job of having her hold her own ground.
I don't like to give too much of the actual story away, but this is a fast paced magical thriller with a little bit of the oh, la la thrown in. The characters are well developed and you truly want to know them by the end of this book. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book, it was that good.
Review by: Mark Palm
In the eighties a serial killer, called the Butcher naturally, was terrifying the Seattle area, until he was killed by police captain Edward Shank. Thirty-odd years later Shank’s grandson Matt unearths a family secret so horrible that it will endanger his and his family’s future. Samantha Marquez, who happens to be Matt’s girlfriend, is a true-crime author who suspects that her mother was killed by the Butcher, even though her murder occurred years after his death.
On the surface it seems like an unassuming pot-boiler, but Jennifer Hillier is swinging for the fences here, and while The Butcher may not quite be a grand slam I would say that it’s pretty damn close. Ms. Hillier takes a massive risk right up front by revealing the killer’s identity right off the bat, and trust in her skills to keep the tension up despite this unorthodox move. It works; The Butcher is an excruciating exercise in narrative tension. What makes it so tense isn’t that the plot is unusually twisted; it’s taut but not full of block-buster turns. What she does do very well is make us feel for all of the lives that are slowly being ruined but this gruesome tale. Ms. Hillier also takes the risk of having more than a few unlikeable characters play very important parts in her story. Likeable people aren’t a necessity but if one of the major characters had been a little bit more sympathetic it might have made the ride a bit easier. Some of the other lesser characters were a bit flimsy as well. They advanced the plot and played their roles, but a bit more nuance and this book would have been on an entirely different level. As it is, it’s more of a matter of picking nits than anything else.
The main characters were well-drawn, and the prose was solid, if unspectacular. That sounds a bit like I am damning it with faint praise, but in thrillers a lot of the time it’s more important to write transparent rather than showy prose, and that’s what Ms. Hillier does here. For the record, it’s a lot harder than it looks you have to give it time though. It took me a while to get into this book, and while a slow start is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a gamble, because some readers don’t have the patience to let a book sneak up on them. It works well here, and mixed with Ms. Hillier’s willingness to take some big chances it made The Butcher one of those clichés; a book that’s hard to put down until you reach the end.
Review by: Mark Palm
Categories and genres drive me crazy. I don’t know how often I have railed against this barbaric practice in my reviews, but I expect that it must be quite a bit. Oh well, once more into the breech…
That brings me to the work of Natasha Mostert, and her novel The Midnight Side. This work, like others I have read by Ms. Mostert, gleefully defy being placed into any easy recognizable genre, which makes them a particular pleasure to read, and review. Some people are bothered because her works cannot be pigeon-holed, but that is one of the things that make them so good.
The Midnight Side is the tale of two cousins, Isa and Alette, who grew up together in South Africa. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that Alette dies, because she does in the books first chapter. Sometime after this she calls up her cousin Isa, from London. Telephone calls from the dead might be a tip-off that this book is a ghost story, but that would be too simple. Ms. Mostert is playing a different game here. Although the basic frame from the story is one of revenge: Alette wants Isa’s help in helping her even the score with her ex-husband, Justin, who she claims made her life a living hell. This she accomplishes with a series of directions left to her cousin in her Will, along with the occasional call from beyond the pale, and appearances in Isa’s dreams For the rest of the book we follow Isa as she carries out Isa’s wishes, sometimes quite reluctantly, as she finds herself discovering more and more about her cousin, her ex-husband, and her friends. There are also a lot of flashbacks, which are well- handled, and show Alette and Isa growing up together in Africa, raised by Alette’s nurse, a Zulu woman named Sienna, who knew more that her fair share or tribal magic. The rest of the tale is a slow and tense game of cat-and-mouse between a small cast of characters.
Now to a lot of people this may sound pretty tame, but one of the things that I most admire about Ms. Mostert is her ability to mix the supernatural with the cutting edge of para-psychological research and science so that it straddles all of these different and disparate disciples. Giving her books a true feeling of realism, without splashing around buckets of gore or revenants and ghosts, Ms. Mostert turns small unsettling details into truly frightening events, and that is one of the things that makes this book special.
When you add in the spot –on characterizations, of Isa, Justin, and the other main players, (even Isa, who is dead), and the taut plotting, you have a special book.
