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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Retro Reviews: The Weapon From Beyond by Edmond Hamilton

Retro Reviews: The Weapon From Beyond by Edmond Hamilton

The Weapon From Beyond
Series:  Starwolf 1
Author:  Edmond Hamilton
Original Publisher and Date: Ace Books, 1967
Still in Print:  No
Formats and Length:  Mass Market Paperback, 158 pages
Availability: Yes - Used

Retro Reviews: The Weapon From Beyond by Edmond Hamilton
Brief History

Edmond Hamilton (Oct. 21, 1904- Feb. 1, 1977) was born Youngstown, Ohio. He graduated from high school and started at Westminster College at the age of 14. By the age of 17 he left college without a degree. Hamilton's first published story was a short story entitled "The Monster God of Mamurth," in the August 1926 issue of Weird Tales. Some of his most popular Science Fiction series are: Captain Future, Interstellar Patrol, The Star Kings, and Starwolf. From 1946-1966 he wrote for DC Comics, spending most of his time writing stories for Superman, Batman and the Legion of Super-Heroes. He was a well-known science fiction author and comic book writer.


The stars whispered: Die, Starwolf! Die!

Morgan Chane was an Earthman by parentage, but he had been born on the pirate-world Varna, whose heavy gravity had developed strength and incredibly quick reflexes in him. When he was old enough, he joined the raider-ships that looted the starworlds, and fought side by side with the dreaded Starwolves of Varna.

But then there was a fight among them. Chane killed their leader, and the other Starwolves turned on him. He barely got away alive---wounded near death, his Starwolf pursuers following him across the galaxy.

And there was nowhere he could seek refuge, for no world lift a hand to save one of the hated Starwolves.

Brannigan's Review

I found this excellently pulpy science fiction tale at my local bookstore. The cover grabbed my attention immediately, along with the back cover copy giving me a nice slap across my face. I couldn't pass it up, and after reading it, I'm glad it didn't.

Edmond Hamilton was a prolific writer in his time and I can understand why. He knows how to set up an intriguing story with some fun characters. I was hooked right away in its glorious retro future. One of my favorite aspects of the book is the fact it was written before computers were commonplace, making his inventive technology highly entertaining.

The length of the story doesn't leave a lot of time for character development, but Hamilton really knows how to cut out the fat and give you what you need to enjoy the story while still allowing his characters to develop. Morgan Chane, the protagonist, starts off as a space viking turning on his own to be left adrift only to find a new place with a group of mercenaries. He starts off aloof and by the end finds a new identity. The leader of the mercenary group, John Dilullo, also develops as a support character.

Much like the character development, Hamilton doesn't waste time in world building. He introduces three major planets with their own unique life forms as well as a brief history on how humans became space-faring people. He doesn't go into as much detail as I prefer, but I think that was common for books from this time period.

The Weapon From Beyond is an adventure-driven space opera with the perfect amount of pulp. I would definitely buy more books by Edmond Hamilton in the future. There is minor violence and language. I would recommend it to teens and adults. I'd recommend you borrow this book from a friend or the library, and don't be surprised if you spend time hunting for more.

My Favorite Line

“If you stopped to think too much, you could die before you made up your mind.” page 36

Review: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season
Series:  The Broken Earth 1
Author:  N. K. Jemisin
Publisher:  Orbit, August 4, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 512 pages
List Price:  US$15.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780316229296 (print); 9780316229302 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

A new fantasy trilogy by Hugo, Nebula & World Fantasy Award nominated author N.K. Jemisin.

Brannigan's Review

The first thing I thought about after starting The Fifth Season is N. K. Jemisin does for fantasy what Kurt Vonnegut did for Science Fiction—she keeps it strange in a fun way. She likes to talk to the reader, constantly breaking the narrative, and she's funny.

