Book Reviews

Below are a few of my book reviews.  Contact me if you would like me to do a review for you.

Vaempires: Revolution by Thomas Winship
Cover - Vaempires: Revolution by Thomas Winship
So, whether anyone likes it or not, I have been waiting for someone, who doesn't want to turn vampires into sex symbols, to do something original. Ya know, maybe make them a little horrifying? It's fine if you want to turn them into men and women with tons of emotion and angst, I can respect that too, but I just, sometimes get tired of it. I love horror. I love heroic fantasy. I love originality. I got a little bit of all of the above in Vaempires: Revolution by Thomas Winship. Who would have thought that vampires could be fun to read about again! 

Here is a description right from the authors website:

"It is the morning of Princess Cassandra's sixteenth birthday. Everyone's attention is focused on the heir to the vampire throne. World leaders, the rich and famous, and VIPs from every corner of the globe have gathered in the nation's capital to celebrate the momentous event.

Cassandra's boyfriend, Daniel, is late for the party. He's still outside the city when all hell breaks loose. What he believes is an act of terrorism proves to be a full-fledged revolution. Væmpires--former vampires who mutated into warm-blooded creatures with an insatiable hunger for cold blood--have launched coordinated attacks across the globe, with three goals: the eradication of humanity, the enslavement of vampires, and the ascension of væmpires as the dominant species on the planet.

The vampire and human leaders are killed. Cassandra is missing. Daniel is the acting king. Desperate to find the princess, Daniel and his friends fight their way across the besieged city. With the hopes of the free world resting on the shoulders of four vampire teenagers, væmpires unleash their secret weapons: a new breed of væmpire that is far deadlier than any ever seen before.

What can four teens do against an enemy that can shape-shift, fly, and walk through walls?"

So, first...I loved this book! Mr. Winship gets right to the action, in medias res, and the coup is in full force. I didn't need to slug through exposition explaining what vaempires are and where they came from. I got to learn all about it while the story moves quickly along. I don't mind exposition when it is meted out to me, as in Vaempires, but when it is thrown at me like an info dump, I tire of it really quickly. Mr. Winship was very careful about how he explained the world that existed in his book and made me more and more interested as I read. This a show of great talent and I was really impressed.

Next, I loved the characters in this book. Cassandra, heir to the throne, is a powerful female lead character. I have to give Mr. Winship credit for putting together a female lead that is vulnerable but doesn't roll over when she is faced with some impossible situations. She doesn't need a bad-ass male character to save her. I also really like Daniel who is so desperate to find Cassandra. He is just the very bad-ass male character I was talking about before, but he's so cool, and the situations that he finds himself in are so harrowing, I was rooting for him all the way to the end.

One of the things that I liked about this book, that may not be to everyone's liking, was that it was filled with the bloody violence you would expect when vampires battle mutated vaempires. I liked it because Mr. Winship did not flinch when he wrote the book. He didn't worry that everyone wouldn't like the violence. I like that in a writer. Bravery. This is definitely an adult book in the violence department, though it is about teenagers.

Last, I must give Mr. Winship high marks in originality. He has a "rescuing the princess" plot and gives it a twist because it's about vampires. This twist has taken both the vampire story and the princess captivity story and given them both a great shot in the arm. Really original!

The only thing that I didn't like about this book was the ending. Without giving away the plot, I'll just say that the story didn't come to a satisfactory close for me. It is obvious that the story can and will continue, but it could have had a better "wrapping up" of events, in my opinion.

No matter, this book Vaempires: Revolution is a great time and I would recommend it to anyone who loves horror, heroic fantasy, and something that combines the two into a purely original way. Mr. Winship has a new fan and his name is me. 

The Portrait of Alatiel Salazar by Steven Katriel

I was given the priviledge of reading an advanced copy of a novella that gave me the creeps, so naturally, I want to share it with you. I was provided an advanced copy by Immortal Ink Publishing. The book is called “The Portrait of Alatiel Salazar” by Steven Katriel. I can’t recommend this story enough. It is a fantastically foreboding story with a wholly unique plot.

Here is the description of the book from Immortal Ink’s website:
When Gabriel Holland’s beloved Helena vanishes from his life, he journeys to the home of disgraced artist Cristian Salazar, the man he holds responsible for her disappearance and the death of several friends. Once in the town of Carliton, Gabriel finds only malice and mystery in the tales told by the few brave enough to speak ill of Salazar and the sinister Cousin Beatriz. And within shadows, in the guise of night, walks Alatiel, the creature Helena has become. . . .

