Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Zombocalypse Now" by Matt Youngmark

While I am a fan of dark fiction, I have to admit that the genre has a tendency to take itself pretty seriously. I mean, for a genre of writing that focuses primarily on ghosties and ghoulies and vamps and weres and zombies, it does sometimes feel as though horror and fantasy related books and stories often seem to act as though they are above their station. So, when I was contacted by Matt Youngmark (the author of the cleverly named Zombocalypse Now, which is published by Chooseomatic Books) and offered the chance to review what he referred to as an “adult choose your own adventure” with a zombies take over the world theme, I was intrigued indeed. And then when I realized that the book is actually a parody not only of itself, but of virtually every other zombie holocaust-themed book ever written, I was hooked.

Those of you less nerdy than myself may be scratching your heads at my reference to choose your own adventure books. They were (and continue to be, actually) a series of books in which the plot plays out in numerous different ways, depending upon the order in which the book is read, which is governed by choices made by the reader. They used to be incredibly popular among bookworms the world over, and new volumes are still being released today. Generally, they plots are horror, action/adventure, or mystery-based, and the main character is you.

In Zombocalypse Now, however, you happen to be a love-starved, pink stuffed bunny just trying to get a little action.

On page one, you are sitting in a restaurant, awaiting the arrival of your most recent blind internet dating acquisition. When they arrive, something about their slack jawed demeanor seems a bit off (although it is not much more “off” than any of your other recent blind dates). Things steadily go downhill from this point, as zombie mayhem begins to ensue, as it undoubtedly will in the not so distant future.

From page three, you begin to make decisions that will shape your adventure and overall success or failure in the new, zombie-ridden reality in which you find yourself immersed. Choice one: ditch your date (whose BO has become increasingly offensive), or continue with dinner and see if the evening can be salvaged.

All in all, there are a total of 112 different possible outcomes, each one shaped by the decisions you make while facing the zombie scourge. And, as the book’s cover points out, there are 7 endings that do not result in your zombie-related demise. That’s about a 5% chance of surviving the zombie apocalypse, which (according to my preliminary calculations) is much better odds than you would have when the zombies really do take over the world.

Not to mention that some of the decisions that you are forced to make in the book will likely help to ensure that you are at the top of your mental game when the zombies actually do take over. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

All in all, this was a fun and entertaining read. In fact, it actually became a group project at my house. My daughter and I were reading aloud and trying to find each one of the endings (we are currently up to about 30, although I have read through the book for the sake of review purposes [and possible to cheat a little.]) There were some hysterical lines and fabulous ways to die, many of which I would never have dreamed up in a million years. One of my favorite paragraphs of the entire book:

"The street in front of the restaurant where you left your date is now a chaotic mess of the living dead. Zombie shoppers attack random passers by, and many of their meals reawaken to join the growing horde. Two zombie policemen on zombie horses chase a pissed-off looking woman down the street. It’s madness.”

Not to mention the fact that you die a full 105 times over the course of reading this book in its entirety. Meaning that the author had to come up with some pretty creative death scenarios. They include (but are not limited to):

*Zombie polar bears.
*Zombie mackerel (you know, the fish).
*Death by humanoid zombie, only to rise again as a pink stuffed bunny zombie.
*Being eaten by zombies while burning to death. Worst. Death. Ever.
*Bludgeoning by soccer trophy.

Honestly, a review can’t really do a book like this justice, simply because it is so entertaining and in so many ways. I heartily recommend that you go find yourself a copy of Zombocalypse Now, and suggest that you read it with a friend (or a group of friends). While it’s billed as being intended for adults, it is really not that objectionable and IMO is appropriate for teens as well. 5 stars.

(A tip from the author himself, one that I employed: Mark off the choices that you’ve already made with a highlighter so you can find all of the endings without wasting too much time.)

Alas, if you prefer your zombie novels to be a little more above themselves, take the literature route and trudge through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. You'll be sorry...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Debris" by Barry Napier

I was recently contacted by horror author Barry Napier and offered the chance to review his recently released collection of short stories and poetry, Debris. While I am a huge fan of dark fiction and horror, I have been let down by a lot of my favorite authors recently (like Bentley Little and his pandering and incoherant "His Father's Son, which I impatiently waited for for a year), so I have really enjoyed broadening my horizons recently. I had never heard of Mr. Napier, and was unwilling to let myself get my hopes up, but I requested an ebook review copy of Debris nonetheless.

I was blown away.

This was one of the best collections of horror stories I have read in years, each story and poem was better than the last, and I was able to devour the entire book in a few short hours.

The collection consisted of 20 distinct stories/poems, and while they were all excellent in their own way, they each had their own flavor.

The first story in the collection, Grave Seasons was the story about a legendary backwoods cabin, located in an area where transients and thrill-seekers alike were known to vanish without a trace. The cabin is occupied by an unassuming elderly woman and a young man who is something of an apprentice to her life's work. When unexpected visitors arrive, the story takes a macabre turn for the worse.

(While I very much enjoyed Grave Seasons, it [presumably unintentionally] reminded me of the hilarious Britney Spears South Park episode. Because of that, I took the story with something of a TIC attitude.)

In Notes on how it all Ended, Mr. Napier capitalizes on the ever-popular themes of rampant biological plagues and goverment cover-ups and conspiracy theories. A resident of a small town in stricken with an unexplainable and horrific illness, which grows more virulent and life-threatening by the second. Cut off from the outside world, the story is his account of his declining health and the events that coincide with it.

While I totally loved the entire book, A Collection of True Evils was my favorite story of the entire collection. It is the tale of a fabled book, believed to have been cursed by an admitted witch and passed down among murderers and madmen for generations, each new owner adding to its power to bring death and destruction to any who attempt to read it. According to the legend, no one had ever read it in its entirety, and all who had tried had died mysterious and untimely deaths.

The book falls into the hands of a group of friends, one of which happened upon it while cruising an internet auction site. The friends had been meeting twice a week for five years in secret to discuss occult literature, and finding the seemingly-mythological tome book was a dream come true.

Or so they thought :)

In addition to the terrifying and fantastic selection of short stories, Debris also contains some of the best dark poetry I have ever read. Most memorable, Abandoned Bridges, which ever-so-eloquently lays out the consequences of fruitless trees.

All in all, Debris was hands-down one of the most entertaining and enjoyable collections of dark fiction I have read in years (and I read A LOT of dark fiction). If it is any indication of Barry Napier's usual style of writing, I have found a new favorite author. He was able to weave surrealism, horror, and excellent plot lines to create some of the best short horror I have come across in a very, very long time. If you haven't heard of him yet, you will soon.

Solid, 5 star read!!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Creeping Shadows" Novella Anthology

I was recently contacted by one of the contributing authors (Alan Draven) of the recently released novella anthology, Creeping Shadows and offered the opportunity to review the book. I have to admit, I was pretty stoked. I follow Brandon Ford on MySpace, and have heard a lot of good things about this book. In addition to novella-length stories by Alan Draven and Brandon Ford, there is also a third by Jessica Lynne Gardener.

The first story is the aptly titled Vengeance is Mine, by Alan Alan Draven. It is a bold retelling of the single most puzzling and well known unsolved serial killing cases in modern history – that of Jack the Ripper. The reader is taken on a journey beginning during Vincent Fowler’s college days at the Royal Academy of Surgeons of England, where a macabre prank that he pulls gets him expelled, despite his profound and adept surgical skills. After his expulsion, he exiles himself to the American Colonies for a couple of years, only to return to Whitechapel England, armed with the tools and skills of a surgeon, a psychopathic hatred of prostitutes, and a level of disdain for law enforcement and the public in general that makes him feel invincible.

What I loved about Draven’s retelling of this well known portion of our dark history is that he was able to take subject matter that is familiar and retell it without the end product seeming played out or stale. In fact, Vengeance is Mine was an in-depth look into the life of a fictionalized Jack the Ripper, complete with vivid insight into his thoughts, and morbidly detailed descriptions of each of his murders. Over the course of the tale, Vincent spirals more and more out of control, his obsession with murder clouding and otherwise brilliant mind and causing his once-perfected MO to become sloppier and more haphazard with each new kill.

Over the course of the novella, it becomes apparent to both Vincent and the reading audience that one of his victims is still bound to this earthly plane, the senselessness and brutality of her death preventing her from passing over. And there is only a single purpose for her continued existence – vengeance against her killer. Even as the police follow one false lead after another, the ghost of Annie Champman torments Vincent mercilessly, haunting his home and dogging his every step. At first, the newly dubbed “Jack the Ripper” is convinced that the bizarre occurrences are the result of the fact that he has a penchant for Absinthe. However, it doesn’t take him long to realize what’s really going on.

All in all, Vengeance is Mine was a great read. I loved the way historical facts were woven in with fictional and even supernatural elements. Truth be told, there are few things I love more than a good ghost story. Especially one where the ghost is able to find true justice for their murder. Also, Draven was able to craft a believable and satisfying ending to his tale of one of the greatest serial killing mysteries in history, which made it that much more worth the read. It was a truly excellent story, from the plot to the wording and even the supporting characters, which were richly drawn and integral to the story – not a small feat considering the entirety of the work was just over 100 pages.

