Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box by George Mann

It is the summer of 1915. As zeppelins rain fire upon the people of London, some of the more eminent members of society begin to show erratic behavior.

A famed suffragette suddenly denounces the women’s movement and just as suddenly throws herself beneath a passing train.

A senior military adviser speaks of surrender before jumping among the tigers at the London Zoo.

A member of Parliament gives a pro-German speech to other members of the House and later that day is found drowned in the Thames.

Desperate for some kind of answer, Mycroft Holmes reaches out to his younger brother – the now retired but still famed detective, Sherlock Holmes.

George Mann returns again with another page turning novel set in the ever familiar Sherlock Holmes universe. This particular tale is set during World War 1, some twenty years after Holmes’ and Watson’s heyday. Both men have retired; to Sussex and to the London suburbs, respectively. Yet when each hears the siren’s call of a new case, age is but a number and neither man can resist.

Astute readers will notice how age has changed both Holmes and Watson, almost reversing some of their traits. In The Spirit Box, Holmes has softened a bit in his mannerisms though certainly not in his detective skills or his wit. On the other hand, Watson has become a bit crotchety – something he admits himself! Time, and the knowledge that comes with it, can change a man and even great minds like Holmes and Watson are not immune.

Mann has done a quite successful job in adding to the Holmes “library” with this particular tale. While not completely reminiscent of Doyle’s original stories, it does have a similar literary flavor. It is also a crossover or sorts; introducing the reader to Sir Maurice Newbury – another character from another series Mann has penned. Newbury’s role is important and is also enough to possibly whet the appetite of the reader and cause them to seek out this other series.

I loved reading The Spirit Box. I certainly don’t need to tell any one here how I eagerly seek out new stories with this fictional detective, and while I am sometimes disappointed, books like this more than make up for it. In my opinion.


El and Onine by K.P. Ambroziak

When a civil war on Venus causes it’s people to seek refuge on Earth, they must quickly acclimate to their new surroundings. When the ruling council decides to adopt the planet as their own, the idea of an interspecies union seems the best way to ensure the survival of both species. This is a problem though as even the smallest touch brings death to one or both individuals.

El and Onine was one of those books I had placed on my To Be Read list back when I started this blog and before I discovered what a wonderful author K.P. Ambroziak was. This was also before I learned what a very nice person she is, as I added this book to my list before we had spoken even one work to each other.

El and Onine is the story of two very different races of people coming to rely on one another. As a civil war erupts on the planet Venus, it’s people – referred to as Kyprians – travel to Earth. Due to their fiery nature, the arrival of the Kyprians is devastating to Earth and its inhabitants; those that survive are soon put to work serving their new masters.

Like with her other books, Ambroziak has built an entire new world for her book El and Onine. We are introduced to it slowly, the history of the place and the people who inhabit it told as flashbacks and memories. This makes it easier to take in the wealth of information given, a welcome change from the “data dump” some authors rely on to fill their readers in.

The only negative thing I have to say about this particular book is how short it is. At just under 200 pages, while it is a quick read it also isn’t enough for us to become totally invested in the characters. The story could have easily gone on for longer to give us more insight and background.

I enjoyed reading El and Onine and will very likely read it again. It is a layered tale that really should be enjoyed over and over. I recommend this one to my readers, as well as anything else by this wondrous author.

Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes by Cory O’Brien

For as long as mankind has been able to, they have told stories. Many of the stories told revolve around the gods and goddesses of the time and thus have survived. However, over time the stories sometimes tend to get a bit watered down.

In reality, the original stories are far, far more crazy. And interesting. And funny.

Any person who has been on Tumblr for a while will eventually learn of Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes and the hilarious genius of it. It is truly a book that keeps on giving because while I have read it several times by now, I find it laugh out loud funny every time.

Now, I will warn my readers there is a LOT of swearing and potty humor. However, since most myths center around sex in some way or another this is pretty standard. Still, more sensitive (as well as younger) readers should have a heads up.

Personally, I loved Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes. While it’s a quick read, it’s also one that can be read over and over and enjoyed every time. I recommend it for my older readers.

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourne

London, 1887. After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

I discovered the Veronica Speedwell series quite by accident in my local book store. While perusing the new books, I came across A Perilous Undertaking and it sounded quite interesting. Unfortunately, I saw it was number two in a series and since I almost never start a series in the middle, I sought out the first book; which is being reviewed here.

A Curious Beginning introduces us to the character of Veronica Speedwell. Raised by two spinster aunts, she has traveled quite extensively – both as a child by moving from town to town, and as an adult in the pursuit of the passion of butterflies. She is an intelligent and head strong young woman, a trait that she uses many times to her advantage. She is also incredibly astute, noticing things about her and about the people around her that many would overlook. At times she reminded me of a beloved character – Sherlock Holmes; yet she also reminded me of another beloved character – Amelia Peabody.