Here is what I liked about this novella:

Characters: The characters that inhabit “The Portrait of Alatiel Salazar” are so real that you can feel the threat of the situations befalling them, and actually care that it is happening. This is a special treat for me. Truth be told, I do not like period pieces and this one is set in the 1880’s. I am not a big history buff. It bores me. So a writer of a period novella will have to go the extra mile to make characters so believable, I think I know them. Mr. Katriel has peopled his story with great characters. I especially love the enigmatic Cristian Salazar, who was built to legendary status by the time I met him in the book. I wanted to know what this guy was all about. I was not disappointed. Mr. Katriel has earned me as a loyal reader because of his characters.

Mood: The mood that Mr. Katriel creates in his writing reminds me of Peter Straub in the early years. In this story, a cemetery is overgrown with wildflowers and nettles around the tombstones, “ disturb the sterile dignity of the dead.” Birds make sounds that “...eerily sound like human voices/.” There is so much more that bring a an eerie mood to this story. I fear revealing too much.  Creating a proper mood for the story is a hard thing for a writer to do unless they are truly thinking about it all of the time. Again, Mr. Katriel hits it out of the park with this.

I have nothing but praise for Steven Katriel’s haunting tale. On one part it actually kept me up, and I had to watch a little TV in order to put myself to sleep. Writer’s are hard pressed to be able to do that to me anymore after all of the sinister stories I have read in my life. That is why I would recommend “The Portrait of Alatiel Salazar” to anyone who likes their reads a little on the creepy side. Pick it up as soon as possible!

Mirrors of Anguish by R. P. Kraul

People who know me, know that I like to be scared. It has always been this way: movies, books, I even used to have a subscription to“Famous Monsters of Filmland.” Fortunately, recently,  I was given the priviledge to read a book that gave me chills. Do yourself a favor and read “Mirrors of Anguish” by R. P. Kraul, especially if you are a fan of the horror genre. In my humble opinion, Mr. Kraul’s book is a fantastic and scary addition to the literary horror genre. It simply rocks!

Here is the description straight from the publisher, Immortal Ink Publishing:

"Young reporter Jill Duport returns to Belcorte, Pennsylvania, intending to sell the Victorian house that once belonged to her grandparents—the house where her grandfather allegedly mutilated and murdered a teenage girl. The house where he committed suicide.

The mystery surrounding the murder-suicide traps Jill in this small town in the Pocono Mountains. Knowing her grandfather was thought of as a serial killer by some is not enough for Jill. She wants to know why, twenty years after his death, the murders have continued.

What was her grandfather’s connection to the sadistic madman known as the Indianhead Reservoir Killer?

As Jill unravels the mystery of her grandfather, she draws herself closer to the killer, who has waited for decades to unleash his vengeance on Belcorte. His female victims are vessels for his feral children, and when Jill unknowingly enters his furtive lair, he decides to put in motion his 
sadistic plan to destroy the town."

Here's why I like it:
Kraul is great at giving his characters life. I completely believed in these people. There is nothing scary about cardboard characters, traipsing around in cardboard scenes. Kraul does none of this. His characters, like the main character Jill, are scarred with real background and family history that will make you feel like you know them.  From the first line, “The air in Belcorte, Pennsylvania tasted like death” I was hooked into the point of view of the main character Jill, who inherits her grandfather’s old house from her mother, who has just died. Oh…did I mention that her grandfather was a murderer who commited suicide after he murdered a young girl, in the house with some pretty heinous cutting tools? As things unwind in Jill’s life, I found myself unable to put this book down. There were just as many characters I could not stand in this book. Not because they were ill thought out, but because they were so well thought out, I wanted to hate them. Kraul rocks in the character department!

Kraul is also very good at something that most horror writers are not good at, setting and tone. In "Mirrors": Death “stains memories with coal-dust gloom,” trees are not just standing trees but “tangled, hunching trees,” and flames are so loud they are like “a platoon of soldiers beating drums.” Kraul’s descriptions are right on the money, and the places and mood of this story creeped me out, sending shivers down my back at times. He is really that good at the crafting of this spooky tale. It made me look around me more than one time while I sat in the dark, reading at night. Don’t know if there is a Belcorte, Pennsylvania and don’t want to know. Kraul has made sure I will never visit there. I’m too afraid of what I might find.

There are a lot of characters in this novel, so do not go into this with your brain checked out. Kraul has done something that many writers are not good at, and know it. He has populated his book. It has a citizenry. Even his minor characters have life. This is the most important thing to me. Character is what drives a book and what makes everything that happens to them harrowing. Without characters I can care about, I would have dropped this book like yesterday’s news. Fortunately, I wished the book would go on, I cared that much.