The second novella in Creeping Shadows is a doozey by Brandon Ford, and it is also a fictionalization of actual events. (While I recall the incident from media coverage, I have been unable to locate archival news footage or articles, and I would really appreciate it if anyone could steer me in the right direction if their memory happens to be better than mine:) Merciless tells the tale of two kidnapped teenage girls, who are held hostage in an SUV by a drunken, manic gunman, whose sanity has long since reached the end of its tether. The girls are virtual strangers, kidnapped at random, and after being forced to witness the most brutal and heart wrenching events of their young lives, they find themselves terrified but grateful to have escaped the initial encounter with their lives.

The stress and terror of their shared situation causes Kyra and Claire to forge and instant and unbreakable bond, and they become one another’s pillars of strength and support as the horrifying events of their shared captivity unfold before them. They spend the night in a torturous situation; filled with violent rapes, bone-shattering beatings, and uncertainty as to whether or not they will live to see the next day. As their captor drives them further and further from their homes, he becomes more and more demented in both his words and actions, and the girls begin to seriously question whether their survival is a possibility.

Brandon Ford’s Merciless is a rarity among the wide array of reality-based fiction books/stories floating around today. It managed to both horrify and disgust me, as I read about some of the most awful atrocities that one person can commit against another; while at the same time it reaffirmed to me the goodness that is inherent in most of us. Merciless also demonstrated the tenacity of the will to live, regardless of the odds that are stacked against you. It was a great read, albeit a graphic one.

The final novella included in the Creeping Shadows anthology was Sugar Skull, by Jessica Lynne Gardner. I have to admit that I was fairly puzzled by the inclusion of this story, as it was something of the odd man out. While the first two novellas were based on real events (admittedly, Vengeance is Mine was slightly more supernatural than Merciless), Sugar Skull was a completely fabricated surreal horror tale.

Sugar Skull tells the tale of Annabel Perez, whose father is murdered in a bizarre fashion; presumably by way of poison, although the toxicology report indicates that whatever the substance is, it is completely unknown to modern science. After doing some investigation into her family’s history, Annabel determines that her father’s death is not an isolated incident, but in fact one of many. All of the deaths are accompanied by sugar skulls, a common Mexican candy associated with Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.

As the number of unexplained and seemingly unexplainable deaths continues to climb, Annabel finds herself banding with her semi-estranged mother to uncover the truth about the killings and the secrets of her family history that could mean that she is next to die. Tracing the source of the murders back to an ancient Aztec curse, Annabel and her mother are in a race against time to put an end to centuries of senseless revenge and hate fueled murders.

While I enjoyed Sugar Skull, it was simply not in the same caliber of writing as the other two novellas in this anthology; it felt somewhat disjointed and too compressed. The story simply contained too much information to be concentrated into a hundred or so pages, and it seemed as though it would have been a much more fulfilling read had it been expanded into a novel of its own. Additionally, and as I said before, it also wasn’t the same flavor of story as Vengeance is Mine and Merciless – it just seemed as though it didn’t belong, which was somewhat distracting. (I have to admit, I have a few OCD tendencies, and I like things to be properly categorized. So shoot me…)

All in all, Creeping Shadows was an entertaining and worthwhile read, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves horror, the supernatural or true crime stories – and it is worth the cover price for Alan Draven and Brandon Ford’s contributions alone. That’s not to say that Jessica Lynne Gardner didn’t add to the overall entertainment value of the book: Sugar Skulls just wasn’t for me, at least not in this context. I have to give Vengeance is Mine and Merciless 4 ½ solid stars apiece, and Sugar Skull 3 stars. Overall, Creeping Shadows was a 4 (or more) star read.

Thanks again, Alan, for the signed copy. It was much appreciated and enjoyed!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Flesh" by Richard Laymon Review and Contest!!!

Before getting into this review, I feel like I should disclose that I have never been a huge Richard Laymon fan. There has always just been something about his work that I have found off-putting, and I really don’t know why. That being said, I recently obtained a copy of Flesh. At first, I thought it was a new novel, but after checking the copyright date determined that it was originally published 21 years ago, and was being re-released with a snazzy new cover just in time for Halloween. Another thing that I really don’t care for is when books are re-released and passed off as new – I have read so many books over the course of my life that new covers often throw me. I think I’m getting something new only to get a few chapters in before realizing that it’s something I read a decade ago. But, I digress.

The action in Flesh picks up from page one, as a coed is run off the road while biking in a remote area of Weber Creek. She ends up battered and sprained, and the driver of the van that inexplicably tried to take her out is killed when he speeds into a guard-rail head on. More shaken up than injured, she is assisted by a local police officer Jake Corey, who realizes (while inspecting the wreckage) that while the driver is clearly dead, someone (or something) exited the van after the crash. He follows the tracks, but his search yields nothing. He does, however, come across a couple renovating a newly-purchased rural restaurant. He advises them to leave the area, and goes on his way.

Wouldn’t you know, they return to continue their renovating hours later (in the dark, mind you). The hubby ends up going down to the cellar alone to check out an unusual noise (horror novel mistake numero uno), only to return a mindless zombie that blasts his wife’s face off with a single shotgun shot and then proceed to eat her flesh. Officer Jake, who had returned to the scene to follow-up, happens upon the site of husband gnawing on wife, and ends up shooting the man in self defense.

A few days later, the officer receives a call from a friend in the morgue, who has discovered something bizarre while conducting autopsies. He confides in Jake that it looks like they may have an Invasion of the Body Snatchers scenario going on in their small town. And it appears as though their “invader” has escaped. They decide not to report their truly bizarre findings to anyone else. Paranoia and mayhem ensue. Oh, and the invader finds a new host. Surprise, surprise.

Frankly, I was far from impressed by this book. It was predictable and dated (granted it was originally published in 1988), and I had to force myself to trudge through to the end. While I can’t really divulge any more without being considered a spoiler, most readers will have figured this one out fairly early on. Even if you take it for exactly what it is intended to be – entertaining, but not thought-provoking horror – it is sub-par. It had no psychological dimension whatsoever, and read almost exactly like a B horror movie, horny coeds and all. Although die-hard Laymon fans will probably want my head on a pike, I have to give Flesh 2 little stars.

~*~Because this one just didn’t do it for me, I would like to pass it on to someone who may get a little more out of it than I did. I invite anyone who wants to try this one on for size to leave a comment anywhere on my blog between now and 11:59 PM MST on Friday, October 23rd. One winner will be chosen using the number generator at Please leave an email address along with your comment so that I can contact you, and good luck. US and Canadian entries only.~*~

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"The Body Cartel" by Alan Spencer

I recently received a review copy of The Body Cartel by Alan Spencer. Neither the book nor the author were familiar to me, but the premise of the book was intriguing and the cover art was absolutely phenomenal (you all know I am a sucker for a sweet cover). Fortunately, when I actually began reading the book, I wasn’t let down – indeed, I was in for a very pleasant and entertaining surprise. But, I am getting ahead of myself. First, a little bit more about the book itself; The Body Cartel is published by a smallish independent publisher called Damnation Books. After doing a little bit of research, I am way impressed with this little publishing house. They specialize in ebooks, and they have a very creative pricing strategy for their downloads – the first download purchased of any given title is free, and the price goes up by a nickel with each additional download, until the full retail price is reached. It is a great incentive for avid readers to get in on the newest releases as quickly as possible, and it’s also a great way to increase early sales for new and up-and-coming authors.

Additionally, Damnation Books exclusively focuses on what I love above all else – dark fiction. Yay!!

Now, back to The Body Cartel. The book is about a middle-aged couple, Jericho and Maddy, who relocate from Colorado to Ray City, Arizona after an unfortunate fire disrupts their livelihood and their lives. Fortunately, they receive a big enough insurance payout to put some money down on their dream home, a delightful property in a remote area, as well as on a resort hotel that they plan on operating until retirement. Unfortunately, their dream quickly turns into a bizarre, surreal nightmare when they notice that their basement wall has sprung a putrid leak and soon thereafter begin to hear what sound like human wailing from within the same walls. Perturbed and angry that their new home appears to be suffering from an expensive structural defect, the couple begins to contact experts to determine the source of the ever-increasing leak.

Unfortunately, the source of the leak and ghostly noises is far more disturbing than the couple could ever imagine, a fact that becomes apparent only a couple of days after moving in, when Maddy is home alone. After awakening from a nap, Maddy begins to hear steady and increasingly loud noises emanating from her basement. Confident that the basement door is locked, she attempts to call the police for assistance, only to be brutally attacked.

When Jericho returns home, he is shocked to find his home overrun by police, a huge hole in his basement wall, and his wife missing. After being forcibly removed from his own house, he enlists the assistance of his police officer cousin Alex in order to figure out what is going on and to find his wife. It immediately becomes clear to Jericho that he and his wife have unwittingly become tangled up in a world of cartels, drug smuggling, violence, torture, murder, and police corruption. And if he ever wants to see his wife again alive, he is going to have to rescue her without the assistance of law enforcement.

What follows is a macabre and unbelievable dissent into a world that may very well exist under our feet at this very moment.

All in all, I really enjoyed The Body Cartel. It was fast paced, but still left enough room for character development, so I actually cared what happened to the Maddy and Jericho. (Nothing is more off-putting to me than a book with a great plot and crappy characters). Also, in addition to the personal story involving Maddy and Jericho and their struggle to survive, readers are treated to a sneak peek into the dark, seedy and violent world of drug smuggling and cartels. It makes you question the lengths human beings will go to build their wealth, and also makes you wonder what is really going on in the oft-ignored world of organized crime and missing person’s cases. (There are currently thousands of unsolved missing person’s cases in Arizona*** alone…and nobody just vanishes. So, where do they go, and how long do they languish there after their loved ones stop searching?) I give this one a 4 ½ star rating. I tore through it in about 2 ½ hours – it was very engrossing – and it also made me think, which I love.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Horror Library Volume II"

As promised, today I am posting a review of a TRUE horror anthology, published by a small Indie publishing company, Cutting Block Press. While Cutting Block Press has several anthologies currently in print, my favorite of the bunch has to be this one, Horror Library Volume 2.