In many ways, Veronica Speedwell is much like Amelia Peabody. Both women are brilliant in their respective fields and more often than not are looked down upon by their male counterparts simply because of their supposed weaker gender. Yet while there are times they must “play by the rules” of society, they are more than content to do things their own way.

One thing I thoroughly enjoyed – and hope Ms. Raybourn continues to play with in subsequent books – is the relationship between Veronica Speedwell and Stoker Templeton-Vane. There is a chemistry between the two characters that is difficult to deny and yet it seems they each treasure the other’s friendship too much to risk ruination with a more physical relationship. There are times they get on as well as cats and dogs, but in the end each is more than content to come to the aid of the other when needed.

Overall, I enjoyed the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series, A Curious Beginning. Readers who have previously enjoyed the Amelia Peabody series or any other series with a strong female character, should give this one a try.

Dark Nocturne (Vampire Hunter D Volume 10) by Hideyuki Kikuchi

A siren’s song has been drawing young men to their deaths in the hills outside of Anise Village. No one in the village is able to locate where the song is coming from, so an outsider is hired to unlock the strange secret.

The village of Shirley’s Door has a dark secret. A yearly ritualistic sacrifice meant to protect the town and keep the monsters at bay. When an outsider finds himself caught between the young woman being sacrificed and her beau, the whole village itself might be doomed.

Countless years ago, two sides in a devastating war create their own living weapons. Genetically engineered creatures set to fight to the death; and though the war has been over for centuries, two remaining individuals are still set to battle. And in doing so, they could re-ignite a fight that has been dormant for a very long time.

Readers who have been a part of the graphic novel/manga/anime fandom for some time will immediately recognize the name ‘Vampire Hunter D’. Western audiences were introduced to the character via the first animated movie in the late 80’s, with the novels themselves not coming out in translated form until some years later. Individuals, like myself, were ecstatic with the release of each novel and while some are better than others, we still seek to collect them all.

While Dark Nocturne is labelled as number 10 in the Vampire Hunter series, it could actually fit any where in the early series itself. It is compromised of three short stories that were published independently in magazines before being collected for the novel here.

With all this being said, unfortunately I find Dark Nocturne to be one of the weakest books in the series. The stories themselves do not have to coherency of earlier novels and the characterization is often very weak. They feel as if they were written much earlier than previous novels, when Kikuchi was just beginning to write about D and had yet to get a hold on the character himself.

Compared to other novels in the series with the same protagonist, the D here feels off somehow. He is flippant and at times almost uncaring; and while in other stories D can be off putting, it is not to this degree. It was actually hard to like him, while he is a character I have enjoyed reading about for some time.

Purists like myself will of course want to add this book to their collection so they might have the whole set. Casual readers will want to skip this one as it does not add anything to the series and I think can be ignored as a whole.

Skip Dark Nocturne, dear readers. As much as I love Vampire Hunter D, I cannot in good faith recommend this one.

Monsters (I Bring The Fire #2) by C. Gockel

The last few months have been rather difficult for Amy Lewis. After being attacked by a serial killer and saved by Loki – the aptly titled God of Mischief, Lies, and Chaos – dragged to Aflheim and back, having her bank account drained by the aforementioned god, and taking care of her elderly grandmother, she had lost her scholarship to veterinary school.

It’s okay though, as Amy Lewis has a plan. All she has to do is hang on to her day job as a receptionist and her night job as a vet tech, and hopefully her scholarship can be reinstated before accruing too many “additional fees”.

Agent Steve Rogers (not Captain, thank you very much) has major political aspirations. Yet when what is believed to be a suitcase nuke turns out to be much, much worse, and when so-called Norse gods start turning up in his bathroom – his priorities soon make a drastic shift.

Loki, the God of Mischief and Lies, has his own plans and priorities. He is still intent on seeing Asgard burn but isn’t against enjoying a few earthly pleasures along the way.

As different as these three are, they’ll have learn to work together – and maybe even get along – to take down a bevy of mythological creatures along with an ancient evil that has taken resident beneath Chicago’s busy streets. Because chaos has come to town and has decided to stay.

Monsters is the second book in the I Bring The Fire series and picks up several months from where the first book left off. With Loki having disappeared in to seemingly thin air, Amy is doing her best to try and get her life back together. Of course this isn’t easy with Loki having cleaned out her bank account and her grandmother now in a care facility after having a stroke. She is determined though and isn’t about to let a little thing like a house crashing god to stand in her way.

As I have said before, I am always interested in how authors can take such well known individuals and make them their own. It is as true for the Norse gods and goddesses as it is for Sherlock Holmes.

With Monsters, Gockel has brought back familiar characters introduced in the first book and added new faces to the group. Readers who are familiar with the original Norse gods will surely see names they recognize though not in the way they are familiar with. Their stories have been changed in small but noticeable ways.