So , if you like a good scare, if you like to cringe a little when you read because your afraid of what the next page holds, if you like the horror genre and feel like it has been given a bum rap lately, R. P. Kraul is your man! And “Mirrors of Anguish” is your book. Thanks Mr. Kraul for making reading fun again!

The Forever Girl by Rebecca Hamilton

Since I was gifted this e-book by the author herself and it is her birthday, I wanted to say a couple of things about her book. She is a special author and this is a special book. I liked it a lot, though I never thought I would. I had committed to reading it, but  I wasn't sure that it was for me. Urban paranormal romance? I had tried everything in this genre before.  Charlaine Harris. Stephanie Meyers. It was all kind of trash to me. Poorly written drivel. So, with "The Forever Girl"  I just didn't think I was going to enjoy it. However, as it turns out, I was happily proven wrong by "The Forever Girl" by Rebecca Hamilton. 

Here is the synopsis of this novel as provided by the author (I wan to be careful not to give more of the plot away than the author is willing)

"Sophia Parsons’ family has skeletons, but they aren’t in their graves... 

Solving the mystery of an ancestor’s hanging might silence the clashing whispers in Sophia's mind, but the cult in her town and the supernaturals who secretly reside there are determined to silence her first. 

As Sophia unknowingly crosses the line into an elemental world full of vampire-like creatures, shapeshifters, and supernatural grim reapers, she meets Charles, a man who becomes both lover and ally. 

But can she trust him? 

It’s not until someone nearly kills Sophia that she realizes the only way to unveil the source of her family's curse: abandon her faith or abandon her humanity. If she wants to survive, she must accept who she is, perform dark magic, and fight to the death for her freedom. "

So let me break down why I liked "The Forever Girl" 

-Characters: Rebecca Hamilton understands her character deeply. This is the thing that will make it or break it for me with an author. Books are about people or at least quasi-people with human motivations. Ms. Hamilton gets the motivation just right. Many people completely blow first-person characterization. Not Ms. Hamilton. She has chosen the right character through which to tell this story. She seems to know her main character, Sofia, inside and out.  The chemistry between Sofia and Charles is fantastic and they seem to be real. This is the main thing I look for in novels. If I don't care about anybody, I will put it down quick. I wanted them to get together and that is a hard thing for me to admit. I'm a guy! Most women would think that Charles is hot. Sorry ladies, but Sophia has go it goin' on! 

-The History: I really get bored with flashbacks. Stories should be going forward and if they flashback too much, I am completely out of the story. It takes a deliberate author to make sure that I do not get bored by the history they try to portray. Ms. Hamilton has this completely under control, like she knew I was going to be bored if she wasn't careful. Her history in this book is so interesting, I couldn't put it down. Her story has a very detailed and captivating "why" as to the reason that everything in the story is occurring and I cared about it. In the end, that's all that matters. I cared about it.

-The Creatures: No one has to agree with me (and I would prefer that people didn't always agree with me), but the vampire genre, at least the vampire books that everyone keeps churning out, have become exhausting and boring. I tire of them. It was one of the reasons that I wasn't sure about "The Forever Girl."  I was wrong again, because Ms. Hamilton has given the paranormal/romance/fantasy a shot in the that it desperately needed. The creatures in this novel are not your typical vampires and werewolves. There is a pretty deep mythology surrounding them. I was amazed.

-The Theme: One of the themes that found its way into this novel was that of acceptance and the evils of too much moral righteousness. There is nothing wrong with morality. However, there is something wrong with morality used as a baseball bat to club the life out of people. This book addresses this and I have to commend the writer on this theme. 

This book was a joy to read! As a guy, I don't believe that I enjoyed it this much. It was wholly believable to me, though it was a paranormal fantasy. Would I reccommend this book? Without any reservation, I would tell anyone ( of the rated R type of mentality, because there are some scenes that are only for those people. this is definitely not Young Adult fiction or for those squeamish of a sex scene) to download this book or pick up the hard copy from Amazon. It is so good, you will read it one sitting. I kid you not!

Oh and one more thing...HAPPY BIRTHDAY REBECCA!!!!! (It's on March 13th) and for that day, all of the proceeds that she earns from the sales of her book will go to fund Autism Awareness. It is such a great cause, so support her in this endeavor!

Find Rebecca on Twitter (@inkmuse) she is a wholly pleasant person to interact with. 

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