Speaking of the plot; it is terrific, and like many top-notch thrillers, the story revolves around a startling and surprising Twist, which caught me truly by surprise. I wish that I could tell you about it, but it would wreck the house of cards that Ms. Mostert has so carefully sculpted. Let me just say that I felt like I had the rug jerked out from beneath my feet, and I liked it. You can’t really ask for much more than that.
Review by: Brennan Palm
Ninety-nine percent of the time when I open a fantasy/DnD type book I expect to see a ton of melodramatic dribble such as “By Grabthar’s Hammer I will slay you fowl dark beast!” Thankfully for my sanity I read no such thing in The Mirror Empire which stretches the absolute boundaries of fantasy novels. What do you mean you don’t think that’s true? Okay challenge accepted I will prove to you that this book is just insane. If somebody walked up to me and asked me to give them an accurate idea of what book this resembles, I couldn’t answer them, I would just stand there with my mouth agape thinking about a possible answer till they walked away and called my family to have me committed to an insane asylum.
Now that that’s over I’ll tell you a little about the story. We begin our story in a small village of blood witches who sleep in cocoons, with one of our main characters, a young girl blood witch named Lillia, and her mother among them. Don’t worry it gets weirder.
Then their village is attacked by people wearing red armor, with magical wooden swords transplanted in their wrists. Lillia’s mother opens a portal to another land and is killed. Lillia then ends up working at a temple in Dhai a country found by runaway slaves were everything is made of plants. A few years later the Dhai’s religious/political leader (who looks exactly like the woman who killed her mother but clearly isn’t) mysteriously dies then the real fun begins. Obviously I don’t want to give away too much of the endless plot twists so I’ll stop there and say that I really loved this book. I loved it so much I gave it all 5 stars. At this time, this book is available on kindle for only $1.99. I have no idea why it is only $1.99, but you should get it.
Review by: Stacy Palm
There are books you read and then there are books you absorb. This book is the later.
Let me start this review a little differently and speak directly to the author without spoilers. I applaud you for the creation of the Sisters (I can see them running a finishing school for girls down the road, what fun!) I applaud you for anagrams! I applaud you for using classical literature (that doesn't involve zombies!) I applaud you for Dia (oh, how I applauded you for that one!) Mostly I applaud you for creating a leading heroine who is not just smart, but brilliant, creative, and human. How many times in life do we try to do what we believe is right only to have it blow up in our faces?
Needless to say that are so many things I loved about this book. I can not give this book the review it deserves because I'm simply not that talented. What I can tell you is this is not your every day paranormal romance with your cut and dry characters clipped from a manuscript. The characters are smart and witty. The plot from book one thickens and takes us on a fantastic journey. I cannot wait for the next book to see where this adventure lands Miss Anne Merchant.
Please note, this is the second book in this wonderfully mysterious series and you will want to read the first book, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant.
Review by: Stacy Palm
I have read and reviewed this series from the beginning (Witchstruck and Witchfall being books 1 and 2). I have to say that this may have been my favorite book in the series. For one, our lead character is finally gaining some confidence in herself, which is great to see as in the other two books I always felt this was a bit of a problem area in the book.
All of our favorite characters are back and some of our dreaded villains. This final book in the series does a fabulous job of wrapping everything up. If you have read the other books you certainly want to pick this one up. If you haven't had an opportunity to read the first book I suggest you do so before reading this one.
The series is a fun romantic romp in an historical tudor setting.
Review by: Avalon Palm
Dear Charlie N. Homberg- I hate you and love you and hate you and love you.
You squished my feels until they died and then transformed them into a pathetic little mushroom, and then you’re like “Oh it’s fine, that was just a nightmare.” AND THEN YOU SQUISHED THEM AGAIN!
I have been squished to the limit. I love this book BECAUSE it squished me, and scared me, but while I was reading it, I kept putting down in shock promising I’d never read it again, and then I picked it up a minute later so I could read to the end where hopefully there would be an extremely happy ending.
But my poor mushroom shaped feelings…
They were squished and brought back to life a lot of times.
Like when the dog…
And the explosion/heart thing…
Oh, let’s not forget THE WHOLE BOOK.
But I’m here worrying about my squished feelings, when I should be talking about the book.
But who cares about the book? … *Sees self in mirror* Oh. Right.
Anyway, The Paper Magician is a wonderful book. This is the best way to describe it even though, you love it, and then hate it, and then…
I’ve said this already.