Jemisin isn't afraid of doing some strange things, like having one character with a second person narrative, which I haven't seen since I stopped reading choose your own adventure books. I have to say it was actually my least favorite part of the book as it made it hard for me to connect to the character. Truthfully, I had a hard time connecting to most of her characters due mostly to their strangeness.

One area Jemisin excels in is world building. Her world is old and carries the ruins of past civilizations all over it. It's in constant seismic activity as the world seems to be trying to kill off every living thing. Because of this, the people are hardened. I loved how everything goes back to its relation to the world and its aggressive nature.

The negative of the story is I can't really say a lot happened that would make me want to go back for more. It was a fun experience reading it, but I didn't find anything to really grab me and pull me back for more. I prefer more action and events, as well as character connection in my fantasy. She nailed the world building, but that's only one of the three tiers of my personal preferences.

The Fifth Season is a one-of-a-kind fantasy book by a one-of-a-kind author. I'm still on the fence about how I truly feel about this book. I think I will be for awhile, until I've had time to really take it all in. I think this is a love/hate book that will depend on the reader's preferences. There is violence, adult language, and sexual situations. I would recommend the book to older teens and adults. For any friends who don't think fantasy can make you think, give them this book to read.

Review: The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán

The Dinosaur Lords
Author:  Victor Milán
Series:  The Dinosaur Lords 1
Publisher: Tor Books, July 28, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages
List Price:  $26.99 (print); $12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765332967 (print); 9781429966115 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
Upcoming:  Mass Market Paperback, May 31, 2016

Review: The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán
"It's like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones." —George R. R. Martin

A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden–and of war. Colossal plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meat-eaters like Allosaurus, and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from bat-sized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons.

Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán's splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics…except the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engage in battle. During the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac–and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world.

Brannigan's Review

I was very excited to read The Dinosaur Lords,who wouldn't be, there are knights on dinosaurs. Unfortunately, it didn't take long before my excitement wore off. Sadly, Victor Milán doesn't take advantage of the dinosaurs to the extent I had hoped he would. It also became very apparent the longer I read that this was a gimmick book with very little substance. The writing is very average with very little to make it stand out without the dinosaurs.

Milán's characters are very one dimensional and do everything you expect them to, which leaves no mystery or excitement. I didn't connect to any of the 5 main characters, which is never a good thing when there are so many chances to find some common bond. Out of the five characters, only one of them is female and she is used in the most general way as eye candy for the boys and someone to rape.

With a story filled with battling knights and dinosaurs you would think the pacing would at least be fast, but I kept getting bored as these massive dinosaurs, that are portrayed as being deadly and frightening, were slaughtered so quickly. I also have to say for a book that has the potential to use so many cool dinosaurs, Milán uses the Duckbill dinosaur--I think that would have been one of my last choices.

The world building was muddled and confusing. For some reason Milán felt the need to devote a page at the beginning of the book to tell us his world isn't Earth and never was Earth nor will be Earth. I never would have thought that was the case reading the book, but now that he has the note there it distracted me the entire time reading his book. I tried to see why he would feel the need to call it out. His creation story makes no sense and didn't seem to do anything for the plot of the story, which made me wonder why he felt the need to add it. Milán also seemed to think he needed angels as well, so they pop in and out of the book for no reason.

The Dinosaur Lords is a truly mediocre book. I had hoped for something new and fresh in the fantasy genre, only to find a very cliché story with dinosaurs in it. Sadly, even the dinosaurs weren't used to their full potential. On a positive note, it's not the worst fantasy book I've ever read, so if you go in with low expectations you might enjoy yourself. There is a lot of violence, adult language, and sexual situations, including rape. I would recommend the book only to adults.

Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015

Now that 2015 has come to a close, some of us at The Qwillery are going to share our Top, Best, and/or Favorite books on last year. Here are Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015:

My favorite science fiction book of the year is The Void by Timothy S. Johnston. It's the last book in a genre-bending trilogy. The trilogy used its galaxy's many different environments to create a dramatic, engaging story with a satisfying ending—and there's nothing better than a satisfying ending to a great trilogy.

Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015
The Void
The Tanner Sequence 3
Carina Press, March 25, 2015
eBook, 106,000 words

2403 AD

It would be easier to kill him than to trust him.

Transporting a serial killer might seem like a simple job for CCF Homicide Investigator Kyle Tanner. After spending years apprehending murderers, he's ready to hang up his pistol. Babysitting a prisoner will bring him to Alpha Centauri, where he can search for a way to escape the CCF forever.

If he makes it.

When his ship breaks down in deep space and a CCF research vessel comes to his aid, Tanner realizes he's in terrible danger: the scientists on board have blocked his distress call. And when Tanner's prisoner escapes, he begins to suspect that the proximity of the research vessel had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with the CCF's relentless reach.

Facing near-certain death by his own organization, Tanner must unravel a tangled skein of vengeance, duplicity and murder in deep space. But he's being held at the will of master puppeteers, and if he can't cut the strings, he'll dance straight to a gruesome, excruciating death....

A Tanner Sequence Novel

My favorite fantasy book of the year is The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. It's an Asian-influenced epic fantasy with some wonderfully engaging characters. The world building is top notch and I can't wait to dig into the next book in the series.

Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015
The Grace of Kings
The Dandelion Dynasty 1
Saga Press, April 7, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 640 pages

Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.

My favorite horror book of the year is The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells. Wells breathed new life in his first trilogy by taking John out of his small-town life and throwing in an entirely new environment with a whole new cast of supporting characters. He raised the stakes and added to the mythology of his creatures. I can't wait to see where he takes us.

Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015
The Devil's Only Friend
John Cleaver 4
Tor Books, June 16, 2015
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

John Wayne Cleaver hunts demons: they've killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loves, but in the end he's always won. Now he works for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can . . .

. . . but the monsters have noticed, and the quiet game of cat and mouse is about to erupt into a full scale supernatural war.

John doesn't want the life he's stuck with. He doesn't want the FBI bossing him around, he doesn't want his only friend imprisoned in a mental ward, and he doesn't want to face the terrifying cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John doesn't want to kill people. But as the song says, you can't always get what you want. John has learned that the hard way; his clothes have the stains to prove it.
When John again faces evil, he'll know what he has to do.

The Devil's Only Friend is the first book in a brand-new John Wayne Cleaver trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.

My favorite graphic novel of the year goes to The Creeps: Book 1 Night of the Frankenfrogs by Chris Schweizer. This is a children's horror story, but it shows Schweizer's talent that he can entertain a man in his late 30s. There are plenty of twists and humor along the way and his art style is refreshingly one-of-a-kind. Do your inner child a favor and read this book.

Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015
The Creeps
Book 1 Night of the Frankenfrogs
Amulet Books, August 15, 2015
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 128 pages

At Pumpkins County Middle School weird things happen every class period, not to mention during lunch, but nobody ever makes a fuss. Principal Garish thinks what's weird and...well...creepy is how fascinating the mysterious goings-on are to Carol, a big-city girl new to Pumpkins County, who finds kindred spirits in Mitchell (monster expert), Mark (military brat with logistics know-how), and Rosario (girly girl on the outside, muscle underneath). The Creeps are on the case to figure out the spooky mysteries and still get to class on time. Last week it was a pudding monster. This week, it's disappearing classmates and a suspiciously coincidental animal-rights petition being passed around by the snootiest girl in class. Could she be behind an amphibian menace? Or could it be the mad genius who lives in the sewers? How about the school janitor? The Creeps will track down the answers!

In a place that's a little bit Gravity Falls and a little bit Goosebumps, the Creeps will have no end of mysteries to dig into while they try to keep their grades up too. Chris Schweizer's fun art is full of the visual puns and clues that graphic novels can do so well.

