This is an intriguing story, with a strong plot and compelling characters. It revolves around Eloise Winslow, a vampire who has lived in America since colonial times when she, her sisters and their friend Crow were ‘turned’ on Dark Day. Imprisoned in a silver mine for murdering her sister, Tabitha, Eloise is given a chance for early release if she will provide the details of the crime, and agree to work with the Vampire Marshals.
Little Rabbit by Barb Ettridge is a slightly different take on the vampire story. Part fantasy-thriller, part mystery, and part romance, it shows the ‘human’ side of vampires—human weaknesses in a near-immortal shell.
The way the story starts with Crow, a Vampire Marshal, offering Eloise release more than seventy years before completion of her sentence, if only she’ll provide details surrounding her murder of Tabitha, her older sister—also a vampire. In addition, she must agree to work with the marshals after her release. This forces Eloise to come to grips with things in her past she would rather forget—if only she could.
The first chapter shows Eloise’s reluctance to dig up the pain of the past, but she chafes about being held by the power of the silver in the mine to sap her strength. The narrative then transitions immediately to the events leading up to her sister’s demise, and this is where the real strength of the story lies. The author does a fantastic job of letting the speech and actions of characters show us their motivations. By the middle section of the book, the reader feels—at least this reader did—an intimate association with Eloise, and in-depth understanding of the characters who revolve around her.
Told entirely from Eloise’s point of view, the suspense is electric as Crow comes closer to solving Tabitha’s murder. Crow’s love for Eloise is also clear, as is her affection for him, leaving the reader to wonder until very near the end if Crow will be able to fulfil his duty. Even though the opening chapter makes it clear that Eloise was caught and punished, we do not know the agency of that punishment until near the end.
The setting was probably the weakest part of the story. We know where we are, a small town in New England, not far from Boston. But, other than knowing the approximate date when Eloise and the others were ‘turned’ to vampires, we can’t be sure when the events in the story take place. There are some popular culture references that hint at late twentieth century, but it’s never made clear. The geographical setting, descriptions of the town and its environs, is great, and adds to the dark tone of the story.
A great job of showing rather than telling. The British (or Australian) spellings and grammar stick out, especially as the story is set in America, which wouldn’t be an issue if it had been set in colonial times, when one can assume that colonial Americans still retained English forms, but it was a bit unsettling at the outset. The story is so compelling, though, that by the one-third mark, I no longer paid spelling or unique non-US constructions much mind.
I give this book a solid four stars.
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Poison Heartbeats by Temple Emmet Williams is a contemporary fiction novel about a terrorist plot that deals with real-world entities including the US Department of Homeland Security and ISIL. An introductory passage by the author lets us know that for the most part, his fictitious interpretations of these entities are accurate, although he has taken some liberties by extending the sphere of influence of the Department of Homeland Security. It becomes clear within the first few chapters that this is a book that is well-researched, and the author’s use of real-world facts compliments the ambitious adventure we are brought on. We are also told before the story begins that this book is the second in the Heartbeat series (Wrinkled Heartbeats being the first, which AI gave 4.5/5 Stars) but that they are standalone novels and can be read independently of one-another. A number of sharply-written characters cross paths throughout the narrative, and special mention needs to be made of the author’s use of space and setting. The author takes the reader on a globe-trotting tour that highlights both the differences and parallels of each environ. This is a book that paints a thrilling picture with its words, which is only slightly dampened by some odd structural choices.
Each chapter is named and comes with an image and a short statement that sets the stage for what is about to happen. In some of the chapters, these pictorial clues and scene settings help the reader visualize what is happening, but on a whole seem unnecessary for such a well-written and descriptive novel. While reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if seeing the characters and environments of the story in a picture didn’t ruin my own imagining of them when they were described to me a few pages later. Some of the images and introductory clauses are also redundant. This is a minor negative in a magnificent story, and it’s hard for me to fault an author for giving the reader something extra, but this is a story that can easily rest on its own skillful story-telling, rather than on pictures. Aside from this unnecessary distraction, the book is well-structured, well-paced, and often hard to pull yourself away from.
As mentioned earlier, this is a book that deals with a number of characters and presents the reader with many different viewpoints. The book is not guilty of head-hopping, though, and while you get a number of perspectives, the author weaves them into and out of the story easily, and when things culminate in an epic final act, each storyline is satisfied in one way or another. The ending of the book is fantastic and drums up the action leading to a thrilling climax. It’s a fun journey that is at times reflective and poignant and at others gritty and tense. There is humor and romance alongside the grim depiction of modern terrorism. While, at the end, the story lines are all satisfied, not all of them come to an ultimate coda, leaving the door open for some future adventures for some of our key players. The author’s follow-up, African Heartbeats has already been announced and the Heartbeats series itself will comprise of six novels total when finished. I recommend Poison Heartbeats to fans of contemporary fiction who enjoy action, suspense, and the kind of story that could easily take place in our current political climate. 4.5/5 Stars.
