Review: Highland Vampire Vengeance by J. P. Bowie

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Highland Vampire VengeanceScottish vampire brothers Aeden and Lyall MacKay live in a world where vampires are accepted as part of society, although they both prefer to be discreet because of the small Scottish town they live in.  Then their  small town of Aberglen, Scotland, is threatened by marauding winged creatures, police inspector Alistair MacFarlane asks the brothers for help protect the townspeople who are dying with every attack.  Alistair has another reason to ask for help, he is in love with Aeden MacKay and has been since they met.  But  Aeden isn’t sure about taking Alastair as a lover, seeing only hurt in their future.

As disaster after disaster levels the worlds governments, even the vampires find themselves under attack.  Soon the remaining vampires and humans join forces to defeat the most powerful enemy the world has ever know.  If they are not successful, it will be the end of the world as they know it,  all humans dead and the vampires enslaved to the Ancients.  Even as the battle looms ahead, Aeden and Alastair must decide to take a chance on love before it is too late.

Highland Vampire Vengeance is a thrill ride of a vampire story from J. P. Bowie.  There is much to enjoy about this story, starting with the Scottish vampire brothers themselves.  There is Aeden the more serious and reserved of the brothers who is in love with Alistair MacFarlane, the human police inspector of their small town.  While Alistair is doing everything he can to pursue his vampire, Aeden is doing everything he can to hold off the human’s advances.  Since usually it is the vampire who is the pursuer I liked Bowie’s twist on the subject.  Lyall is much more the party animal, with always a new lover in tow, never a serious relationship to his name.  Of course, Lyall too finds his mate when he goes to the rescue of a man carried off by the winged creatures that have invaded the town.  Bowie has given the brothers an interesting back history that I wish could have had its own story.  When we meet them they are living in their ancestral castle in the town of Aberglen, Scotland when the hoards invade.

Bowie does a nice job with the action sequences, especially those when they are chasing after the creatures and when they hunt them down to their place of origin.  The action is tight and the plot is developed nicely.  But I did have some quibbles with the book.  Some comes from the dialog in which a Scottish accent appears and then disappears with regularity.  The brothers, although they are several hundred year old Scots, don’t appear to have a accent but Alastair does, or at least he does part of the time.

Here is an example.  Aeden and Lyall are talking in their drawing room.

“Daydreaming, brother?” Aeden turned at the sound of the soft lilting voice behind him. “Nightdreaming, actually,” he replied, his smile still in place. “Now that you’re awake, would you care for a glass of Bordeaux?” “Thank you.” Lyall MacKay walked with a leisurely grace toward him, standing by his brother’s side as Aeden poured the wine from a decanter. Had there been a third person in the room there would have been no doubt in their mind that the two were brothers. Both were tall men, broad shouldered, dark haired and blue eyed. The only significant difference was that Aeden, being originally older by five years, had a more mature appearance than Lyall, who had retained his boyish features, despite the years that had passed. Lyall raised his glass briefly then drained it in one long swallow. “Very nice,” he said, licking his full lower lip. “I’ll have another.”

Speaking of which…” Lyall paused to sip his wine more slowly this time. “Did you watch the news last night?” “No, I try to avoid that lurid rubbish as much as I can. Why? Was there something of interest I should know about?” “Mmm… The local news reported that a young couple was found dead in a field by the farmer…”

Definitely not a conversation full of Scottish overtones.  Then there is Alastair.  This is how he sounds, some of the time:

“He’s having the residue analyzed and should have something for me tomorrow,” Alistair added. “Any ideas so far?” Aeden filled him in about the article he’d read. Alistair nodded. “We had a report of those attacks from Scotland Yard. Apparently, there have been sporadic similar incidents in London and Manchester. The police are trying to keep it low profile right now, not wanting to cause a panic, but from what I understand some reporter has an eyewitness account he’s dying to publish.

Fine, except that he will then apparently remembers he is Scottish and starts sounds like this:

 “This is the worst case I’ve ever been faced with, Aeden. I just hope I’m up to solving it and making sure it doesna’ happen again.”

or this

 “I canna’ deny that part of it is… Och, Aeden, of course I will be afraid.”

And then he is back sounding like a regular non specific British Isle constable again.  There is just an odd lack of continuity as far as the dialog goes.  As all  the characters are Scottish, it would have been better to have gone in one direction or the other but not both, especially with the same character.

Another thing that stood out was some odd word usage in the story.  At one point  during a meeting it is said:

“I like the Inspector’s idea of alienating one or two then following them,” Dylan said.

Which to me is an odd use for the word alienating. Isolating certainly, separating them fine, but alienating? Not really.  Another one that stood out for me was the use of lumbering  as in:

“Do you know what you’re lumbering yourself with?”

I have always heard it used in a far different fashion, perhaps as in “you great lumbering git”.  And in fact if you look it up in the dictionary, this is what you will find:

To move in a slow, heavy, awkward way : a truck filled his mirror and lumbered past | [as adj. ] ( lumbering) Bob was the big, lumbering, gentle sort | figurative a lumbering bureaucracy.

So I am not sure how this usage found its way into the story, all I know is that it stopped my reading when I smacked into that sentence.  So between a elusive language format, one case of instant love,  and odd words popping up here and there, my concentration on the story was as flighty as a vampire on the wind.  There were also some problems with a group called the Druids, a race employed by the Ancients.  The guidelines upon which this group operated on had their own moments of illogic where first they have been aligned with the Ancients for a long time, then act as though they have just been brought into the project.  Sigh.