Retro Reviews: Foundling by D. M. Cornish

Retro Reviews: Foundling by D. M. Cornish

Author:  D. M. Cornish
Series:  Monster Blood Tattoo 1
Original Publisher and Date:  Putnam, May 18, 2006
Still in Print:  Yes
Current Format and Length: Trade Paperback, 448 pages
Availability:  Yes - New and Used
ISBN:  9780399246388

Retro Reviews: Foundling by D. M. Cornish
Brief History

D. M. Cornish was born in 1972 in Adelaide, Australia. He studied illustration at the University of South Australia. In 2003, he had a chance meeting with a children's book publisher who discovered he had filled journals with drawing and notes about a world he called the “Half-Continent”. The publisher asked him to write 1,000 words about his world. Three years later the book was published. It won Best Young Adult Novel at the 2006 Aurealis Awards. The American Library Association added the book to its 2007 Best Books for Young Adults.


Set in the world of the Half-Continent—a land of tri-corner hats and flintlock pistols—the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy is a world of predatory monsters, chemical potions and surgically altered people. Foundling begins the journey of Rossamund, a boy with a girl’s name, who is just about to begin a dangerous life in the service of the Emperor. What starts as a simple journey is threatened by encounters with monsters—and people, who may be worse. Learning who to trust and who to fear is neither easy nor without its perils, and Rossamund must choose his path carefully.

Complete with appendices, maps, illustrations, and a glossary, Monster Blood Tattoo grabs readers from the first sentence and immerses them in an entirely original fantasy world with its own language and lore.

Brannigan's Review

I've been looking forward to reading this book ever since it came out, but never seemed to find the time. I checked the book out recently at my local library to take with me on my Thanksgiving trip back home and found myself enjoying a great book.

Foundling is a nice mixture of fantasy, horror and Dickens. From the start of the book, D. M. Cornish grabbed my attention with his inventive world building and strong character development. Rossamund, a boy orphan apprenticed to the lamplighter's guild, starts off his career with an adventure. He has to leave his orphanage and make his way down a river to a small town on the edge of the empire, where he will be a lamplighter. He knows no one and doesn't even know what a lamplighter does. He wanted to a be a sailor and live the life of adventure. It's easy to relate to Rossamund and his desire for adventure. He also goes through many difficult challenges along the way and shows real growth as a character.

Cornish uses the journey to explore the world he's created and ignite curiosity. Even with all that he reveals about his world, there are still many more questions I asked myself as I read, which, for me, is a positive thing in the first book of a series. Cornish shows a lot of original creation in professions and creatures in the book that I've never seen in other books. The one aspect I didn't particularly like about his creatures is some of them take on a muppetish description at times. They aren't all scary and some take on human characteristics, like wearing clothes and talking clearly. I understand the book's target audience is teenagers, and so I looked past this small choice in his world building.

Foundling is a refreshing genre blend between fantasy and horror. It offers a new take on a world filled with monsters and humanoids and how they coexist. Even though the book wasn't as scary as I had hoped it would be, I'm definitely going to make time to complete the trilogy. There is minor violence and horror. I would recommend it to teens and adults. I'd recommend you borrow this book from a friend or the library.

My Favorite Line:

“[T]he letter addressed to him personally. It was like a sweet song to his tired soul, an encouragement from those far off---he was still thought of, he was remembered.” page 308

Retro Reviews: Kill the Dead by Tanith Lee

Retro Reviews: Kill the Dead by Tanith Lee

Kill the Dead
Author:  Tanith Lee
Original Publisher and Date:  DAW September 2, 1980
Still in Print:  No
Formats and Length:  Trade Paperback and Mass Market Paperback
Availability:  Yes - Used.
ISBN:  9780879975623

Retro Reviews: Kill the Dead by Tanith Lee
Brief History 

Tanith Lee (19 September 1947 – 24 May 2015) lived in England. Her parents were both dancers and they moved around a lot. She dropped out of college and held several different jobs. In 1971, she published her first novel The Dragon Hoard. By 1975, she was able to write full time. In 1980, she was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for the novel Death's Master. She wrote 90 novels and 300 short stories.


