Category Archives: Reviews

‘Tis the Season for Sleeping

The holidays and winter are amongst us and with the recent first snow of the season, staying indoors or exploring outside are exciting ways to pass the day.  However, after exerting all of the energy, a time for napping sounds splendid, whether short power naps or “hibernation naps” lasting for hours and hours.

Here is a list featuring some parodies of children’s titles, now revised for adult audiences:

Goodnight Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown

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Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortés

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Goodnight iPad: A Parody for the Next Generation by Ann Droyd

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All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John

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If You Give a Kid a Cookie, Will He Shut the F**k Up? by Marcy Roznick and Miranda Lemming

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The Taking Tree: A Selfish Parody by Shrill Travesty and Lucy Ruth Cummins

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If you find yourself bored, needing to escape the world before falling asleep, check out one of these titles from your local library or have it requested to be sent from another branch.

 

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Micah, Shively Branch

Five Recently Published Picture Books

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The Bear’s Sea Escape by Benjamin Chaud

We meet Papa Bear and Little Bear again in this follow up to Benjamin Chaud’s The Bear’s Song. This time instead of hunting for his cub throughout an opera house, Papa Bear tails him from a snowed-in city to a faraway tropical island. Saturated colors and mountains of details to wade through make for a delightful picture book not just to read but study.

 

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Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap

The Big Bad Wolf has his work cut out for him after encountering a pint-sized girl on her way to Grandmama’s house. Very Little Red Riding Hood insists on calling him “Foxie”, she refuses to share her delicious cakes, and throws more than one tantrum before they even reach their destination. Heapy and Heap rearrange a classic in the most adorable way possible.

 

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Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Explore the world outside at night in this brilliant and original wordless picture book by the author of Inside Outside. With the aid of a flashlight, we are shown contrasting color scenes that splice through the black and silver darkness.

 

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Pig and Small by Alex Latimer

Friendship isn’t always easy, and Pig and Bug almost give up on theirs due to having incompatible sizes. They come to realize there are more things they can do together than can’t.

 

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Digger Dog by William Bee

Put on your hard hat and join Digger Dog in his hunt for a bone that turns out to be much bigger than expected. Rhyming text and fold out pages make for an engaging read with a surprise ending.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

 Reviewed by Natalie, Main Children’s

Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music by Angélique Kidjo with Rachel Wenrick

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Put on an Angélique Kidjo album.  Listen to her voice – honest, powerful, and expressive.  Open her autobiography, Spirit Rising:  My life, My Music, and hear her tell the powerful story that made the little girl from Benin, in West Africa, into the international artist and activist she is today.

She tells her story simply, but there is great depth to her understanding of human rights issues in Africa and throughout the world.  Several themes pervade her life.

One is family. Her relationships as daughter, sister, wife and mother are portrayed as sustaining her throughout her life and career.  She grew up as 1 of 10 children; her father was a postal worker and her mother ran a theater company.  Music and conversation were abundant at her house. She was a child who asked a lot of questions and never lost the original sense of injustice she felt when she learned about slavery and apartheid.

The music she hears as a child was often intertwined with the civil rights movements in Africa and America in the 1960’s and 70’s.  She hears Miriam Makeba, “Mama Africa,” whose South African citizenship was revoked because of her activism against apartheid.  Makeba becomes her role model and eventually her mentor and friend.  Aretha Franklin is the first woman she sees on an album cover, and she realizes it’s possible to have a career in music.

Her exploration of how Africa influenced music throughout the world is another theme in her music and her life.  Through different albums she explores traditional music of Africa and the fusion of African music with the music of other cultures in the Americas.

As her career progresses, she performs at concerts to bring attention to injustices in Africa.  She’s asked to be a UNICEF ambassador.  She tells of visits to refugee camps, orphanages and villages without adequate nutrition.  “The work for UNICEF inspired my music and my music helped me recover from these trips,” she writes.

As a result of this work, she founded the Batonga Foundation to educate girls in Africa.  Her parents paid to send all their daughters to secondary school, which was unusual in Benin at the time.  She credits her family with giving her the benefits of an education and wants to pass it on.  “The solution to Africa’s problems must be provided by Africans who have experienced them firsthand, especially the African women, who are the continent’s backbone,” she writes.