Horror Library Volume 2 is a collection of short horror stories, each gorier and more disturbing than the last. In total, there are thirty stories in all, with titles ranging from Filth Eater (by Glen Krisch) to Preacher Mike and the Black Cross Revelation (by Kevin L. Donihe). My favorite part of this collection is that it remains true to the genre of horror, with very little fantasy (no paranormal romance here). Many of the stories are gruesome, while others offer a subtler, more psychological form of terror. Regardless of the form in which it is served, however, the horror in each handpicked story is disturbing and satisfying.

Frankly, I am generally more of a novel (or at best a novella) fan; in most cases I simply do not enjoy short story anthologies as much. I rarely feel as though I get enough out of a short story to be completely satisfied with my reading experience. That was not the case with Horror Library Volume 2; each story was clearly chosen carefully, and each was a thrilling and entertaining read in and of itself.
Among my favorites of the bunch were I am Meat, I am in Daycare (by Cameron Pierce) and Apple (by Marc Paoletti). The stories were extremely different from one another, but each was my horrific cup of tea. I am Meat, I am in Daycare is nothing short of a totally disturbing surreal reading experience, strange and unpredictable. It begins with a daycare provider agreeing provide services to a disturbed man, who brings in a hunk of meat that is his son. Things quickly spiral to new heights of weirdness. It was old-school Bentley Little-ish in its surrealism, which I loved.

Apple was a different form of horror entirely, focusing more on the psychological aspect of horror, and (as the name implies) demonstrates that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Generation after generation of sociopathic killers are born and bred, with devastating results for those they are contracted to kill. After all, it is nothing more than a job.

All in all, I really loved Horror Library Volume 2, and I really have to give some respect to the folks over at Cutting Block Press. They have set up a very efficient system that allows readers to purchase their books, as well as books from their affiliates, directly from the site. Excerpts of each individual story are available for review, which is also a big plus. I have to give this one a 4 ½ star review, and I would encourage anyone with a penchant for true horror to pick up any of the volumes of this stellar anthology series.

Finally, I would not be doing this book (or series) and kind of justice if I failed to mention the truly exceptional cover art. It really is fantastic, and sets the tone for the book in an incredibly dramatic fashion, and between stories I can’t stop myself from looking at it again and again.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New and Improved Reviews on the Way!!

To my followers and you newbies, I must confess that I have allowed my blog to drift away from its original purpose -- to review ACTUAL horror and Fantasy books, to the exclusion of all others.

So, what does this mean? After a brief (weekend or so long) hiatus, I will be back with reviews of books that I feel actually fit the bill. Meaning blood and guts horror and graphic and disturbing fantasy.

I am already in talks with several authors, publishers and publicists to review their newly released or up and coming work. Many of these books are Indies, and they contain the kind of content that most mainstream publishing houses shy away from. In addition, I have found a local Indie bookstore where I have found an absolute treasure trove of old-school horror that is just waiting to be recycled.

So be ready for some real horror. As more and more of my contemporary faves have begun to let me down with their pandering releases, I have simply decided that it is time to look elsewhere for reading material that meets my expectation so that I can write reviews that are suitable in the eyes of my readers, both old and new.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

To Tempt the Wolf by Terry Spear

Before I go any further, I should warn readers that To Tempt the Wolf is the third book in a series. If you are one of those people who can’t handle starting a series in the middle (you know who you are – and you can count me among your peers), you may want to read Heart of the Wolf and Destiny of the Wolf before diving into this volume. That being said, I didn’t actually know that this was the third book in a series when I started reading it, and it was as though I was reading a standalone book. I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything (which can sometimes happen), and while I will now go back and read the first two installments in this series, it really isn’t necessary to the enjoyment of this particular novel.

To Tempt the Wolf is a paranormal romance centering around werewolves, if you want to categorize it that way. However, it is also full of adventure and mystery, and should appeal to faithful readers of numerous genres. It is the story of photographer Tessa Anderson, who has had an inexplicable lifelong obsession with wolves. Scene one finds Tessa photographing a blazing California wildfire, and questioning her sanity for doing so. Her concentration, however, soon turns to taking pictures of a wolf that she spots lurking closely around. As she continues to take its pictures, an inkling of recognition begins to grow, and she has the funniest feeling of déjà vu, as though she has photographed this same wolf before. As she is taking pictures, the wolf charges her, and she barely makes it to her car before being attacked.

After returning home to her newly inherited cabin on the Oregon Coast, Tessa stumbles upon a naked man while collecting firewood on the beach. He is injured severely (near death); apparently as a result of his injuries, he is suffering from amnesia. The only memory he has is his name, which is Hunter. Despite the degree of his injuries, Hunter immediately realizes that Tessa is being stalked. Living alone in a fairly isolated area of Oregon, she is an easy target, and Hunter is determined to eliminate the stalker. And to help get her brother (who has been falsely accused of murder) released from prison.

While the task at hand may sound simple enough, winter is fast closing in on this desolate little stretch of land that Tessa calls home, bringing with it all of the fury one would expect from an Oregon winter. In addition, repeated threats are made against both Hunter and Tessa, and Hunter (bless his heart) doesn’t know who he is, where he’s come from, or who may have left him for dead. All in all, it made for a read that was at once charming, steamy, romantic, adventurous and mysterious.

While I am (admittedly) a paranormal romance buff, I also tend to prefer Vamp society to that of the Were’s. That being said, I loved this book. I will be hitting up in the very near future to procure volumes 1 and 2, and after reading them, I will be eagerly awaiting the release of volume 4, Legend of the White Wolf, in early 2010. Easily a 4 ½ star read –thoroughly engrossing and entertaining.

***BTW, Congratulations to Eleni!! She was the winner of my To Tempt the Wolf giveaway, and her copy of the book should be in the mail even as I post this. Thanks so much to the wonderful Danielle at SourceBooks for making it happen!!***

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

As promised, here is my review of the recently released Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. As those of you who are familiar with my blog, and who may have read my recent reviews of Pride and Prejudice sequels probably already know, the addition of “vampire” to the title of any book significantly raises my excitement level. There’s just something about the dark side of fiction that really piques my interest, and seeing this take on a classic work of fiction really makes my day :)

So, to say that I was excited when I was offered to the opportunity to review Amanda Grange’s newest release is an understatement, and I must admit that that when the book arrived in the mail, I was waiting impatiently to get my fix. I have to start off by saying that I loved the pacing and the tone of the book; it was very much in sync with Austen’s original, which is something that I always look for when reading sequels written by new or alternate authors.

As most of you must already suspect, in Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, our old friend Mr. Darcy is harboring a deep, dark secret. (Can you guess what it is?) The book begins just before Pride and Prejudice left off – briefly chronicling Lizzy’s wedding day, and then moving on to her wedding night and subsequent wedding trip. One of the things that struck me about this book was the lack of intimacy between Lizzy and Darcy. While it is rather shrugged off in the book, most new brides would (I believe) have been more put off by such a lack of attention by their new husband. While it was certainly a different time then, Lizzy was a different kind of girl, and I felt that she was uncharacteristically shy in this aspect.

As Mr. Darcy, Vampyre progresses, we follow the newlywed Mr. and Mrs. Darcy across Europe as the former struggles against his curse and works diligently to hide it from his new bride and the latter faces one bizarrely frightening encounter with long-lost Darcy relatives after another and works stridently to ignore the fact that her beloved husband has not yet visited their marriage bed.

While I can’t really say much more about Mr. Darcy, Vampyre without becoming a spoiler, I will say that I rather enjoyed it from cover to cover. While there were some things that I would have changed, that is true of virtually any book I have ever read. My biggest problem of all was with the way the book ended. Of course, I can’t really get into that here. However, if you read the book, you will probably know exactly what I am referring to. All in all, this was a 3 ½ star read as far as paranormal fiction goes, and a 4 star Pride and Prejudice sequel. Depending on your literary cup o’tea, you will probably find this one quite enjoyable :P

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pride and Prejudice Sequel Review Montage

This Wednesday, I am going to be posting a review for the hyped Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, which is a Pride and Prejudice sequel with just the right kind of twist to be featured on this blog. For this reason, I am also posting today’s review montage of additional new Pride and Prejudice sequels that have either been recently released, or will be soon.

First on list is the delightful Darcy and Anne by Judith Brocklehurst. This novel is actually the tale of Anne. Not Anne Bennet, but Anne de Bourgh, Lady Catherine’s niece and the one Catherien had expected Darcy to wed. That is, before Elizabeth came along.

In Pride and Prejudice, Anne was portrayed as dowdy and a thoroughly unacceptable match for the introspective and moody Mr. Darcy. She was more of a footnote or an afterthought, especially considering that every reader was pulling for Darcy and Elizabeth’s love. In Darcy and Anne, we are introduced to the vibrant intelligent woman that was only alluded to before.