Out of the dusk he comes striding, the stranger, the man in black, inevitable as death itself: Parl Dro—Ghost Slayer.

Some have bought his services for gold, and some have blessed him for his work. But not everyone welcomes an exorcist who will remorselessly deprive them of their beloved dead.

Dro began his vocation at an early age. And now he will not be turned aside, no matter how you may threaten, curse or weep. He is seeking too the greatest stronghold of the deadalive: Ghyste Mortua, the ghost town in the mountains, and he means to destroy it.

If he will face that, what use the pleas of the desperate sisters, Cilny and Ciddey, what use the rage of Myal, with his genius for music and his imperfect talent for crime?

Only one thing, it seems, motivates Parl Dro.

His determination to kill the dead.

"Tanith Lee is one of the most powerful and intelligent writers in fantasy." —Publishers Weekly

"With Lee… expect the unexpected." —Starburst

Brannigan's Review

While browsing my local used bookstore I came across this beauty. I saw the title and immediately fell in love with it. Once I pulled it off the shelf and saw the cover I knew this would be a good book. It just screams classy retro, the double necked guitar at the feet of a man who could be a hero or late seventies rock star. The ghosts on the cover were amazing, a skeleton without a head, a naked lady ghost and the goblin ghost that appears to have a real brain floating in his ghost skull. The triple threat was the awesome back cover description.

Kill the Dead is so much more than I expected. I was thinking it would be a Conan-esq character but fighting ghosts with maybe some cheesy horror or fantasy cliches. Instead, it was the perfect blend of fantasy and horror. When I think of Gothic, this is what comes to mind. It was very much a mood read. Each sentence seemed to be written to evoke foreboding doom. I loved every minute of it.

Parl Dro is the dark mysterious hero hunting and destroying ghosts. He's a man on a mission to find and destroy Ghyste Mortua, an entire town of ghosts. Along the way, he discovers a small village with a decrepit home with two sisters in it. However, one sister is a ghost. Parl does what a ghost killer does, which causes the other sister to vow revenge on Parl. At the same time, a minstrel down on his luck crosses paths with both the vengeful sister and Parl. The three of them find themselves at odds throughout most of the book.

Tanith Lee does an amazing job of introducing each of the characters and slowly but steadily unveiling their backstory as well as their true motivations. The care and timing of the character reveals is something I feel we are missing in today's stories. Things seem to move much faster now, which isn't a good or bad thing, but I do enjoy a slow build up when done right and Lee does it right. Each of the characters add to the mood of unease, as none of them are truly good or evil. They each have multiple layers to them, which ache with reality. It adds to the tone of the overall story, this sense of something being slightly off.

Lee's world blends well with the characters and mood of the tale. It's worn out and in ruin. I don't think there’s anything new or shiny in this world. It has a dull tone and color palette. Even the ivory white bones inlaid in Myal's double necked guitar are stained yellow with time. With all of this ugliness Lee is still able to bring a lot of beauty to the book with her lyrical prose.

Kill the Dead is a haunting fantasy that, once finished, demands to be reread. The ending will leave you surprised and rewarded. I want to reread it just to see if I can find any clues Lee might have left out in the open for me. The pacing is slower than most modern stories, but I would ask you to embrace it and allow it to take you on this journey. There is minor violence, language and implied sexual situations. I would recommend it to teens and adults. I'd recommend you add this book to your personal library.