This book is beautiful, including the gorgeous black and white photo of Kidjo on the cover. It’s printed on shiny paper and contains publicity shots from Kidjo’s albums, candid pics in the studio, and shots of her with her family.  Each chapter begins with colorful African patterns on the left-hand page and African motifs are used throughout.  A wonderful surprise at the end is the inclusion of the personal recipes Kidjo refers to making for family and friends throughout the book.  Spirit Rising invites us into Angélique Kidjo’s life with African hospitality.

The library currently has the following CD’s and DVD by Angélique Kidjo:

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Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Laura, Main Library

Living the Good Long Life by Martha Stewart

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I love a good piece of non-fiction that makes learning easy and understandable, and Ms. Martha Stewart has never let me down in putting out quality material, in an easy to understand format.  She’s really on her editing game as of the last few titles, especially Living the Good Long Life.

The subject of this book is how to live the best life you can after 40 and through retirement.  It has great tips for physical and mental health, finances, eating, organizing, and how to care for older relatives.  The book was written for those who are retired, and those who take care of retirees.  It is a great go-to for referencing anything that could happen to those 40 and older.

The layout is clean and simple, with chapter breakdowns that are easy to flip through, and an index in the back for specific look ups.  This is a great resource to have in the house, and is a great title to include in any family library.  In fact, it’s quite a cheery looking book, with all kinds of muted oranges and white…kind of like a Creamsicle.

You probably won’t need to read this cover to cover; and might only find yourself looking at certain sections that apply to you and your family – and that’s what it’s set up for.  You can look at each chapter independently, and still get all the information you need, without having to read the entire book – and it’s a bigger one; coming in around 400 pages.  The text is clear and easy to read, but do expect you may have to read it to retirees with bad eyesight – as there is no large print version.  If you’re over 40, or have a family member over 40, I highly recommend reading and referencing Living the Good Long Life.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), eBook

Reviewed by Lynette, Newburg Branch

The Malory family series by Johanna Lindsey

Everyone in the world really should have that ONE book, that ONE series, or that ONE absolutely amazing author who inspires them in some way or another.  That inspiration can come to you in so many forms, such as:

  1. to actually go out and write the great American novel yourself (or romance novel in my case),
  2. to read more books, either by them or by others, and to do it voraciously, as reading really is a passion in and of itself, or
  3. to journey halfway around the world to visit all the places that the author talks about in the books you treasure so much.

Well in my case, I can say that I got very lucky on that whole deal because all three of my ONES fit very nicely together in one lovely little package by the name of Johanna Lindsey.  She is one of the reasons that I finally MADE myself work a second job long enough to save up enough money to fly off to the British Isles, just to see some of those places she described so perfectly for most of my life.  We are talking Bath in England, Hyde Park and the horse paths, and all the way up to the Highlands of Scotland.  Now all of those things are officially checked off my bucket list of places to go.

Johanna is very much, at least to the yearning heart of that 18 year old girl I used to be (and still feel like sometimes), fresh out of high school and picking up that very first of her novels, the absolute queen and goddess of all things historic romance.  It was my graduation trip, and only my second time flying ever, and when we landed I insisted we go to a book store sometime during the trip so I could get more of her books.  My love for her work was that instant and my suitcase was packed full with more than just souvenirs coming home.

This love has also lasted longer than all of my other relationships put together.  No one will ever top her in my eyes, and none should ever try.  It is just that simple.  Johanna is and always will be the absolute queen of my reading universe.

That first book by Lindsey that I ever read is, even still, my absolute favorite historic of hers, and possibly of all time.  Just for the iconic factor of it alone, it was also Fabio’s first cover.  Wanna see it?

Fabio

 

And look at him…a brunette!

Believe me, to this day, Johanna is still the one lady he cannot say no to if she requests the honor of his presence for one of her covers.  This particular book is the second in one of her many ‘family sagas’ but not the one I want to tell you about today.  It’s good, but it is, by far, NOT her most iconic, either book or series.

