Supernatural high jinks abound in this joyfully flippant tale.


Why I Shouldn't Work With a Werewolf

From the Samuel the Vampire series

Two agents—one a vampire, the other a werewolf—clash when attempting to stop a rampaging vampwolf in this paranormal comedy.

Vampire Special Agent Samuel Johnson’s latest mission from VATE (Vampires Against the Evil) is fairly routine: capture a vampwolf terrorizing Des Moines, Iowa. There’s just one problem. The vampire’s boss, Beryl, is partnering him with Joseph Butler, a werewolf. Samuel, a typically solemn, calculating vampire, dreads working with an impulsive, unruly wolf. Organizations like VATE were created to keep humans, who’d centuries ago hunted vampires and wolves into near extinction, safe but ignorant of both races. When the vampwolf goes on a Friday night rage at the mall, Samuel and Joseph easily agree on rescuing human shoppers that haven’t yet managed to flee. But Samuel wants a precise plan of attack, while Joseph impetuously strikes, intent on killing the vampwolf. Complicating matters are two groups of the Evil Ones (vampires) and Wild Ones (werewolves), feral versions of each that would rather kill/eat than protect humans. They exchange blows with the vampwolf as well but could target humans at any time—or turn on the agents. If Samuel and Joseph can find the vampwolf in human form, they’ll have a chance of killing him. That, however, would necessitate cooperating with each other, an arduous feat by its very nature. The novel is a quick read with beaucoup action sequences. A large portion of the laughs comes from Samuel’s first-person perspective. The lofty narrator repeatedly disparages humans, whom he considers stupid, and even apologizes for possibly offending werewolf readers before calling them “obnoxious.” Carpenter (A Limitless Policy, 2014, etc.) sets his story apart with some unfamiliar genre traits: vampires and werewolves do not turn humans into their kind, and both agents can transform (Samuel into a mist or bat) while somehow retaining their clothes and weapons. Intermittent, chapter-length flashbacks to Beryl handing out the assignment and Samuel first meeting his furry partner slow down an otherwise steady pace; shorter recaps would have been as effective. Nevertheless, a few genuine surprises in the final act make for a solid ending and potential setup for a sequel.

Supernatural high jinks abound in this joyfully flippant tale.

Pub Date: April 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5234-4089-4

Page Count: 168

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...


Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.


In this tale of a young German Jewish girl under the protection of a golem—a magical creature of Jewish myth created from mud and water—Hoffman (The Rules of Magic, 2017, etc.) employs her signature lyricism to express the agony of the Holocaust with a depth seldom equaled in more seemingly realistic accounts.

The golem, named Ava, comes into being in 1941 Berlin. Recently made a widow by the Gestapo and desperate to get her 12-year-old daughter, Lea, out of Germany, Hanni Kohn hires Ettie, a rabbi’s adolescent daughter who has witnessed her father creating a golem, to make a female creature who must obey Hanni by protecting Lea at all costs. Ettie uses Hanni’s payment to escape on the same train toward France as Lea and Ava, but the two human girls’ lives take different paths. Ettie, who has always chafed at the limits placed on her gender, becomes a Resistance fighter set on avenging her younger sister’s killing by Nazis. Lea, under Ava’s supernatural care, escapes the worst ravages of the war, staying first with distant cousins in Paris (already under Gestapo rule), where she falls in love with her hosts' 14-year-old son, Julien; then in a convent school hiding Jewish girls in the Rhone Valley; then in a forest village not far from where Ettie has partnered in her Resistance activities with Julien’s older brother. While Lea’s experiences toughen and mature her, Ettie never stops mourning her sister but finds something like love with a gentle gentile doctor who has his own heartbreaking backstory. In fact, everyone in the large cast of supporting human characters—as well as the talking heron that is Ava’s love interest and Azriel, the Angel of Death—becomes vividly real, but Ava the golem is the heart of the book. Representing both fierce maternal love and the will to survive, she forces Lea and Ettie to examine their capacities to make ethical choices and to love despite impossible circumstances.

A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3757-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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