My Favorite Line:

“'Lend me your knife,' Myal said slowly. 'I can kill you with it. It won't take a minute. I'll clean it after.'” page 55

Review: Dr. Mütter's Marvels by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine
Author:  Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
Publisher:  Gotham / Avery, September 8, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback, 384 pages
     Hardcover, Enhanced eBook and eBook (September 4, 2014)
List Price:  $27.50 (Hardcover); $18.00 (Trade Paperback);
      $14.99 (Enhanced eBook); $12.99 (eBook)     
ISBN:  9781592408702 (Hardcover); 9781592409259 (Trade Paperback);
      9780698196995 (Enhanced eBook); and 9780698162105 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Dr. Mütter's Marvels by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
A mesmerizing biography of the brilliant and eccentric medical innovator who revolutionized American surgery and founded the country’s most famous museum of medical oddities

Imagine undergoing an operation without anesthesia, performed by a surgeon who refuses to sterilize his tools—or even wash his hands. This was the world of medicine when Thomas Dent Mütter began his trailblazing career as a plastic surgeon in Philadelphia during the mid-nineteenth century.

Although he died at just forty-eight, Mütter was an audacious medical innovator who pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools, and a compassion-based vision for helping the severely deformed, which clashed spectacularly with the sentiments of his time. Brilliant, outspoken, and brazenly handsome, Mütter was flamboyant in every aspect of his life. He wore pink silk suits to perform surgery, added an umlaut to his last name just because he could, and amassed an immense collection of medical oddities that would later form the basis of Philadelphia’s renowned Mütter Museum.

Award-winning writer Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz vividly chronicles how Mütter’s efforts helped establish Philadelphia as a global mecca for medical innovation—despite intense resistance from his numerous rivals. (Foremost among them: Charles D. Meigs, an influential obstetrician who loathed Mütter’s “overly modern” medical opinions.) In the narrative spirit of The Devil in the White City, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels interweaves an eye-opening portrait of nineteenth-century medicine with the riveting biography of a man once described as the “[P. T.] Barnum of the surgery room.”

Brannigan's Review

I went into this book expecting to learn about all of the crazy specimens in Dr. Mütter's museum and how he went about collecting them. Instead, I learned so much more that ended up being far more intriguing than I could have imagined. I credit all of this to Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. She wrote in such a way as to completely engage me as a reader and help me realize that Dr. Mütter, his life, and 19th century life and medicine and are all far more interesting than the specimens he collected.

Aptowicz truly loves her subject and as a reader you can feel it. She delves into the man and the times he lived in and how it all influenced him. She takes the time to help familiarize the reader with the now foreign world of the 19th century America and how it shaped Dr. Mütter and influenced how he became interested in medicine everywhere he practiced.

After finishing the book, I was amazed that more people don't know about Dr. Mütter and his impact on modern medicine, which is the perfect complement of great book. I want everyone to read it. It shined a light on a topic I've never had any previous interest in. When people think of plastic surgery, the majority will think of the Hollywood version instead of actual practical version that Dr. Mütter helped bring to America that saved countless lives and helped people from becoming “monsters” (the 19th century term for the deformed).

I honestly wouldn't change a thing about this book. It held so much information and used the appropriate primary sources so I had no fear of facts being diluted.

Dr. Mütter's Marvels is a truly fascinating book. I began expecting something completely different and left even happier than I could have ever anticipated. The writing is engaging while bringing some amazing medical information that I had no idea about. This needs to be required reading for anyone interested in becoming a doctor. There are are several surgeries that are described in detail, so I would recommend the book to older teens and adults. For anyone interested in medicine or anyone afraid of doctors this is a must read. It will help you be grateful for how easy we now have it.

Review: American Monsters by Linda S. Godfrey

American Monsters: A History of Monster Lore, Legends, 
      and Sightings in America
Author:  Linda S. Godfrey
Publisher:  Tarcher, August 28, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
Price:  $16.95 (print); $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780399165542 (print); 9781101625286 (eBook)
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher

Review: American Monsters by Linda S. Godfrey
From pre-Columbian legends to modern-day eyewitness accounts, this comprehensive guide covers the history, sightings and lore surrounding the most mysterious monsters in America—including Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and more.