So, which series do I want to tell you about today?  Well, it is Johanna’s longest running, perhaps her most popular.  Set throughout England, but mostly in London, and often traveling to the high seas with both pirates and merchant ship owners in the same family. The adventures of the Malory family sweeps through multiple generations of rakes, rogues, and strong, stand up for themselves, heroines.  It also sweeps through the fantasies of many a hopeless romantic reader out there, including myself.

Have you ever met one of those families that truly put the fun in dysfunction?  Well if you were to set that idea in England, beginning in the early 19th century, you would have the Malory family.

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The series begins with the book Love Only Once and is the story of Regina Malory, a most beloved child. She is the niece to the four super-protective Malory brothers who would all be happy if she never married since no one is good enough for her, and who have all contributed to raising her since her parents passed away.

She’s an orphan but has never wanted for familial love as the brothers and her cousins have doted on her, and spoiled her, all in different ways her whole life.  The only thing she really wants for is the love of a man who is not related to her by blood.  Regina sets her cap quite firmly for one of the biggest rakes in all of London, Nicholas Eden.

She decides this, oddly enough, after he kidnaps her by mistake and, even worse, seduces her and then sends her away.  Nicholas doesn’t seem to want anything to do with Reggie (as most of the relatives call her) though.  Other than that night passion and seduction, it is unclear whether he’s attracted to her or not.

James Malory (bk 3, Gentle Rogue), the black sheep of the family as well as the infamous pirate Captain Hawke,  upon hearing of Reggie’s seduction and shaming in London’s gossiping society, seeks out Nicholas and gives him the worst beating of his life.  Talk about bitter blood, and with someone who will, eventually, be part of your family.

James, the epitome of the ne’er-do-well rakehell, has his own drama along the way.  One instance of this is when he runs into his 12 year old illegitimate son Jeremy (bk 7, A Loving Scoundrel) at a pub where the boy is working.  He’s not really all that surprised by the discovery. But James’ rakish ways are quickly curtailed when he falls hard and fast for a spitfire American shipping heiress by the name of Georgina Anderson.

And have I mentioned Uncle Tony (bk 2, Tender Rebel), the other unapologetic rake in the family?  He is one of only three in the whole bunch who take after the long lost gypsies of the family from generations back. Tony falls head over heels in love with Roslynn, the beautiful red-haired Scotswoman who’s on the run from a controlling family member bent on marrying her off (and stealing her rather large inheritance in the process).

Sound a little confusing yet?  And this is just the first full ‘generation’ of stories, because Johanna just keeps getting putting out more and more of those juicy details about this ‘family’ to end all families.  For crying out loud, it’s like the National Enquirer, only set 200 years ago, there’s so much scandal and drama that runs through this family tree.

To ease any confusion, here is a list of Malory family novels in order:

1. Love Only Once (1986)
2. Tender Rebel (1988)
3. Gentle Rogue (1991)
4. The Magic of You (1994)
5. Say You Love Me (1996)
6. The Present (1998)
7. A Loving Scoundrel (2004)
8. Captive of My Desires (2006)
9. No Choice But Seduction (2008)
10. That Perfect Someone (2010)
11. Stormy Persuasion (2014)

If you do decide to read Lindsey, and I highly recommend that you do, don’t just stop with the Malory clan.  There are so many stories she has written.  There are so many families to enjoy – ranging from London, up into Scotland, to as far west as the American West, and even a futuristic family on an alien planet.  Lindsey is so much more than just a ‘fluffy brain candy’ writer as so many think that romance authors are.  She can spin a mean tale of love, sex, and scandal like so very few others really can.

 

Formats Available: Book (Regular, Large Print), eBook, Audiobook

Reviewed by Tracie, Southwest Branch

The Florida Panhandle: Where Myth, Magic, and Reality Meet: A review of Man in the Blue Moon (2012) by Michael Morris

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In his third novel, Man in the Blue Moon, Mr. Morris presents the reader with Ella Wallace, a woman burdened by a promising past that went unrealized and a present dominated by the responsibility of raising three sons alone and the possible foreclosure on her family’s long-held land.

