Will Millar’s “Infernal Machines” is touted as a horror novel, but it’s more than that. Sure, it’s horror … but there are elements of drama, mystery,...moreWill Millar’s “Infernal Machines” is touted as a horror novel, but it’s more than that. Sure, it’s horror … but there are elements of drama, mystery, sci-fi, occult, action, and more so thoroughly threaded throughout that it seems like calling it horror sells it short.
Describing it isn’t easy, either. At various points, I was reminded of Stephen King’s “It” and “Needful Things,” “The Goonies,” and pretty much every monster movie I ever watched. Yet, it isn’t just derivative regurgitation. It has monsters of the human (serial killers, white supremacists) and inhuman varieties. It has coming of age moments. It makes strong statements about families and love. It speaks of choices and the price of such choices. It even shares some age-old wisdom: “when the Universe throws you a break, it possesses a child’s patience.”
Regardless of whether it’s easily genred (not a real word, I know) or described, “Infernal Machines” a damn good book. I highly recommend it to all horror, paranormal, and supernatural fans.
See this review during Will's book tour stop at vaempires.com on 3/28/13. (less)
Many of the poems in Robert Zimmermann’s From Where I Stand hit me right in the gut. I didn’t expect it. I’m not much of a poetry guy. And, no, that a...moreMany of the poems in Robert Zimmermann’s From Where I Stand hit me right in the gut. I didn’t expect it. I’m not much of a poetry guy. And, no, that admission has nothing to do with too much testosterone, pig-headedness, or any of the other lovely attributes most men are accused of possessing in abundance. I simply don’t enjoy reading what I don’t understand … and, too often, I don’t understand poetry. So much of it seems to be a) self-indulgent, self-impressed drivel, b) deliberately unclear, misleading, and/or nebulous, or c) some combination thereof. I’m all for a strategic bit of symbolism or a well-placed double entendre here and there, but most of the time just say what you mean to say, for cryin’ out loud!
Outburst aside, Robert Zimmermann’s poetry tells me that he’s a man after my own heart. He says what he means to say and lays it out there in language even blockheads like me can understand. And appreciate. When he writes of his relationship with his parents—the pain, the confusion, the fear—every emotion leaps off the page and burrows into the reader. For a brief period, you become Robert Zimmermann. It’s brutal. It’s beautiful. It’s magical.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the poems have a real WTF quality about them … but that’s my shortcoming, not the poet’s. From Where I Stand is an amazing collection of poems and I’m glad I took the time to enjoy them. (less)
I’m a huge Rachel McClellan fan. I read “Fractured Light” and “Fractured Soul”—I even beta read a future novel—so I know what I’m talking about when I...moreI’m a huge Rachel McClellan fan. I read “Fractured Light” and “Fractured Soul”—I even beta read a future novel—so I know what I’m talking about when I say that she is an amazing writer.
When I first heard of “Confessions of A Cereal Mother,” I was interested, but slightly skeptical. Yes, I had already seen what she could do with fiction … but non-fiction is a horse of another color. And humorous non-fiction, to boot? Talk about one heckuva challenge. Still, the book blurb alone was enough to convince me that McClellan could probably pull it off.
And pull it off, she did. I’m not prone to wetting myself due to laughter or anything else—not yet, at least—but I came real close on several occasions. “Confessions” is that funny. In fact, it’s nothing short of comedic genius—particularly to anyone who has children.
McClellan regales us with the situations that parents everywhere experience—not only the obviously funny ones, mind you, but everything from the mind-numbingly boring everyday interactions to the heart-stopping-near-tragic ones. Faced with similar circumstances, few among us are even able to appreciate any inherent humor. Fewer still are able to capture it, distill it, bottle it, and hand it out as a gift.
McClellan is among those few. Her book is more than funny; it’s crafty and witty and touching … and should be required reading for all new parents. In fact, I highly recommend “Confessions of A Cereal Mother” to any person who has ever had a child, known a child, or been a child.
Thank you for your confessions, Rachel McClellan.
See this review during Rachel's book tour stop at vaempires.com on 3/12/13.(less)
In “Steam,” Jessica Fortunato introduces Charlie, a young woman harboring a deep secret—her heart isn’t her own. No, I don’t mean that she once gift-w...moreIn “Steam,” Jessica Fortunato introduces Charlie, a young woman harboring a deep secret—her heart isn’t her own. No, I don’t mean that she once gift-wrapped her heart and her innocence and gave them to an earnest young man who promised to love her forever … only to catch him cheating with the neighborhood skank a week later. I’m talking about a machine stuffed into the middle of her chest, replacing her original, albeit faulty, organ.