I found it very interesting and enjoyable to see the subtle ways Gockel changed these characters. The flashbacks she gives to Loki gives us more insight in to him and allows us to understand him a bit better. One might even begin to sympathize with him, but those thoughts are short lived.

Because, in all honesty dear reader, this Loki is at times a dick.

Going in to my reasoning behind this will unfortunately give too many spoilers. Just believe me when I say there were a few times where I found myself quite aggravated by how he was treating Amy and any one else trying to help him.

This is not to say I did not enjoy reading Monsters. Far from it in fact. I enjoyed it very much, there were just a few times that I was gripping my e-reader just a little too tightly.

It is necessary for readers to read Wolves, book one of the series, before reading Monsters. Characters and events from the first book are referenced and someone who is not familiar will only be confused. Otherwise, I recommend this book to my readers. Those who enjoy unique twists on well known characters will likely enjoy it.


The Crimson Labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi

After answering an ad in a local newspaper, an unemployed man wakes up to find himself in a strange location. Wondering if he has perhaps somehow ended up on another planet, he tries to begin his search for others like him. He finds only one other person, a young woman who seems just as confused as he.

The only clues the two have are cryptic instructions beamed to a portable gaming device. They speak of a game and that it has already begun. Neither remember agreeing to playing a game but it seems they have no choice; if they are to return home they have to play. But there are other players in this game and some of them are not so nice.

The Crimson Labyrinth is one of those books that had been sitting in my To Be Read list for a while. In the reviews I had read, it was compared to Battle Royale (a book I have read and loved) and Lost (a TV show I couldn’t get in to). And while there are some similarities between the two books, I liken The Crimson Labyrinth more to The Hunger Games than Lost.

As much as I enjoyed reading The Crimson Labyrinth, I must warn my readers that it is not a book for the squeamish. Much like the books I mentioned before, there are certain scenes that are rather gruesome. It is something that, while difficult to read, makes sense; especially towards the end when we learn the truth behind the game that was played.

Also, while The Crimson Labyrinth was quite good, I personally feel it could have been better. Kishi focuses so much on the action that the characters are almost secondary. Without knowing more about them – their backgrounds, their motivations, etc. – even the main character himself feels flat at times. Had Kishi given more to the characters the book could have easily been twice as long but also a much, much better read.

Overall, I enjoyed this particular book and don’t regret purchasing it. It is definitely a horror novel and not for the faint of heart. Readers who enjoyed Battle Royale and other types of books should check this one out too.

Grief for Heart (The Journal of Vincent du Maurier #4) by K.P. Ambroziak

The great vampire Vincent is gone, but his descendants remain. Living side by side with the Hematopes, the two groups share a peace that goes on for many years.

That is, until a mysterious boy washes up on their shores.

The young Saba is immediately taken with the new stranger. Though they do not share a language, the two find a kindred spirit in the other. Saba sees the young man as her counterpart – a piece of her that she did not realize she was missing.

All seems well until the boy’s original captor returns to claim his prize. A vampire most believed long dead, his return brings a new reality to the small colony; one of fear and strife.

Saba can save them all for she is the chosen one. She just doesn’t know it yet.

Dearest reader, I’m sure you can imagine my surprise and delight when I received this e-book. In my review of Spite for Flesh, I lamented the fact that it was the third and final book of the series. I, like so many readers, had greatly enjoyed the series and wanted more. So when K.P. came back with book number four – and a soon to be book number FIVE! – I was elated.

Grief for Heart picks up some years after Spite for Flesh. Dagur, whom we met as a boy in the third book, is now a grown man. He has married and has a family of his own; one of his daughters being the fire-y Saba. In some ways she is content with the life she has, but she balks in others. She does not wish to marry and raise children like her sisters. She wishes to become like the vampires she has grown up beside but even they are hesitant.

Unlike previous volumes, Grief of Heart has a slower pace. While there are certainly moments of action, the prose often has a more sedentary feel. There are several scenes with character introspection – not just from Saba herself, but from her father Dagur, as well as the handful of remaining vampires.

Readers will definitely want to read the first three books in the series before trying to read Grief of Heart. Personally, I think it would be far too confusing for the person who wasn’t familiar with the universe. Readers who have read the first three books should enjoy this latest foray.

With characters both familiar and new, K.P. has given us another tale in a very interesting universe. While I am certainly glad to have more of the vampires and humans I have come to know through these books, I will once again lament their ending with the next book.


Happy Holidays from Never Enough Books

Happy Holidays, dear readers!

I apologize for my weekly post being late, but this past week has been a bit of a busy one. Like always, I will be taking a few weeks off to spend time with my family.

I will be back in January with new reviews.

So here’s a peek at the books I got this past month and will be reviewing in the upcoming year!