When her wayward husband, Harlan, disappears one day, and a local banker informs her of a second mortgage, hitherto unknown to her and signed with a forged signature, the situation could not be more dire. Or so Ella believes, that is until the arrival of a shipping crate in which unusual contents have been enclosed: that of a man claiming to be a cousin of her absent husband. This stranger, named Lanier Stillis, claims to be on the run from influential and violent in-laws who are convinced of his guilt in the death of his wife, a death with which Lanier claims no involvement. Despite Ella’s trepidation and distrust, Lanier offers her his much-needed assistance that includes his miraculous healing of her sickly son by means of “laying on of hands,” something that does not go unnoticed by her neighbors in the small town of Dead Lakes, Florida.

This situation is further complicated by the arrival of Brother Mabry, a charismatic preacher of grotesque proportions, who claims that the Wallace family land is the location of the biblical Garden of Eden, and the spring found therein to be capable of physical healing, a claim that leads to national attention that is neither needed nor wanted. Serving as the backdrop upon which the story is hung, the year is 1918 and despite the end of the First World War, which would have otherwise been great cause for celebration, an especially virulent form of the flu has begun spreading around the county causing widespread deaths, thus, putting an end to jubilation.

Deeply rooted in the Southern literary tradition, Mr. Morris weaves an engrossing tale involving well-researched historical fact, the unique setting of the Florida Panhandle, and his own family folklore, all of which are then whisked together with that essential ingredient of fine fiction: fanciful imagination. And for those readers interested primarily in plot, disappointment does not await, as the plotline progresses through twists and turns, disappointments, and fleeting victories resulting in the need to reach the denouement, whether it be tragedy or triumph. This is due, in great part, to the skill employed by Mr. Morris in vividly crafting characters that the reader can immediately picture and who are plausible. Characters in this story elicit emotion, drawing the reader in to the lives that are being chronicled.

Which characters will survive the 1918 Influenza Pandemic? Do the detestable antagonists emerge victorious, or does the side of good and right triumph? What was the fate of Harlan? Over the course of the novel, the reader develops a relationship of sorts with the characters, being both omniscient observer and concerned participant. In the end, Ella seems more friend than fictitious personage.

Other novels by Mr. Morris include:

placecalledwiregrass

slowwayhome

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type and Large Type), eBook

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Rex Mundi by Arvid Nelson

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Rex Mundi (which is Latin for “King of the World”) is set in the 1930’s in an interesting, highly detailed world similar in many ways but very different from ours.  For instance, magic exists, the Protestant Reformation never happened, the Confederate States were never defeated, and an Islamic state still exists on the Iberian Peninsula.  One thing which is the same is a creeping darkness of the times with war clearly just over the horizon.

The protagonist, Dr. Julian Sauniere, stumbles into a conspiracy that reaches back to the earliest days of the Catholic Church.  Early issues of this series were published before The Da Vinci Code and share with it similar themes about the politics of the Catholic Church and the question of Jesus’ bloodline.  Along the way, Julian finds himself in conflict with the Duke of Lorraine, the most powerful man in France – perhaps even the whole of Europe.

The Duke is plotting to grab power by riling up the French population in ways similar to a certain German dictator of our world though his scapegoats are the Muslims of Europe.  Julian gets captured by the Inquisition along the way but manages to escape with the help of Genevieve Tournon, the Duke’s personal physician and Julian’s ex-lover.  The two flee in search of the Holy Grail, which may or may not be an ultimate weapon, with the Duke and his forces hot on their trail.

Do they succeed?  Or does the Duke overtake them?  And what really is the nature of the Holy Grail?

You’ll just have to read the series to find out.

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Along the way stop to savor the art.  Over the series, there were three different artists but each had a similar enough style that there are no abrupt disruptions of the narrative due to the changes.  The art is what I call “comic book realism.”  There is a good deal of detail with sharp lines and clear, somewhat muted colors.  The figures and scenery look real but not so real that you would call them photographic or painterly (such as in the works of Alex Ross).  It still looks like a comic book but without the exaggeration found in some of the genres (such as superhero or fantasy).