The Paper Magician is a book that follows the life of a young magician named Ceony. For five years, Ceony went to Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, thinking she would get to be a Smelter (A Metal Magician.) Normally, you get to choose what you become. Ceony however, was unlucky.
Or extremely lucky depending on how you look at it.
Anyway, there was a shortage in the number of Folders (Paper Magicians) so she got assigned there. Her mentor is a man named Emery Thane. She goes to his house and lives there, as magicians normally do once they become apprentices. Not easily of course. She is extremely rude to not only Emery himself, but to his paper skeleton butler.
WHO IS RUDE TO A PAPER SKELTON BUTLER?!?
I don’t even…
Continuing on, Ceony learns the art of paper magic quite quickly, and becomes closer to Emery Thane. However something dreadful happens.
GASP THE HORROR!!!
Emery’s ex-wife, Lira, comes. She’s an Exsicioner. A BLOOD MAGICIAN. She steals Mg. Thane’s heart.
Like, physically, not metaphorically.
Ceony quickly runs and grabs paper, Folding like crazy, until she makes a paper heart.
And she sticks it in his chest.
And he breathes.
But Emery says this heart won’t last more than two days.
So Ceony goes on a mission, to find Thane’s heart, and gets captured by Lira, and Lira sticks her inside Emery Thane’s heart.
Ceony explores the four chambers, which represent love, hope, hate, and doubt.
No, I’m kidding it’s not the end.
I seriously suggest that you read the book to find out.
I’ve already finished reading the sequel it’s so good.
Review by: Stacy Palm
I have had the opportunity to read some of Erin Healy's previous work and must say that one of the cool things about discovering a new and rising author is the visual progression of skill that you as the reader get to watch unfold. I can see serious growth in Ms. Healy's talent with this book and it was by far the best she has yet written that I have read.
This story keep me so bound to the events going on that was physically feeling my heart race at the end when the whole story comes together. I will not write spoilers, but I must say that this book was one of the few that I can honestly say "kept me guessing the truth." It is a solid twisted tale and one that reminds us of the importance of forgiveness and grace. You can't top that; you just cannot.
I loved many of the characters in this book. There were a couple that I felt should've been a little stronger, but that is a minor point of opinion. I will continue looking for Ms. Healy's upcoming releases and look forward to reading her next novel. I urge you to give this book a read, it is expertly told and provides some great insight regarding our desires to have others approval and where our true need should be directed.
Review by: Mark Palm
I first became aware of Amanda Palmer as the lead singer/songwriter of The Dresden Dolls, a duo most often called punk cabaret, but really just unclassifiable. Labels and categories drive me crazy, but whatever you called them I recognized that Ms. Palmer was an excellent songwriter with a distinct and unique voice. Writing a song and writing a book are two very different things, and not a whole lot of people have been good at both, but after reading The Art of Asking I can definitely say that Ms. Palmer has got the act down cold.
Like most of her songs, this book doesn’t fall easily into a category, but instead moves effortlessly through a several different genres; autobiography, self-help, and a treatise/meditation on art, artists, and not surprisingly, the Art of Asking, which in the author’s eyes lies at the heart of the most important human endeavors, particularly matters of art, and of the heart. What makes this book so successful is Ms. Palmer’s skill at moving between the different styles of the book, while always writing with talent and deep emotion. As the story unwinds from her early days as a street performer to the creation of the Dresden Dolls, to her current life, it skips back in forth in time and place, a technique that could be confusing in lesser hands, but one that Ms. Palmer pulls off effortlessly. Ms. Palmer does an exceptional job at mixing the particulars of her private life with her musings on the nature of art, and using examples of one to highlight the other. It certainly helps that she has led such an interesting and varied life, and is so able to write about it with such open-ness and sincerity. I could probably hook you in even more by telling you the details, but I really dislike being a spoiler, so I‘ll just let you find out for yourself what an interesting book this really is.
One thing I haven’t done yet, but am going to as soon as I am able, is check out the soundtrack that is available on- line to augment this book. Ms. Palmer is, after all, a musician first and foremost, and I expect that the music she has picked will be a wonderful compliment to this work. Either way it stands just fine as it is, alone. If Ms. Palmer has any doubts left about her ability to write a book, she should jettison them. I was both surprised and moved by The Art of Asking, and I look forward eagerly to see what she will do next.
I see you, Amanda.