The fact of the matter is that Darcy’s betrothal and marriage to Elizabeth really leaves Anne hanging, and at Lady’s Catherine’s insistence, he tries to find a solution to the issue his new engagement has created. Indeed, both Catherine and Anne set out to visit the newly wed Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, they are inadvertently separated. It is only at this point that Anne truly begins to assess her situation and station in life – in addition, it also when Anne meets Edmund Caldwell. He possesses the physical and personality traits that Anne is looking for in a husband. However, his social status is simply unacceptable for an heiress such as herself.

Alas, such is often the case in Regency period romance novels, and as can be expected, the kinks are ironed out in the end. And, as an added bonus, Lady Catherine is knocked down a peg or two; something that all P&P fans love to read. Additionally, this novel has a delightful tone and pacing that are in sync with Austen’s own, which is sure to enchant true lovers of the original and Austen’s work in general. All in all, this was a four star sequel, and it is guaranteed to satisfy those who recognized that Anne (even if she had been a dowd) was deserving of her happily ever after, too.

The second book in Jane Austen sequel that I am reviewing today is My Cousin Caroline by Rebecca Ann Collins. This is book 6 in the acclaimed Pemberley Chronicles series, and it tells the tale of Caroline Gardiner (Elizabeth’s cousin) and Colonel Fitzwilliam (Darcy’s cousin).

This book takes a different turn than many of the Pride and Prejudice sequels; rather than simply detailing the courtship between Caroline and her Colonel, My Cousin Caroline actually showcases a much broader timeframe. From the time she meets her husband through the raising of her children, Caroline’s life is detailed. And what a life she leads.

Unwilling to be a subservient and docile wife, as was the norm in Victorian England, Caroline becomes an outspoken supporter of reformist policies. Her spirit and dedication, despite the risks to her reputation and the fact that her behavior is scandalous, make Caroline a very likable heroine, and I fell in love with her and her story. This book was a four and half star read, and it will certainly appeal to fans of Austen, P&P sequels and spirited, outspoken women alike.

Finally, I reviewed Loving Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan. Unlike the previous two books, which told the tales of romances that blossomed between the supporting Pride and Prejudice characters, Loving Mr. Darcy is a continuation of Elizabeth and Darcy’s own love story. This was actually the second book in the Lathan's Darcy Trilogy, and I would recommend that anyone interested in this volume read book one, Two Shall Become One.

In Loving Mr. Darcy, we join Darcy and a pregnant Elizabeth, who had some pregnancy related drama unfold in the first book. She is now recovering from said drama, which causes her new husband to hover over her obsessively, which actually encompasses a good portion of the book. Additionally, this book really focuses on the daily lives of the characters we all know and love, focusing on a couple special events such as Elizabeth’s birthday and Pemberley’s Summer Festival.

All in all, I have to say that Loving Mr. Darcy was my least favorite of the three books I reviewed, primarily due to the pacing and what I viewed as focusing on every minute detail of the Darcy’s daily routine. However, if you are a fan of books that detail the daily lives of your favorite characters (and I know many people are) then this is the book for you. However, for me, it rated only 2 ½ stars.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"His Father's Son" by Bentley Little

I have been waiting for Bentley Little’s latest – His Father’s Son – for months. I love Bentley Little, I have a collection of some of his rarer works, including the infamous Murmurous Haunts (I was lucky enough to score a signed copy a while back), a couple of ARC’s of his earlier books, a couple of signed hardcover copies of his books, and even an early promotional copy of The Store that is actually printed on standard 8 ½” x 11” copy paper, complete with a cover and promo letter from the publisher/publicist. So, to say that I am merely a fan is a bit of an understatement. I liked the guy before he was cool. I have issues of The Horror Show Magazine (and several others) from the 1980’s, having trolled for them on Ebay because he contributed to them.

His Father’s Son is the story of your middle aged everyman, Steve Nye. He is dealing with a situation that many of us have or will have to face during the course of our lives – the mental and physical deterioration of a parent. In Steve’s case, his father just snaps one day, physically assaulting his mother. The attack is completely out of character, and Steve’s father is diagnosed as suffering from a degenerative form of dementia and is committed to a psychiatric facility.

During one of Steve’s visits, his father appears to be perfectly lucid. It is during this period of lucidity that he says the words “I killed her.”

After hearing what he perceives as his father’s confession, Steve begins an investigation into his father’s past that makes him question everything he has ever known about his father, his family and himself.

The way this book is written, I really can’t say much more about the plot without being a spoiler.

There are dozens of little reasons that I have become such an avid Little fan. However, there have always been three big ones that have never varied or wavered. 3) He is among the most prolific writers I have ever read. It is a delight to troll around for obscure magazines and anthologies that he has contributed unique short stories to. You always find something different, but it always has a distinct Bentley Little flavor. 2) His flair for the surreal. Regardless of the specific plot or subject matter in a given book or story, you can count on Little to warp the very fabric of reality. All of his work has a certain level of wrongness to it, which is what makes it such great horror. 1) The man is deals in real, unapologetic horror. Nothing is taboo or off limits.

With all of the above being said, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with His Father’s Son. Maybe I have read too much of his stuff, because I kept thinking of how this story line should have gone down as I read. Unfortunately, it was fairly predictable (in my opinion), and it lacked a lot of both the surrealism and the depth of the majority of Little’s previous novels. His short stories even. I had a very hard time getting into the book, which is almost unheard of for me, although after the first few chapters it did hold my attention fairly consistently.

Unfortunately, I was left feeling shortchanged. I kept waiting for something to happen, and it never really did. There were instances of short stories being intertwined throughout the novel (Steve Nye happens to be a writer), and it was only throughout these several short chapters that I was able to really feel Little’s true nature leech into the story. It was almost as if this book was thought up by a publisher or something, and the integrated short stories were Little’s metaphorical middle finger.

All in all, the book was a big letdown for me. I have read a lot of criticism of Little’s work, and it always contains suggestions that would make his writing more mainstream and less out of the box and controversial. Frankly, I am a Little fan because of the blatant sex and violence and carnage that his books are (unapologetically) crammed with. I feel as though this was a pandering release, put out there to placate the whiners. I hope that his next book is a return to his surreal and totally unique flavor of storytelling, written for his fans - not everybody else. Three stars.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"To Tempt the Wolf" by Terry Spear Giveaway!!

To all of you fans of the darkside, be it Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Gothic or some other yet-to-be definded genre, you know who you are and you know what you like :)

I would like to offer all current and future fans of the darker genre's the opportunity to win a copy of Terry Spear's To Tempt the Wolf. Just comment here or on Terry's guest post to be entered. Please leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. I have one copy to be given aways, thanks to the good people at Sourcebooks, and the winner needs to have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address. No PO boxes.

Contest ends 11:59 PM MST 9/11/2009.

Thanks all, and good luck!!!

Guest Blog: Terry Spear

Terry Spear Guest Blog, author of To Tempt the Wolf
Horror and Fantasy Book Reviews; September 4, 2009

Join Me on the Dark Side—or Wolf Side, Rather

Thanks so much to Horror and Fantasy Book Reviews for having me!

The first time Heart of the Wolf finaled in a contest, the final judge, a NY editor, said it was a unique twist on a horror story. I understand what she meant—werewolves = horror.

But no way do I think of horror stories when I’m writing about my werewolves, who, when they are in their wolf forms, are like wolves, except, maybe a little bigger. They’re not monster-like wolf kind-of creatures.

Ever see pictures of two wolves playing when they look like they are ready to kill each other? Ever see one bare its very big, very sharp canines at you? The way it narrows its eyes? It wrinkles its nose? It growls deep and low?

To me, the wolf is majestic in part. Yet, it can look really scary without any of the monster effects thrown in.

But no longer is the werewolf just the bad guy, someone who kills during the full moon, but doesn’t remember having shapeshifted to do so during the night. No longer does the werewolf hate who or what he is.

No clinical psychology couches for my werewolves. They’re very well-adjusted. Born to the role, they’re content to live in secrecy and survive among the rest of mankind. For those who are not so fortunate to have been born to the role and suddenly become one of their kind through folly or choice, reactions will differ based on the personality of the individual. But no one mopes about being a werewolf. Not when being one has so many advantages.

In the old werewolf stories, a single werewolf often ran around in the woods attacking people. But in my stories, a big part of the world is showing the pack dynamics within a pack and with other packs.

And although there are lots of bad guys and murder and mayhem, suspense and mystery and adventure in my wolf tales, humor and romance are a big part of the stories, too. So I emphatically say my werewolves are not horrific in the least. Well, the bad guys can be pretty bad. But the good guys can be downright loveable. If man’s best friend is the dog, then a girl’s best friend is a werewolf.

So join me on the Wolf Side and learn about a new age of werewolves.

And thanks again for having me! If you want to join me, here are a few places you can find me:

Terry Spear
“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male.”

To Tempt the Wolf—In Stores September 1
In this third in the series, wildlife photographer Tessa Anderson must prove her brother innocent of murder charges. But when she discovers a gorgeous naked man barely alive on her beach, she's got a new world of troubles to deal with, not least of which is how he affects her with just a look, a touch, or a whispered word.
Hunter Greymore is a lupus garou, a grey werewolf. Hoping to keep a low profile at Tessa's cabin on the coast, he's drawn into her life—and into her bed. His animal instincts war with his human half, but in the end, the only thing he can do about this fascinating, adorable woman is to leave her forever —unless she becomes one of them.