At first the emphasis is more on deep blacks in the figures and in the design elements.  There are large blocks of ebony both within and around the panels.  This leads to the gutters (the space between panels) being negative ones, pushing the scene up from the all black background.  When they are not negative, gutters are often shades of gray, reinforcing a sense of gloom and mystery.  Later in the series there is a wider palette of colors used so that the panels take on a distinct shape against – rather than just bleeding into – the stark black that continues to be the background of most pages.  The colors pop more as the emotions of the characters intensify.  Towards the series’ end, the heavy lines used by the inker to delineate forms becomes softer so the wider range of colors stands out all the more.

To reserve a copy today, click here.

Formats Available: Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Tony, Main Library

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat is the extraordinary tale of the intricate tapestry of people whom inhabit a small town in Haiti. The book is titled after a young girl who is raised by her father after her mother dies in child birth. The father is very unsure of his capabilities of parenting a young girl and each year on her birthday, he tries to give her to a local fabric store owner. The beginning of the story recounts each of Claire’s birthdays in a descending order, which later sets up the other characters stories to be weaved into this tapestry.

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After we learn of Claire’s story, Danticat begins to weave other characters stories into the tapestry of this town. We learn of the story of the wealthy fabric store owner whose life has been nothing but tragedy throughout, and also the poor gang member who is falsely accused of murder and is subsequently murdered only days later. We are also told the story of a young boy who escapes the small town, but comes back to face a father that no longer understands his life.

The sea becomes a major character in many of the citizens’ lives, and symbolizes the fragile nature of life as well. In many tales of the book both a birth and a death happen in the town concurrently again demonstrating the fragility of life. The book feels like a collection of fables, but Danticat succeeds in weaving a beautiful tapestry of the townspeople. Through both tragedy and hope, it is hard not to identify with many of the novel’s characters by the end of the tale.

Formats Available:  Regular Type, Large Type, eBook, Playaway, CD

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone

When you’re scared of taking risks everyday life obstacles can seem overwhelming.  That was what life was like for Emily.  She didn’t like being the center of attention or going to parties or really anything involving people.  She liked cross county because she loved running with her thoughts and being alone.  That was before Sloane moved to town.  Sloane was brave and vibrant and exhilarating- everything Emily was too afraid to be.  Emily loved to be known as “Sloane’s friend” even to people who had known Emily her whole life but had just met Sloane.  It didn’t bother Emily that Sloane got all the guys, all the attention, and all the glory.  Emily liked being boring.  But then Sloane vanishes without a trace.

Emily shows up like always to Sloane’s house and finds no one is there.  Just as quickly as she had come into Emily’s life two years earlier Sloane was gone.  The only sign that Sloane had existed at all was a cryptic letter which shows up at Emily’s house a week after Sloane disappears.  It isn’t a ransom note or an explanation of what happened, it’s a list.  A list of several things Emily feels quite sure she will never be brave enough to do such as pick apples at night, kiss a stranger, and go skinny dipping!

As the days tick by and Emily’s perfectly planned summer is ruined by loss and confusion she makes a decision that completing the list might bring her closer to finding the truth of what happened to her best friend.  Emily starts the list thinking it will help her find Sloane but in an endearing, coming of age and self-acceptance story, what Emily really find’s is herself.  It is easy to live in someone else’s shadow if it means never having to take risks.  But what is a life worth having if you’re not living it?

Since You’ve Been Gone is a wonderful novel full of rich social themes – friendship, self-identity, self-discovery, and self-acceptance.  While marketed toward teens this novel is an important reminder to us at any age about being kind to ourselves and others.  Emily is afraid to be vulnerable to others but it keeps her closed off to a life full of possibilities.  She finds braveness in a friend who appears to be the epitome of everything Emily wishes she was – but we all know appearances are often misleading.  So does Emily complete the list?  Does she find Sloane and learn why her best friend disappeared over night?  It’s well worth the read if you’d like to find out.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

When Hell Freezes Over and the Devil’s Inside

We’re launching a new book discussion group here at Bon Air, beginning September 24 at 7 p.m.  Our selections will cater to ages 15-25 but slightly older adults are welcome.  The club will generally feature Older Teen and Adult Fiction with young adult characters ranging from 15 to 25-ish.