Charlie is none too happy about the organ—because it plays out of tune? No … not that kind of organ—for a variety of reasons: she never wanted it; it broke up her parents’ marriage; it led to her father’s untimely death, it factored into her doctor’s untimely death (leaving her as the owner of boxes upon boxes of the doctor’s medical notes. Thank heavens she doesn’t rent in NYC.); and the damned thing is faulty.
How faulty, you ask? Well, it’s so faulty that Charlie has to control her emotions or she overheats and passes out. A female? Emotions? I’m not even going there. But I will say that it puts a real damper on Charlie’s love life. Heck, the very act of letting off a little steam is enough to fry the poor lass’s circuits.
But, fear not. Just when it seems that Charlie’s down to her last few heartbeats, she meets Viktor, an engineer/doctor who’s convinced he can help her.
Fortunato creates a frazzled—yet loveable—character in Charlie and matches her with a nerdy wunderkind that you can’t help but root for. Sprinkled throughout are Fortunato’s trademarks of witty banter/dialogue and world-weary observations of human nature. It’s a compelling story with strong characters and stronger messages about love. Will Charlie’s experiences end in a HEA? I don’t have the heart to say … but I highly recommend “Steam” to romance, sci-fi, and steampunk fans. (less)
In “Horizon,” the fourth—and final—installment of her “Elemental Enmity” series, author Christie Rich brings events to a most satisfying conclusion …...moreIn “Horizon,” the fourth—and final—installment of her “Elemental Enmity” series, author Christie Rich brings events to a most satisfying conclusion … but not before she subjects Rayla, and her readers, to another million or so (I’m exaggerating, but only a little) of her trademark twists and turns ...
From the book’s opening chapter, readers who believed that Rayla had finally decided her destiny at the conclusion of “Genesis” are immediately separated from such foolish notions. The poor girl still has a long road ahead of her. Along the way, she spends a “moment of feeling like the biggest douche ever,” and continues learning new insights and wisdom, such as “careful is for beggars and bastards.”
Is there an HEA in Rayla’s future or do the lustful lords abandon all hopes of exclusivity and draft a timeshare plan? You’ll have to read “Horizon” to find out, but I promise you won’t be disappointed. And, for those who hate to see a good thing end, I urge you to look at “Horizon” not as an end, but rather a beginning … the beginning of Rich’s next thrilling novel.
I highly recommend “Horizon” to YA, PNR, and fantasy fans.(less)
“After the Fear,” the debut novel by Rosanne Rivers, is a thrilling read. As a dystopian-esque YA that features people forced into gladiatorial battle...more“After the Fear,” the debut novel by Rosanne Rivers, is a thrilling read. As a dystopian-esque YA that features people forced into gladiatorial battles to protect their families and hometowns, it will suffer the inevitable comparisons to “The Hunger Games” … but it stands on its own merits.
The storyline is intriguing. The drama isn’t overwrought and there are enough surprises and action scenes sprinkled throughout to keep the pace crisp. Sola and Dylan are compelling leading characters, even if Dylan seemed far too humane for a person who’d been killing for so long. Coral was reprehensible as the girl we love to hate and Shepherd Fines was flat out creepy.
I’ve said it before; forgiveness isn’t really my thing. As such, I admit rooting against Coral from the beginning. I really didn’t want a creative twist that allowed her some sort of redemption/salvation in the climactic finale … but I braced myself for it (and I won’t say whether or not it came!).
Alas, Sola’s request/wish was predictable. However, it was also understandable, so I won’t hold it against the author. In fact, here’s a shocker: Rivers left us with no immediate sense of whether or not a sequel is coming/needed. I’m sorry; do stand-alone novels even exist in the YA world? JK, of course, but the author—intentionally or otherwise—built a foundation that simply begs for further stories.
I highly recommend “After the Fear” to all YA, urban fantasy, paranormal, and supernatural fans.
See this review during Rosanne's book tour stop at vaempires.com on 3/26/13.(less)
In Finding Esta, Shah Wharton introduces Luna, a young reporter beset by abusive parents, Shadows, and a seeming slew of physical infirmities … yet ar...moreIn Finding Esta, Shah Wharton introduces Luna, a young reporter beset by abusive parents, Shadows, and a seeming slew of physical infirmities … yet armed with an innate goodness and an inexhaustible well of determination.
Prompted by her hairdresser—of all people! some might say … but we all know how persuasive people brandishing sharp objects can be—Luna plunges headfirst into a decades-old missing person case. Little does she know that the case will have a far reaching impact on her own life. It’s a great tale that’s part Nancy Drew, part Harry Dresden, and part Underworld, with a dash of Weapon X thrown in for good measure.