About the Author

A retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, award-winning author Terry Spear has an MBA from Monmouth College. An eclectic writer, she dabbles in the paranormal as well as writing historical and true life stories for both teen and adult audiences. Spear lives in Crawford, Texas. Her 2008 Sourcebooks Casablanca release, Heart of the Wolf was named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly. Destiny of the Wolf and To Tempt the Wolf are in stores now, and more are on the way: The Legend of the White Wolf (February 2010) and Seduction of the Wolf (August 2010). For more information please visit

"The Plight of the Darcy Brothers" by Marsha Altman

First, I would like to apologize to my followers and occasional visitors alike for my extended hiatus. I have had some personal issues that prevented me from attending my blog as I should have, and I hope that they have been resolved to the point that they do not impact this outlet again.

Over the next few days, I am going to be reviewing several Jane Austen sequels. These are books that have been authored by modern writers and which continue the story of Jane Austen’s books, primarily the big one – Pride and Prejudice.
Today’s review is of one of these sequels; The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman. In addition to being a sequel to the original Pride and Prejudice story, this particular volume is also a the follow-up to The Darcy’s and The Bingley’s, which tells the stories of three couples. Two of these couples are familiar to any Austen or P&P fan – Darcy and Elizabeth and Charles and Jane. The third couple is a creation of Altman’s; Caroline and Daniel.

In this installment, there is much scandal afoot as the least likely of all the Bennet sisters finds herself in deep and irreversible trouble. Mary has fallen in love while abroad in France, and that love resulted in a pregnancy. As this book is set in Regency period England, unwed pregnant women were far from the norm, and were socially ostracized. As were their families. So, it is no surprise that Mary is a little apprehensive about returning to mother England and her family and having to face the inevitable music.

This particular Jane Austin Sequel was full of mystery and drama, with plenty of action and adventure abound. While the level of action may or may not appeal to fans of Austen and the numerous books that have been dedicated to following up on her masterpieces, they do add a bit of dimension to this particular volume that is often lacking in period romance novels.
There are several secrets to be revealed, involving several different key players. Of course, amongst the most important to the story is the identity of the father of Mary’s illegitimate little fetus. However, that is not the only surprise that is in store for readers.

All in all, this particular volume should entertain and enchant Austen lovers, but it is recommended that The Darcy’s and the Bingley’s be read first, as a prerequisite. Doing so will prevent confusion, as this tome builds on that book as well as the original. Overall, this was a 3 star book for me; enjoyable but not the best Austen sequel I have ever read.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Guest Blogger: Donna Lea Simpson

Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy this second guest blog, contributed by guest blogger and paranormal writer Donna Lea Simpson. This is a great introspection into the process of writing, and more specifically of creating new and exciting paranormal worlds. Whether you are an aspiring author yourself, or simply enjoy reading the creations of these creative individuals, you can learn a thing or two about the process in this enlightening guest post. So, read, learn and enjoy. And be on the lookout for my review of Eve of Chaos, the third book in S.J. Day's Marked series, coming later this week!!

(And, I am excited to say, I was lucky enough to score a review copy of Donna Lea Simpson's upcoming novel Lady Anne and the Ghost's Revenge a while back, and that review will also be posted in the relatively near future!!)

Writing the Paranormal – The Difficulties of World-Building

Guest Column for Patricia Ramirez

By: Donna Lea Simpson

My first foray into writing paranormal romances (Awaiting the Moon – Berkley – February 2006) came when I responded to market pressure. I wanted desperately to move from the traditional Regency romances I had written for Zebra/Kensington into longer historical romance novels. I chose, among all the possible paranormal avenues, to write werewolf romances because I could understand, at least, the appeal of werewolf males, where vampires leave me, pardon the expression, cold.

But when I moved into werewolf romances I did not realize that by the second book (Awaiting the Night – Berkley – November 2006) I would have begun to include witchcraft and then… well, it seems that once you begin with paranormal elements, it’s kind of like potato chips, you can’t stop at just one! In planning Book 3, Awaiting the Fire (Berkley – September 2007) I found myself intrigued with the idea of an earthbound werewolf becoming involved with a spiritual, virginal angel. Except that the virginal angel (ancestor of one of the Fallen Angels) was the man and the experienced werewolf the woman. A little odd in a historical, perhaps.
And now I am trying to finish #4, Awaiting the Magic, just to be able to cap off and finish the series for my supremely patient readers who still, two years later, want to know what happens to long-suffering Christoff von Wolfram. It’s not easy while I’m writing another series, planning three more, and attending to other duties, but I’m more than halfway through.

However… how do you know when enough is enough, when it comes to paranormal elements? How do you stay true to your world, and go your own way as a writer? How do you tie all the threads together in a logical fashion? I read a lot of message boards on which romance readers express their dissatisfaction with how weird an author has made their once-straightforward paranormal world. I am trying to be true to the world I created in Awaiting the Moon, and that involves bringing to a natural conclusion a storyline inspired by an original concept.

As I wrote about werewolves, and about Christoff, in particular, who is going through a difficult time without knowing that he is a werewolf (really, I put him through hell, poor guy, one reason I feel compelled to give him the happy ending he deserves), I began to wonder if there would be some who would resist the ‘change’, that moment when the werewolfism kicks in, some time around puberty, in my werewolf world creation. To resist such an elemental part of yourself would warp everything, and so it did for Christoff, whose ‘change’ was delayed by things he wasn’t even aware of, among them being drugged by the villain in the first book. So, in my paranormal world I created the concept of being an ‘unchanged’ or ‘unveraenderte’ (my butchered German); being an ‘unchanged’ has dire consequences of which werewolves superstitiously do not speak. To be one of the ‘unchanged’, having resisted the werewolf change that is a natural part of his soul, means that his physical being will gradually fade until he walks the earth invisible, unable to communicate with anyone.

It’s a horrible thought but it’s a metaphor, my expression of what I feel happens to people when we aren’t true to ourselves, or don’t express our inner selves openly; we fade, until we are just a ghost of our true selves. As Awaiting the Magic is intended to be the final book of the Awaiting series, I have to deal with the consequences of creating that concept, and take it to its natural conclusion for a character I introduced in book #2, Awaiting the Night, and I have to find a way to do that without damaging the integrity of the world I’ve created.
It’s a fine line, for a writer, being true to ourselves and our characters, and yet writing fulfilling, entertaining novels.

To learn more about my novels, visit me at:
Or drop in at my blog, where I have an excerpt of Awaiting the Magic online:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Guest Blogger: "Some Girls Bite" by: Chloe Neill

All of us here at Horror and Fantasy Book Review (ok, it's just me!!) would love to give a big welcome and thanks to Drey over at Drey's Library for contributing the following review for my readers to enjoy! Indeed, Some Girls Bite looks like a great read, and it is one that I am adding to my TRB list! And I would like to encourage all of you who read and enjoy this review to head on over to Drey's Library and look around. Thanks again, Drey!!

drey's thoughts:
Some Girls Bite is one of my birthday presents (yay me!). I ran through it once, and really liked it, but couldn't really put my finger on why. I mean, when you think about it, here's another vampire novel, out of the plethora of vampire novels out there. So I read it again. Good thing I read fast, eh? =)

Merit--she goes by her last name only, and there's no reference to why, other than "it's better than the alternative"--is a newly turned, former graduate student, who lives in the Windy City. In this world, the US vampires are organized into twelve Houses, each with its own Master, each with its own identity. Three of the twelve houses are in Chicago, and Merit now belongs to one of 'em. As far as heroines go, she's not whiny, which is a huge plus in my book. She has strong physical abilities--I'm not sure I like how she's "special" right away, but if it's just one aspect out of the whole Merit picture, I can deal--and gets training in weaponry. From a sorceror who happens to work for her grandfather. Yeah, there are some surprises here.

She's sassy, too, and if you know me, you know I like my heroines sassy. There's nothing better than a healthy dose of sarcasm when confronted with centuries-old vamps who think they know everything, lol! And she has a healthy dose of fear to go along with all this too.

In any case, I like Merit, I want to know what the "alternative" is, and I like the story and characters so far. I want more. =)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"My Forbidden Desire" by Carolyn Jewel

I was fortunate enough to get a review copy of My Forbidden Desire by Carolyn Jewel and to be invited to participate in the blog tour associated with the book. I have to say that I have been getting some pretty hot review copies lately, and My Forbidden Desire was no exception. The cover alone was a good indication that I was going to be getting into some pretty explicit reading, so I wasn’t surprised when that turned out to be the case (and would likely have been had the reading stayed tame). However, the book didn’t start out with any egregious sex or nudity; indeed, it began with a confrontation between two siblings.

In the opening chapter Harsh (star of the first book in this series, My Wicked Enemy), is having a heated discussion with his little sister, Alexandrine. Harsh is doing his best to protect his sister from an evil mage (who happens to be her father); however, Alexandrine is resisting. She is a witch who is used to taking care of herself. Not to mention the fact that she has believed her older brother to be dead for years, and simply isn’t prepared for him to step back into the role of protector so quickly. Unfortunately, he is older, stronger, and unwilling to take no for an answer, and he leaves Alexandrine little choice but to accept his offer of protection.

Making her brother’s intrusion into her life even harder to swallow is the fact that his idea of protection comes in the guise of a warrior named Xia. While Xia owes loyalty to Harsh, he hates witches with every fiber of his being. And when he discovers the truth of Alexandrine’s parentage, she ranks slightly below slime in his eyes. This is because Xia has personal history with the mage who is Alexandrine’s sire, and though he agrees to protect her, it is not entirely willingly.