 

IcedMoning

In the spirit of new beginnings I decided to choose two books that I had not previously read.  September’s selection is Iced: A Dani O’Malley Novel.  This book is set firmly in the middle of the ongoing popular Fever series by Karen Marie Moning.  It is the first book told from the perspective of Dani O’Malley, a rather unusual 14 year old in a world gone mad.  If you haven’t read the series, don’t despair.  This book can be read as a stand-alone.

Bodacious fairies and dark evil things that go bump in the night have hemorrhaged over into our reality.  Unfortunately, pretty much all of them are monsters and they think humans are tasty morsels. But even in the midst of monsters and mayhem, relationships and people who “care” may just be the most dangerous thing around.

Dani’s number one prerogative is to keep the people of Dublin safe. Number two is to stay free.  Not-quite-human club owner Ryodan manages to blackmail Dani into helping him solve a mystery that threatens not only his business, but all of Dublin.  To that end he keeps her under his thumb.  Dani’s number one makes her want to help, but her number two makes her resistant and bitter.

Despite the despicable means by which their partnership is formed the two characters forge ahead to find out how and why something is freezing humans and evil creatures alike.  The frozen venues are barely approachable by supernatural ilk.   And for some reason, they keep exploding.

Dublin was already the seventh circle of Hell but now it’s frozen over.  Will our reluctant heroine save the day?  Only the book will tell.

Formats Available:  Audiobook, Book, eBook

 

HornsbyHill

October’s selection is Horns by Joe Hill and we will meet on October 29 at 7 p.m.  I swear on my library card that I didn’t know this book had a movie being released on October 31st.  Just days after I picked this book, I was thumbing through my various “social” addictions…I mean appswhen I spotted a video box with Daniel Radcliffe’s face.

“Hmmm, wonder what that is?”   Imagine my surprise when I click the play button like a good little monkey and I’m treated to an early sneak preview of Horns!  “Yes! ” I mentally shouted, while I did a little spastic dance around the room.  Luckily the only witnesses were my family and they’re used to my strange silent outbursts.

My family waited patiently for me to explain.  When I told them that Daniel Ratcliff was playing the lead of a great philosophical horror story, my teens all began clamoring in protest, “You can’t do that to Harry Potter! That’s just wrong.”   I laughed, perhaps a little bit maniacally, and told them that Daniel Radcliffe could play any character he desired, even a devil!

WARNING!!!  This book will may make you squirm.

The beginning chapters of this story are dark and graphic.  The main character, Ig (Ignatius) Perrish, has been living in a town where everyone thinks he raped and murdered his high school sweetheart, Merrin.  He didn’t kill her.  He loved her so deeply, he is lost without her.

Unable to cope with the anniversary of Merrin’s death, Ig drinks himself into such a stupor that he can’t remember the previous evening when he awakens the next morning.  Of course, he knows almost immediately that he must have done something really, really bad.  The horns sprouting out of his head are dead giveaway.

Ig’s first reaction is to think he’s hallucinating, but his current girlfriend, quickly disabuses him of that notion when she affirms that she can see them.  As if that weren’t bad enough, she immediately begins to divulge her darkest urges and thoughts. Ig flees.  He moves from person to person looking for help or absolution, but each encounter just leaves him more sickened and shell-shocked.

Slowly Ig begins to realize that he can influence people.  He can’t make them do something they don’t want to do.  But if the urge is tucked away inside somewhere, Ig can coax it out.  When Ig finds out who truly killed Merrin he begins to actively used the horns and his new strange powers.

He wants justice and revenge, so he embraces the devil inside.  Does that make him evil?  You’ll have to decide for yourself, once you read the book.

Formats Available:  Audiobook, Book

Reviews by Angel, Bon Air Branch