Bigfoot, the chupacabra, and thunderbirds aren’t just figments of our overactive imaginations—according to thousands of eyewitnesses, they exist, in every corner of the United States. Throughout America’s history, shocked onlookers have seen unbelievable creatures of every stripe—from sea serpents to apelike beings, giant bats to monkeymen—in every region.

Author, investigator, and creature expert Linda S. Godfrey brings the same fearless reporting she lent to Real Wolfmen to this essential guide, using historical record, present-day news reports, and eyewitness interviews to examine this hidden menagerie of America’s homegrown beasts.

Brannigan's Review

I believe in monsters. I looked at several different polls over the last few years taken in regards to Americans and their belief in the supernatural, and it ranges between 20-45% of the population. So when I say I believe, I know I'm in the minority. Let me explain my belief. I believe because I want to believe there are monsters, not because I have any personal experience with one nor have I seen irrefutable evidence. I simply believe because I like the idea of there being a little unknown about our world.

It's been awhile since I've had the chance to read a nonfiction book on monsters. American Monsters is both educational and entertaining in how it presents its information. Linda S. Godfrey defines the word monster and then proceeds to break it up into three different subcategories; Air, Water and Land monsters. She then breaks the book up into the three categories.

Godfrey uses both historic and modern recounting of people's experiences with different monsters. Godfrey gives several different examples for each monster. Some are covered with more depth than others like the thunder birds, Jersey Devil, Mothman, Bigfoot, and Werewolves. I still learned about several monsters that were new to me. Several of the stories from eyewitnesses were very chilling and great fun to read. Godfrey does a wonderful job of keeping the pace steady and the stories entertaining. It makes reading a nonfiction book enjoyable instead of a chore.

My only complaint about the book is the fact that Godfrey didn't use as many primary sources as I would have liked. When it comes to historical accounts she could have gone to the primary source instead of someone else's book on the subject. That's not to say she didn't use primary sources, which she did. I just think she could have used more. It would have helped bring a little more authority to the book.

American Monsters is a fast paced nonfiction book that helps shine the light on several different types of monsters. The author allows readers to make up their own minds on the subject without ridicule either way. There are no content issues that would keep me from recommending the book to anyone interested in the subject. I think it would be a great book to read this month at night with the family.

Review: The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells

The Devil's Only Friend
Author:  Dan Wells
Series:  John Cleaver 4
Publisher:  Tor Books, June 16, 2015
Format:  Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $25.99 (Hardcover); $14.99 (Trade Paperback);
        $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765380661 (Hardcover); 9780765380678 (Trade Paperback);
        9781466874978 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells
John Wayne Cleaver hunts demons: they've killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loves, but in the end he's always won. Now he works for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can . . .

. . . but the monsters have noticed, and the quiet game of cat and mouse is about to erupt into a full scale supernatural war.

John doesn't want the life he's stuck with. He doesn't want the FBI bossing him around, he doesn't want his only friend imprisoned in a mental ward, and he doesn't want to face the terrifying cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John doesn't want to kill people. But as the song says, you can't always get what you want. John has learned that the hard way; his clothes have the stains to prove it.
When John again faces evil, he'll know what he has to do.

The Devil's Only Friend is the first book in a brand-new John Wayne Cleaver trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.

Brannigan's Review

Dan Wells is the only author I've ever read that has scared me to the point of shutting a book mid-sentence and throwing it across the room in fear, only to get up and pick the book up to continue reading. Normally, if an author messes with my mind that much, I say no thanks and go find a new book. I like to get scared, but I don't want nightmares. I had a bad experience in high school while researching the crimes of Jack the Ripper, and Dan Wells is the only author that has since freaked me out in a similar way and yet I still return to reading his books. His skill as a writer is that good.