On top of this, Alexandrine is in the midst of enduring some pretty strange psychological side effects from a talisman she has been wearing for several months. Indeed, it is much like Golem in The Lord of the Rings. She is unable (or unwilling) to take it off, is strangely possessive of it and doesn’t want anyone else touching it, and, (the kicker) it appears to be awakening new and unpredictable magic inside of her.

All of these variables add up to a fiery and tension-charged romance, which is as unpredictable as it is intense. While attempting to protect her life, Xia must come to terms with the depth of his feeling for Alexandrine. And he struggles to reconcile his adoration for her personally with his soul encompassing hatred for what she is, a witch. And Alexandrine must come to terms with her mysterious beginnings in order to fully harness the true power that burns within her being. There are times that you wonder how the two of them can pull it off and still retain the parts of them that make them who they are. All in all, My Forbidden Desire was an entertaining tale of unexpected love. It wasn’t the best book I have read this summer, but it was far from the worst. 3 ½ stars.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"My Forbidden Desire" by Carolyn Jewel GIVEAWAY!!

I am excited to announce that I am hosting a giveaway of the steamy and exciting book My Forbidden Desire by Carolyn Jewel!! The contest will run until July 10th, and I have 5 copies to giveaway. This contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada (sorry, no PO boxes). To enter, just leave a comment either here or on the book review post (to be posted July 1st). If you become (or are already) a follower, you will get an extra entry. Winners will be notified by email, so make sure that your comment includes your email address. Thanks for reading, and good luck all!!!

"Seduce the Darkness" by Gena Showalter

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Seduce the Darkness by Gena Showalter from Pocket Books, and what’s more, I was even invited to participate in a Blog Tour promoting the book. From first glance, it was clear that the book was right up my alley. You know, fantasy, intrigue, mystery, steamy romance. All the good stuff that we look for in a great escapist novel. Not only were the internal ingredients all there, but the book has a great cover. (As you can see in the pic of the cover art that I posted, the cover flaunts a flexed, tatted bicep and rippling back muscles. Sure, you can’t see the fella’s face, but is that really even necessary??)

Seduce the Darkness is Book 6 of Gena Showalter’s critically acclaimed Alien Huntress series, and it is the story of Bride McKellis and Devyn, the unwilling king of the Targon race. She is a vampire, and despite is sexual prowess (ahem…promiscuity), she is not his cup of tea. You see, while Devyn is a great lover of women of all shapes and sizes, colors and species, he is afflicted with a peculiar form of ADD. He cannot seem to get pleasure from bedding the same woman (or women of the same race) more than once or twice. As he so eloquently infers, he would rather do the job himself than go back for seconds.

At their first meeting, the two do nothing for each other. While he is clearly attracted to Bride, when Devyn identifies her as a vamp, his interest wanes. And things are far worse from Bride’s perspective. She sees Devyn as not just insufferable, rude and arrogant; she finds that she cannot manipulate him with her voice as she can everyone else. That coupled with Devyn’s physical attractiveness and bluntly voiced attraction to her is enough to send Bride in the opposite direction as fast as she can go.

Unfortunately, the two are destined to cross paths again. Devyn is hunting an alien fugitive who is carrying a terrible virus. (Think Dawn of the Dead or I am Legend and you’ll get the idea.) And, come to find out, Bride’s blood holds the key to the terrible diseases cure. This truth binds the two together tighter than anything else could possibly have done, and their fates are irrevocably intertwined.

I fell in love with the characters in this one. Despite Devyn’s infallible knowledge of his own beauty and superiority he is charming, and he quickly grows on you. And Bride, she is his perfect counterbalance. Unbending and unwilling to be walked on and/or used like all of the women who came before her, she is clearly his destiny. I really enjoyed Seduce the Darkness, from the beginning (a sad scene from Devyn’s childhood that lays the groundwork for his adult persona) to the climax (which I will not spoil). All in all, I have to give this one four solid stars. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I haven’t even read the first books in the series. That is saying a lot

Monday, June 22, 2009

"The Disappearance if Irene Dos Santos" by Margaret Mascarenhas

I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santosin a giveaway hosted by another blog. I had never heard of the book prior to then, but after the giveaway I began to notice it all over the place. It was touted by critics everywhere, and by the time it arrived I was dying to read it.

When I read the back flap, I got the impression that the book would focus primarily on the disappearance of a teenage girl, Irene Dos Santos (I know, I should have gathered that much from the title) while on vacation with her friend, Lily, and Lily's family; as well the effect that Irene's disappearance had on the remainder of Lily's life. I was wrong.

The story begins as described: Lily is a grown, married woman 8 months pregnant with her first child. After an accident, she is put on bed rest (after staunchly refusing a c-section) to await her son or daughter’s birth. Her family's live-in housekeeper (who has been with the family since Lily was a child) is convinced that someone has given Lily and her unborn child the "evil eye" and that the only way to counter the effects is to perform a 9 night ritual called a Novena, in which family members pray and tell a story about a happy memory for the baby each night.

It is through these nightly stories that Lily's family history unfolds for the reader. The stories are about everything from love, to imprisonment, to the quest for freedom in Venezuela as told by the revolutionaries, of which Lily's father Ismael was a member. We also get a richly detailed lesson in the religious beliefs of the Venezuelan people and indigenous Indian tribes.

Frankly, I had expectations for this book that I didn't feel as though it delivered. I was expecting more focus on the mystery surrounding Irene's disappearance, but felt like that subject became almost a footnote within the scope of a much wider tale. While I enjoyed the book, I felt as though it took an exceptionally long time to go a very short distance, and was left feeling unsatisfied by it's conclusion. Without truly being a spoiler, I can say that the truth of Irene's disappearance is wrapped up in a few short pages.

All in all, while I have to digress that the book was exceedingly well written, I didn't really care for the way that the story flowed. It jumped around in time and from different character's points of view. And, especially at the beginning, it often did so without preamble. If you are looking for a historical novel about the revolution in Venezuela, you will probably really enjoy the richness in which this book tells the tale of hardship, sacrifice, and the endurance of spirit that were prominent throughout. However, if you are looking for a satisfying mystery, this book probably isn't for you. I give The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos 3 1/2 stars.

If The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos sounds like your idea of a good read, please comment on this review for your chance to win my copy. While I enjoyed it, it is not something I want to keep in my personal library. Contest will run until June 30th, and is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Please leave an email address so that I can contact you if you are chosen. Thanks for reading, and good luck!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Bound to Please" by Lilli Feisty

I recently received a review copy of Bound to Please by Lilli Feisty (love the name, right??) from Hachette Book Group. From first glance (the cover bears the picture of a nude woman’s back and profile), I knew that this was going to be a smokin’ read. And I was right.

Bound to Please is the story of Ruby Scott, a seemingly prim, proper, and totally controlling event planner. Of course, Ruby has a secret. She’s not quite as vanilla as she seems. Especially in the bedroom. And when Mark St. Crow meets her at one of the party’s she planned, he can tell this from across the room. Something about her demeanor just shouts “Dominate me!!” Which is what he sets out to do.

Mark is an up and coming musician; his band one of the most popular new acts in the country. He makes no pretenses about what he likes behind closed doors. He is a classic dom. And despite her commandeering demeanor, he recognizes Ruby as an incognito sub. He approaches her almost immediately, and after an intensely erotic encounter, the pair agree to meet after his show to get themselves out of each other’s systems. Unfortunately, rather than being appeased by their incredibly intense night together, the two of them realize that they want more of each other.

With each new encounter, their bond with one another strengthens, and it isn’t long before they realize that they may not be able to let each other go.

All in all, Bound to Please was a quintessential contemporary erotic love story. Please note the use of the work ‘erotic’ in the previous sentence. It is there for a reason. This book was one of the new wave of mainstream, graphic erotica novels that is permeating the romance genre with increasing tenacity. Now, I do not have anything against graphic sexual content in any book. A little know fact about me is that I write and edit erotica. I find it titillating. However, for those readers who prefer their sex scenes to be more about subtlety and innuendo, this book may be a little too explicit and graphic. As far as a rating goes, I give the book 3 ½ stars. The story was good (albeit predictable), but there were times during the my reading of it that I wanted to take out my red editor’s pencil and make some changes to the word choices that were made. And I find it very distracting when I am compelled to start editing a finished, published book.

If you go into the reading of Bound to Please with realistic expectations (i.e., the realization that you are reading a sexually explicit story, and that you already know how it is going to end), you will probably enjoy the ride. It was a great book for escaping reality for a couple of hours.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Homer's Odyssey" by Gwen Cooper

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper a week or so ago. As I have mentioned before, I am more of a fiction buff. However, and perhaps I haven’t mentioned this before, I am also a hugely devoted cat-person. As Homer’s Odyssey is more or less the biography of a blind cat, I was sold. Of course, the book wasn’t exclusively Homer’s biography; it was additionally the memoir of Gwen, his owner and biggest fan.

You may be wondering what could be so interesting about a blind cat. I mean, what does a blind cat do, anyway? I was pleased and surprised to learn that this particular blind cat was able to do anything a cat with perfect vision could do, and more. Homer’s tale began when he was found as an abandoned kitten with a virulent eye infection. His saviors, realizing that his condition was grave, turned him over to their veterinarian, upon learning his prognosis (he will live, but he will be unable to see. His eyes will have to be removed to save his life). After performing the surgery that would both save his life and forever alter his path, the vet began the process of finding a home for the tiny, perhaps 4 week old blind kitten. At first, it seemed like there would be no takers. However, when she contacted Gwen (already mother to two cats), she found the kitten’s new home.