Does Luna gain more than she loses along the way? You be the judge. I couldn’t help but laugh as she struggled with questions that have stymied great minds throughout history, like: Why is it all the good girls love a bad boy? and Why can’t I just be a journalist and have hot sex with hot guys and get drunk on the weekends?
I’ve been asking myself questions just like that for a long time. Sigh. Still, I loved the nod to Mary Poppins and seeing “gutted” used as an adjective instead of a verb. Such a cool word. But my favorite line was, The ego of a God, the wit of a goldfish, and I loved how Luna resolved her differences with her parents. Call me … maybe? … No! Call me cruel, but I found that part particularly satisfying.
Overall, Finding Esta is an enjoyable, creative read that manages to satisfy, while tantalizing just enough to leave you wanting more. I recommend it to fans of YA, PNR, and the like. (less)
Davonna Juroe’s “Scarlette” is a creative, imaginative retelling of the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. It blends history and fantasy into a tale that...moreDavonna Juroe’s “Scarlette” is a creative, imaginative retelling of the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. It blends history and fantasy into a tale that should satisfy the YA crowd, while also offering a bit of something more substantial to other readers.
Set in 18th century France, the novel introduces Scarlette, a teenage peasant living a horrible life … and whose life is about to get much worse. Along the way, she’s attacked by wild animals, abused by her mother, accosted by her boss, and abandoned by her best friend, while she falls in love with Mr. Wrong, overlooks Mr. Right …
Not much different than the average woman in the 21st century, now that I think about it.
Nevertheless, those are necessary plot devices in the YA world, and, as such, Juroe hits the mark, again and again. Still, there’s an underlying depth and weight that lifts the tale out of the kiddie pool and urges readers to test the waters in the deep end.
I recommend that all YA, PNR, and fantasy fans check out “Scarlette.”(less)
Noelle Blakely’s Chasing Destiny introduces readers to Alexander and Aurora Lake, vampire elders whose privileged existence is about to be challenged...moreNoelle Blakely’s Chasing Destiny introduces readers to Alexander and Aurora Lake, vampire elders whose privileged existence is about to be challenged when the earth is changed by a solar event.
Forced to flee their home, the Auroras only manage to grab a few provisions, but they are wise/lucky enough to grab one essential item: Sara, their nubile young employee who becomes both a food source (she’s human) and the third member of their ménage à trois (she’s hot & bothered).
So, the trio travels around, dodging danger by day and lettin’ the fur fly by night. It’s kind of like what “Three’s Company” might be like if aired today on HBO or Showtime. There’s way more sex than danger—which is what most of us prefer, I wager—but don’t let that fool you; the danger is very real. Still, lines like this made the danger seem very far away at times: “He found her true rosebud nestled in the beautiful flower between her creamy thighs.”
Ol’ Alex discovers rosebuds so often that he must be a master gardener by now (not to mention making Charles Kane jealous as hell), and I admit, if the world’s ever coming to an end … that’s how I want it to end.
Chasing Destiny also features werewolves—they keeps their shirts on, for the most part—and outlaw humans eager to establish a new world order. Framing the story is the tale of Destiny, a new breed of vampire I’m eager to read more about.
As the first book in Blakely’s “A Dangerous Destiny” series, Chasing Destiny establishes a compelling storyline and likeable characters that should please fans of all ages—well, the ones old enough to handle roses without getting their fingers pricked, at least. (less)
Elizabeth Barone’s “Sade On the Wall” is a fantastic novel. It’s a coming-of-age tale that effectively captures the real world, without becoming so “r...moreElizabeth Barone’s “Sade On the Wall” is a fantastic novel. It’s a coming-of-age tale that effectively captures the real world, without becoming so “real” that it proves dangerous to the innocent young reader—a difficult balancing act that’s a testament to Barone’s skill.
Watching the story develop through Sade’s eyes was very much like watching a car accident happen in slow motion—you know what’s going to occur, but you’re powerless to stop it. And then you’re even powerless to help with the aftermath. It’s a moving piece of fiction that’s both beautiful and tragic—a cliché statement that’s nevertheless true.
I’m no critic, but IMO Elizabeth Barone is an author to watch. She demonstrates remarkable talent and writes with a voice that many seasoned authors still haven’t found. Her characters are familiar, yet fresh, and she knows how to craft a dramatic story. I’ll definitely be checking out more of her work and I highly recommend “Sade On the Wall” to all discerning readers.(less)