Great book, beautifully written and a perfect read for anyone in the publishing industry. It’s written with a light touch while having a deadly serious plot. The story revolves around murders in the publishing industry and a reporter trying to catch the murderer without the kind of support a detective or PI would have. Highly recommended for authors, publishers and anyone who likes a good mystery. 5 stars!
The cover, with a simple sepia photograph of a woman from the era of the 1920s is effective and evocative. It sums up the story and the main character’s motivation without giving away the plot.
The story starts off a bit on the slow side, with a description of Cameron Coelho’s attraction to the woman in the photograph, and background information on his work on a PhD thesis about the social life in Middle America during the Roaring Twenties. The time travel aspect is introduced through his discovery in Candice Bell’s notes and diary (sold to him by her elderly niece) of references to a mysterious cave that holds the secret to time travel. It’s difficult to know which motivates him more, his attraction to Candice’s beauty or his fascination with the prospect of time travel being real. The author goes into more detail than absolutely necessary as Cameron takes action to find more information—details of him moving through a room, sitting, or taking a drink, don’t really add to the story.
This tendency to map out a character’s every move lessens significantly as Cameron meets the ‘time traveling’ expert, Geoffrey Bell, and travels from 2017 to 1925. A seemingly impossible task is set our hero; he knows that Candice will be murdered, and he is forbidden to try and prevent it because doing so might irreparably change the future, in particular the fact that Geoffrey Bell is the great-grandson of her cousin, who, distraught after her murder, wanders into a destitute part of town where he finds the woman he will marry, and who is Geoffrey’s great-grandmother.
From Cameron’s arrival in 1925, the story picks up the pace. The reader is introduced to all of the major supporting characters, including Tom, the black custodian at the newspaper where Candice worked as a social page reporter, who was wrongly accused of her murder and executed.
The story from the point that Cameron knows that he’s in love with Candice and that there are evil, corrupt men in the small Indiana town where she lives and works, is the strongest section of the book. The author skillfully plants clues and the tension mounts as he has to choose between fulfilling his commitment to Geoffrey Bell or saving innocents from death. While a few of the resolutions felt a bit contrived or were not explained to full satisfaction; such as how the town’s major drug dealer was finally caught and convicted, or what happened to the crooked lawyer who was Candice’s former fiancé, these are minor issues.
The author makes references to previous time travelers that Geoffrey Bell has sent into the past, including a father and son who traveled to Texas, which was the subject of an earlier novel. At one point, reference is made to ‘numerous’ travelers, but it’s never explained.
Finally, Cameron finds a way to avoid tempering with the timeline, things are set on the proper path, and the reader is treated to the news that Cameron is somehow related by blood to Geoffrey’s wife—but, this is also never explained in any detail.
The denouement is, except for the aforementioned unanswered questions, satisfactory. Justice prevails and true love overcomes insurmountable obstacles.
With the exception of the previously mentioned excessive detailed descriptions of character actions, and the few unanswered questions, this is a solidly plotted novel. Action (in a thematic sense) moves forward, characters encounter obstacles and overcome them, and this reader at least was left with the feeling that things worked out the way they should.
I give this book four stars.
Lisa,employed by a venture capital firm, is romantically linked to Allan, owner of a biotech firm. When Allan tells her he is working on a way to augment the medicinal properties of nutmeg which could be a potential cure for Alzheimer's disease, she shares the information with her business partner, Scott, whose mother suffers from the disease.
This simple act of kindness on Lisa's part sets in motion a chain of events that will change all their lives forever. Once he learns of the potential of nutmeg,Scott goes to his old college friend, John, who has been working on a similar project, and makes him a business offer he can't refuse.This takes them to Ghana, where they encounter Richard Akroma, an anti-government rebel who is seeking an amnesty and a chance to return to the life of an ordinary Ghanaian citizen.
A fascinating story of what happens when Western business meets the reality of African society and politics--with a taste of Cold War machinations thrown in for good measure, as Akroma's Cold War association with the KGB come back to haunt him. While there is a bit more telling than absolutely necessary to move the plot along, much of it does at least help the reader understand the back ground and motivation of the characters. Some, however, is merely interesting historical or technical information that does not move the story forward. The author tells the story from several points of view,but thankfully, the transitions from one character to another are done smoothly, so it is not confusing.
The Five Lions of the Volta by Larry Shields is a story of a culture little understood by most Westerners, told in a way that does not transform the African characters into caricatures, and which portrays the landscape and society in a credible way. Like Blood Diamonds, this would make a good movie,and with a little more showing rather than telling would be a five-star book. I give it four-stars.