Falling immediately in love with the unfortunate little guy, Gwen sets out on a journey of parenting and devotion that will change the course of her life. In her twenties, and fearful of becoming the crazy cat lady of lore, Gwen and her three cats embark on a journey that will take them from Florida to New York, through several jobs and guys, and build each of their character as a result. Homer’s Odyssey also gives us a unique perspective of the impact of 9/11 on the pet owners close to Ground Zero. It was something I had never considered, but reading Gwen’s recounting of the events made me realize that the aftermath of the horrible day had an impact in ways that I had never even imagined.

In addition to the profound and emotional retelling of the events of 9/11 from the point of view of someone who experienced them first hand, the book is rich with recollections of countless everyday events in Homer’s extraordinary life. From the simple ways he reconciles with his inability to see, and refuses to let it slow him down to the ways that Homer’s blindness impacts him that he doesn’t even realize. (Think sneaking up on your target from the front, and not understanding how they avoid your assault every time.) I challenge you to read Homer’s story and not fall hopelessly in love with this little cat.

All in all, in reading Homer’s story, I became yet another of his devoted fans. And, whether you are a cat person or not, I believe that reading Homer’s story will speak to you profoundly about the endurance of the spirit, whether human or otherwise. I have to give Homer’s Odyssey a five star rating, for both its entertainment value and its ability to induce the tearing up of unsuspecting eyes. (One of my favorite parts was the thumbnail pictures of Homer and his sisters that adorned each new chapter.) I would recommend Homer’s story to pet lovers and memoir buffs alike.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Skin Trade" by Laurell K. Hamilton

~*~Disclaimer: I like the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. I started reading this book knowing that I was going to like it. It is one of my favorite series’, so this review is inherently biased. That being said, if you already hate these books, this won’t be the installment to change your mind. Please take this review in the spirit in which it was written!!~*~

June 2, 2009. After months of waiting, the day finally arrived. And as promised, Skin Trade arrived on the shelf at my local Barnes and Noble. When I had it in my hands, all was right in the world.

Am I being overly dramatic? Perhaps. But I know that I am not the only one who had the date marked on their calendar. The almost empty promotional display at B&N made that pretty obvious. Which was fairly shocking, considering all of the bad press I have been reading about this book. Of course, while reading the negative critiques it was blatantly obvious that they were all written by people with preexisting issues regarding the Anita Blake series or Laurell K. Hamilton in general.

Volume seventeen (can you believe it??) of the Vampire Hunter series begins with Anita receiving a special delivery at her office. More specifically, a severed human head in a box. Gruesome, but not the worst thing she has ever seen. The post mark indicates that it was sent from Las Vegas, so she wastes no time in contacting the Vegas authorities. Upon doing so, she learns that the severed head is related to the brutal slaying of one of Nevada’s finest. At the murder scene a message was written on the wall in the victim’s blood; “Tell Anita Blake I’ll be waiting for her.”

She also learns that the murder wasn’t an isolated incident. Nor is the suspected murderer unfamiliar. It is Vitorro, a master vampire from Anita’s past. Needless to say, she hops the nearest flight west, and dives right into the thick of the investigation. Much to the chagrin of the local law enforcement. And with her old buddy Ted Forrester in tow, along with the rest of the crew from Obsidian Butterfly. We are also reintroduced to the weretigers we met in Blood Noir, as well as the rest of the Vegas clan.

One of the most surprising elements of this installment is that all of Anita’s lovers are practically nonexistent. Neither Micha nor Nathanial get a single line. Jason is regaled to a single scene in one of the early chapters. Jean Claude only gets face time via phone calls, and Richard is referred to only once. There is none of the focus on the triumnuvate that is usually so prevalent. And there are only two graphic sex scenes. It is almost as if Hamilton’s writing style has taken a trip back in time, as this edition more closely resembles the first six or so books in the series; the books that so endeared so many to the Anita Blake series.

While reading this book , I tried to find something about it that was offensive enough or writing of such poor quality to that it would justify any of the hateful things I have seen written about the book or its author. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) I was unable to do so. No, the book wasn’t perfect. Few are. However, it in no way deserved the negative press that it received from readers who have become disenchanted with the series. All in all, I have to give it four stars. And I also feel compelled to give readers some advice. If you do not like a book, whether because of its writing style or because you are offended by its content, you have the option to stop reading it. If it is part of a series, you are not required to continue buying and reading future installments. There is absolutely no reason to publically bash an author simply because what they write is not what you want to read.

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Eve of Destruction" by S.J. Day

After what seemed like forever (but was in reality about a month), I finally got my hands on a copy of Eve of Destruction, which is book two of the new Marked series by S.J. Day. I absolutely loved the first book, Eve of Darkness. It was truly exceptional, especially when you take into account that it was the first book of a new series in the increasingly crowded Urban Fantasy Genre. I am happy to say that the bar that was set in book one was actually exceeded in book two.

At the conclusion of Eve of Darkness, our heroine Evangeline Hollis found herself burned to death by a dragon. In chapter one of Eve of Destruction, she finds herself waking up in her own bed. How is this possible? When your main squeezes are Cain and Abel of biblical fame, you have a little more clout than your average run of the mill mortal. And Eve isn’t about to argue with her return to the realm of the living. With vivid memories of her own death clear in her mind, she has never been more grateful for her new status as a Mark.

With a new lease on life, Eve is quickly whisked away to complete her training as a Mark (along with the rest of the newbies). Upon arrival at the training center, things go bad almost immediately. Eve feels feverish (despite the fact that Marks are not susceptible to human ills) and altogether not herself. Not to mention the fact that one of the Marks-in-training is brutally slaughtered during the first training exercise. With no real clues to go on, the newbies are all on edge. And since there is no love lost between Eve and her classmates (they are jealous of her personal life on several levels), she finds herself becoming a solo detective, and not entirely willingly.

Eve of Destruction was exactly what I hoped it would be and more. Fast paced (but not rushed), exciting, and full of sexual tension between Eve and the two eternally rivaling brothers, it was impossible to put down. One of my favorite aspects of the book was that all of the characters were true to their initial portrayal in book one. It was great to see that neither Cain or Abel was willing to relinquish their struggle with each other or God in order to have an easy relationship with Eve. And that Eve was unwilling to sacrifice any part of herself to be with either brother. Overall, Eve of Destruction gets a five star rating from. I am going to be on pins and needles until Eve of Chaos is released at the end of the month.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Chemical Cowboys" by Lisa Sweetingham

When I started reading Chemical Cowboys, I will admit it was with some trepidation. I am generally a fiction buff, and what I had before me was about as nonfiction as it gets. However, it didn’t take long to realize that the facts uncovered by Lisa Sweetingham were going to weave a story too unbelievable to be anything other than true crime at its most brazen, and more entertaining than fiction for that fact alone.

Chemical Cowboys is the story of a massive ecstasy trafficking ring that is investigated and ultimately brought down by the DEA. Acting on a tip received from an informant, DEA agents Robert Gange and Matthew Germanowski become aquatinted with who they believe is a small time ecstasy peddler. Ecstasy, in the summer of 1995, is seen as a less threatening drug than cocaine, heroin, and marijuana by the DEA, and often referred to as ‘kiddie dope.’ Because it has not gained the status of the harder drugs, ecstasy has been allowed to flow pretty much unfettered through the underground New York nightclubs. The agents begin to realize the scope of the problem when their ‘small time’ dealer offers to score thousands of pills for them. With a street value of upwards of $20 a hit, and promises of an almost limitless supply of pills, the agents know that they have discovered a hugely unacknowledged and potentially dangerous threat.

Sweetingham really pulls out on the stops. The story of the investigation and subsequent prosecution of ecstasy ring kingpin Oded Tuito is told from various points of view and no detail is ignored. Readers will enjoy a history of the pharmaceutical MDMA, which is a drug that was developed for the treatment of severe depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You will also get a brief history of the DEA, as well as an inside look at its operation. The main focus of the book, though, is the influx of ecstasy into the United Stated and the lengths that drug enforcement agents were willing to go to in order to try to curb the problem.

All in all, Chemical Cowboys was a hugely informative and entertaining read. It is a must for lovers of true crime nonfiction and crime novels alike. With Father’s Day closing in (Sunday the 21st of June for those who haven’t been paying close enough attention), Chemical Cowboys would make the perfect gift for anyone’s bookworm dad. Easily four stars.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"One Deadly Sin" by Annie Solomon

I won a copy of One Deadly Sin by Annie Solomon from a giveaway on another book review blog, Chic Book Reviews. I initially heard about the book on that site, and read the review posted there. I was psyched by what I learned, and even more excited when I found out that I had actually won. I waited rather (im)patiently for the book to arrive, and did a little happy dance when the UPS man showed up.

One Deadly Sin is the story of Edie Swann, formerly Eden Swanford, and her return to her childhood hometown of Rosebud, Tennessee. When she was just a little girl, she suffered through her father’s suicide and her mother’s mental collapse. Young Edie is sent to live with her aunt, who eventually reveals the suspicious circumstances surrounding her father’s death. He was accused of embezzling a large amount of money from his employer, the Hammerbilt plant, which is also the small town’s primary employer. Instead of facing the legal repercussions, he jumped to his death in the town’s quarry. However, no one close to him really believed he was capable of theft. Edie’s aunt provides her with a list of names of associates within the company who may have more information.