I loved the first John Cleaver trilogy and was ecstatic to learn Wells was returning to the character with a new trilogy. The Devil's Only Friend is the perfect launching off point for a new trilogy of an established character. Wells changes John's world drastically by taking him out of his hometown, with its familiar supporting characters, and into a new city and new cast of supporting characters. I love that John is given so many new challenges. He has to find his place in the FBI team. He has to deal with the emotional trauma from past events, and he has find and kill some dangerous demons. I also love spending time in a psychopathic teenage mind.

There are a lot of new supporting characters to get to know right off the bat, and Wells does a good job of giving them unique personalities and quirks to help differentiate them from one another. Wells also gives the team a quick case at the start of the book to help define the roles of each team member before the main event. It sets everything up nicely for the rest of the book.

The pacing is quick but even. I never felt like events were moving too fast or got bored by the introspective moments. Wells also helps expand his world by giving the most information yet on his demons, or Withered or Gifted, depending on perspective of character. It also helps plant some seeds for the next two books in this trilogy.

The Devil's Only Friend is a magnificent start to a new trilogy. It's the perfect blend of horror, action and inventive world building. You'll be glad you picked up the book and started down the dark path of another John Cleaver trilogy, and don't worry if you haven't read the first three books, Wells gives you all you need to enjoy yourself. There isn't an issue with language. Violence on the other hand is often and descriptive, but not gory. No sexual situations. I'd recommend it to teens and adults, as long as they don't scare easy. It's the perfect book to enjoy this month. Go nab yourself a copy.

Review: Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island by Tim Pratt

Liar's Island
Author:  Tim Pratt
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 28
Publisher:  Tor Books, August 25, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print); $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765374523 (print); 9781466842649 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island by Tim Pratt
Rodrick is a con man as charming as he is cunning. Hrym is a talking sword of magical ice, with the soul and spells of an ancient dragon. Together, the two travel the world, parting the gullible from their gold and freezing their enemies in their tracks. But when the two get summoned to the mysterious island of Jalmeray by a king with genies and elementals at his command, they'll need all their wits and charm if they're going to escape with the greatest prize of all-their lives.

From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of magic, assassination, monsters, and cheerful larceny, in Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Brannigan's Review

Tim Pratt knows how to write a fun fantasy. Liar's Island was just what I needed after reading a stinker. It's light and refreshing, like a palette cleanser for my soul and a reminder of why I love fantasy. It has great characters, an interesting story and a great pace. This is my first Pathfinder novel, but it reminds me a lot of the Forgotten Realms novels I started reading in middle school.

Pratt's characters are easy to like and have personality without trying hard to prove it. Everything comes across so effortlessly that I got lost in the story and enjoyed myself. Our hero Rodrick and his sword Hrym work well together as the sword has more personality than a lot of actual human characters I've tried to connect to.

I'm not going to focus too much on the Pathfinder world building itself, as it is a shared world and I'm not familiar with it enough to know how much of it Pratt helped create. Regardless, it is rich in history and well developed. I would honestly like reading another Pathfinder book just to explore the world more.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was how much the narrative voice would explain things far more than was needed. That being said, I understand that there is a wide age range of readers that would be interested in the book and I'm sure there are some younger readers that need the additional explanations to follow the story.

Pratt's Liar's Island is a wonderful fantasy story perfect for readers that need a refreshing read after a bout of bad books. There isn't an issue with language. Minor acts of violence and only suggested sexual situations making it appropriate for teens and adults. Treat yourself and pick up your own copy today.

Retro Reviews: The Weapon From Beyond by Edmond HamiltonReview: The Fifth Season by N. K. JemisinReview: The Dinosaur Lords by Victor MilánBrannigan's Top Four Books of 2015Retro Reviews: Foundling by D. M. CornishRetro Reviews: Kill the Dead by Tanith LeeReview: Dr. Mütter's Marvels by Cristin O'Keefe AptowiczReview: American Monsters by Linda S. GodfreyReview: The Devil's Only Friend by Dan WellsReview: Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island by Tim Pratt

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