After her aunt’s death, Edie returns back to Rosebud. By this time she has changed her name and her appearance is nothing like anyone in town would recall. She is a black leather wearing, Harley driving, tatted up biker chick. Immediately upon her arrival she easily secures a job at a local bar. And catches the eye of the local law enforcement; more specifically Holt Drennan. Holt is not only the highest ranking law enforcement official in town, he is also the son of the man on the top of Edie’s list.

As the romance between Edie and Holt intensifies, she is put in the awkward position of bleeding a man that she is coming to care about for information while hiding her true identity. Edie begins distributing little plastic black angels to the men on her list, an homage to the memorial on her father’s grave. And one by one, the black angel recipients begin dying off. Soon Edie realizes that she is no longer playing with them, but that someone is toying with her. And as she becomes the focus of the “black angel” investigation, the secrets of her past come out. When they do, she loses her strongest ally as Holt realizes that she has been deceiving him.

All in all, the book wasn’t bad. It wasn’t as good as I was expecting, but it wasn’t bad. When the mystery was finally solved, I was certainly surprised by the culprit. And the romance between Edie and Holt was steamy (but not too graphic). In my opinion, One Deadly Sin was a 3 ½ star book. Solid, but not spectacular. If you are looking for a good, entertaining summer read, it definitely delivers. Just don’t go into it expecting to be blown away, and you won’t end up being disappointed.

Monday, June 1, 2009

"The Crying Tree" by Naseem Rakha

I don’t always like a book that has me tearing up before page fifty. Of course, when I am reading something called The Crying Tree, I probably should have seen it coming. But...there aren’t many books (no matter how many sappy images are called to mind with the title) that trigger my waterworks. Alas, I was blinking back tears by the end of the sixth chapter. Nowhere near page fifty. And despite the title and the heart-wrenching synopsis on the back cover, I couldn’t help but feel blindsides by the depth of emotion The Crying Tree was already wringing out of me.

The Crying Tree is the story of the Stanley family, and more specifically Irene Stanley, wife and mother of two. Having very reluctantly relocated from her home in Carlton, Illinois, Irene has worked diligently to build a new life for herself and her family. Despite her initial misgivings, in just over a year she has adjusted well to life in the small town of Blaine, Oregon. And her children, eleven year old Bliss and fifteen year old Shep are thriving. Until one night, the family’s newfound happiness is shattered when a robbery gone wrong claims the life of her boy. He is found bleeding to death by his father, who tries unsuccessfully to save his life.

Irene is destroyed. After burying her first born under a tree that seems to weep sap, she sends her daughter back to Illinois to stay with family. She has resolved to remain in Oregon, near her son, at least until his killer is captured and prosecuted. Nine months later, Daniel Robbins has his day in court. He is only nineteen years old, little more than a child himself. When he is led into the courtroom, Irene can’t help but notice that he glares at her husband, Nate, with an inexplicable level of hatred and blatant rage. When all is said and done, Robbins is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. With nothing to do but wait for his execution, Irene and Nate return home to Illinois.

Unfortunately, Shep’s loss scars the family in the irreparable way that only the loss of a child can. Irene turns to alcohol to suppress her emotions, and her entire family suffers. Not least of all Bliss, her surviving child. After an eye-opening confrontation with her daughter, she pulls herself out of her stupor far enough to once again begin caring for herself and her husband. However, Irene knows that she is just going through the motions, that she is trapped in her own hatred. One night, after almost taking her own life, she realizes that the only way out of the prison she has created for herself is to find forgiveness for her son’s murderer, who has spent the last decade rotting in Oregon’s death row. The next day, she finds herself writing a letter to Robbins. After sending it, she feels as though the weight of the world has been lifted from her shoulders, and she begins living anew.

Months later, the unexpected happens. She receives a response from Daniel Robbins. Resisting her initial urge to throw the letter away, she reads it. And to her amazement, finds that Robbins is nothing that she ever expected. From that initial correspondence, an unexpected kinship is born. They exchange letters in secrecy for another almost a decade, until the day that Irene gets a letter that changes everything. A date has been set for Robbins’ execution. This information forces into light Irene’s secret. However, she is not the only one who has been withholding information. In a rage, her husband reveals one of his own. One so big that in a single moment, it warps everything Irene thought she knew about her son, his murder, and her husband.

The Crying Tree is ‘about’ many, many things. However, above all else, what I was able to take away from it was the beauty and power of forgiveness. Because, even though life can be ugly and horrible, we do not have to be. We each possess the power to free ourselves from any self-imposed prisons we may be living in, and we can go on with our lives in any way we choose. Starting now.

I can give this book no less than five very, very enthusiastic stars.

Friday, May 29, 2009

June Giveaway #1

Everyone get excited, because I am giving away my review copies of Annie's Ghosts and Palos Verdes Blue in June!! The contest will run from today until 11:59 PM MST on June 14th. There will be two winners, and all you have to do to enter is comment. Becoming a follower (or currently following) will get you an additional entry. Unfortunately, due to ever increasing shipping costs, I am going to have to limit this giveaway to those with U.S. or Canadian mailing addresses. Please leave an email address where I can contact you.

Oh, and please specify which book you would prefer to win :)

"Palos Verdes Blue" by John Shannon

While I have heard of the Jack Liffey Mystery s, written by John Shannon, I have never read one before. I was fortunate enough to get a review copy of Palos Verdes Blue, which is the eleventh book in the series. I was a little worried that starting on book eleven would put me at a disadvantage, but luckily, that wasn't the case.

Palos Verdes is southern California city. It is also the name of an extremely endangered species of butterfly, native to only a single site on the Palos Verdes peninsula. It is actually the rarest butterfly on earth. And it is the starting point of Jack Liffey's investigation into the disappearance of a high school aged activist, Blaine "Blue" Hostetler. The daughter of his ex-wife's best friend, she has been missing for a couple days, and Jack has been enlisted to find her and bring her home.

His investigation takes him into the often ignored world of poverty that is the reality of the illegal immigrants that live and work in affluent communities of So Cal. There he meets Jaime, a young immigrant fleeing a sordid past of his own. Also, and unbeknownst to Jack, his seventeen year-old daughter Maeve (a classmate of the missing Blue), begins to investigate the disappearance as well. Although facing troubling issues of her own, Maeve soon begins to dig up significant clues, and makes some fairly insightful observations as to the possible location of the missing girl.

I really enjoyed Palos Verdes Blue, which could easily have been a stand-alone novel and not part of a series. I never felt like I was missing anything, however the characters were so richly drawn and believable, I will probably be hunting down books one thru ten simply to delve into their collective pasts, which were alluded to in this installment. In addition to multi-dimensional characters, Palos Verdes Blue was also a very relevant read, with much of its plot focusing on the subject of illegal immigration and the treatment of immigrants in this country. It was a stark reminder that many of us spend a lot of time with our blinders on, blissful in our deliberate ignorance of controversial issues.

On top of all of the rest, Palos Verdes Blue was also a great mystery, with enough red herrings and potential suspects and outcomes to keep you guessing until the end. There was also enough of a cliff hanger at the end (relating to the family drama and such, not the mystery itself) to make me anxious for the release of book twelve. Of course, between now and then I will be able to catch up on the volumes I have missed. Easily a four star read, one I would enthusiastically recommend to anyone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Jesse's Girl" by Gary Morgenstein

I received Jesse’s Girl by Gary Morgenstein for review yesterday. While I was intrigued, I wasn’t particularly hopeful that it was going to be much of a page-turner. Was I ever wrong. I really got into the story from the very beginning. As I come from a family that has had its own issues with addiction and chemical dependence, it is possible that I was able to better relate to the characters in this novel, thus making it more real to me.

The premise of the book centers on Teddy Mentor and his sixteen year old adopted son, Jesse. Jesse has been sent away to a wilderness program in rural Montana in a last ditch effort to put an end to the drug problems that have plagued him for years. The problems escalated after the death of his adopted mother (and Teddy’s soon to be ex wife), and had reached a point where Teddy had to admit he was incapable of controlling or protecting his child. With nowhere else to turn, he entrusts his only child to the professionals at the Mountain Wilderness Center.

Big mistake. Not two weeks later he gets a 1AM phone call. His son is missing. Risking his job, he books a flight away from Brooklyn and towards his son. After a couple days of searching, he gets the break he needs and tracks his son to a bus stop in Illinois, en route to Kentucky to meet his long-lost birth sister (whom Jesse leads Teddy to believe is his long-distance girlfriend). Jesse swears up and down that he is done with the drugs; in that convincing way all users seem to have. However, it isn’t long before Teddy notices that he is missing some of his antidepressants and that his son occasionally reeks of beer. Jesse’s lies come to a head when he OD’s on heroin in the middle of the night while sharing a hotel room with his dad.

Torn between institutionalizing Jesse for his own good and joining him on his trek to meet his ‘girlfriend’, Teddy relents and the two continue on to Kentucky. When they arrive at Theresa’s, they are introduced to her ‘brother’ Beau. Beau is actually Theresa’s abusive husband, and within a few hours he and Jesse get into a particularly brutal altercation that ends with Jesse stabbing him. This unintentional act of violence spurs a run from the law that leads Teddy and Jesse into the heart of Jesse’s birth family. It also forces the two to address the issues that have destroyed their relationship.

Jesse’s Girl was a very unexpected read. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. Not only was it an emotional family drama, it was also full of action and even (a little) romance. I easily give it five stars.