But underneath the issues I have with the story, is a fast paced plot, lively characters and a great dramatic ending that I loved.  The issues I had with the story might be ones that bother you not at all.  If so, you will find this a 4 star story but for me, it just comes shy of that rating.  Still if vampires are your thing or you are a fan of J. P. Bowie, pick this one up.  I mean really, that is one great title, Highland Vampire Vengeance, and one great  cover. You have vampires, world wide destruction, doomsday machines and a villain called The Ancient.  It almost cries out for its own SyFy movie of the week! Will someone let them know?

Cover art by Deana Jamroz.  I love it, campy and dramatic, perfect for the title.

Sunday, Glorious Sunday and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Finally, our weather seems to have evened out into a semblance of spring and the day is truly glorious.  The sun is shining, the day is warming up and a slight breeze is ruffling the remaining cherry blossom petals on the trees that line the streets of my neighborhood.  My hostas are now at least 4 inches above the ground, my early azaleas are starting to bloom, and the trees all around are raising almost single handedly the pollen count for the entire Metropolitan area.  In fact all my gardens are shaking off their winter doldrums, waking up to the warm spring sunlight and recent nourishing rains.

I love this time of year, the season of rebirth and new growth.  For me, spring is something I also internalize, a time for changes inside as well as out.  I look at the house and think “time to spruce up a bit, hmmmm, new paint job for the living room?” or maybe just the time to start donating or throwing away those unused or rarely used things around the shed, in the basement or in my closet, definitely my closet.  Time to buck up and get rid of those size 8 jeans that have not seen the light of day since my late twenties or those gaucho pants I so dearly loved in my 30’s.  And what do you know? Jumpsuits are back, but maybe not in that military green and Pointer Sisters style.  I know all trends come back around in time, but really, I doubt I will ever see that size again no matter what Weight Watchers tells me!  Why have I kept a bike helmet when I don’t ride a bike?  And what did I think I was going to do with that broken hand turned coffee grinder?  Wait until it was an antique?  In that case, my basement is full of antiques to be, just waiting for their time in the sun.  Kind of like me. I do admit to looking in the mirror and thinking that perhaps a swath of purple would look amazing in my hair and that maybe a visit to the new tattoo parlor that just opened up might just be the thing to add to my calendar.

Hey, its spring and the possibilities are endless, promise of new growth, any type of growth,  is everywhere.  Why not just go with the flow and see what’s new around you?  New places to explore, new people to meet and  always new authors and new books to take along with you on your journey.  Here are some books you might want to consider:

This is what our week ahead in reviews looks like:

Monday, April 15:                 Fire for Effect by Kendall McKenna

Tuesday, April 16:               The Good Fight by Andrew Grey

Wed., April 17:                       The Fight Within by Andrew Grey

Thursday, April 18:               Highland Vampire Vengeance by J.P. Bowie

Friday< April 19:                    Loving Hector by John Inman

Sat, April 20:                           Into This River I Drown by T.J. Klune

That’s the plan at any rate.  I think I have gotten over my snit fit with Into This River I Drown, at least enough to offer a reasonably objective review.  We will see on  that one, rarely does a book make me want to cheer and smash things as that one did.  And thanks, Lynn, for the recommendation of the John Inman book, that was great.  If any one out there has a book they think I have missed out on, please send me the titles, authors and publishing house.  I make no promises but I am always looking for something new to read.

So, that’s it.  There are gardens calling and color samples waiting to be pondered over.  The terriers are gazing longingly out the windows, telling me its time to head outside.  I totally agree with them.   See you all later.

Review of A Self Portrait by J.P. Bowie

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Artist Peter Brandon is getting ready to have old friends visit for the weekend and is a little irritated that his partner, Jeff Stevens has scheduled a meeting in L. A. about a case at the same time he was hoping to have help with the preparations. As it gets closer for Jeff to leave, Peter starts having feelings of dread, twinges of intuition that have always been right in the past.  But Jeff goes anyway promising to be back in the evening. When Jeff doesn’t arrive home as planned and doesn’t answer Peter’s phone calls,  Peter knows that something terrible has happened. A vision shows him Jeff, hurt, bound and gagged and Peter  jumps into action, determined to rescue Jeff at any cost. And one of the people Peter counts on to help him is none other than the spirit of his dead lover, Phillip.

Peter finds out that Jeff had been pulled into a case involving a Satanic cult whose leader, Lefevre, has followers everywhere and the LA police have no leads on Jeff’s location.  As Peter and Jeff’s friends gather round to help in the search, Peter heads out with only Phillip as his guide. When Lefevre finds out about Phillip’s ability to aid Peter from beyond the grave, he plans to acquire the spirit and kill all who stands in his way.

In my opinion, A Self Portrait is really two separate books attached loosely two thirds of the way into the plot.  While I enjoyed each separately, I don’t that it worked successfully fused together.  The first two thirds of the book happens when Peter falls unconscious after hearing the news of Jeff’s disappearance. During this state, he remembers his love affair with Phillip from beginning at age 15 to the attack that killed Phillip and severely injured Peter to the point he remained in a coma for 3 years.  I loved their story although Phillip’s sheer perfection got on my nerves a bit. While I can see the memory of a deceased loved one become burnished over time so that their imperfections vanish, I don’t think that was the case here.  I just wish Bowie had Phillip gnaw on a cuticle or two, something to humanize Phillip more for the reader.  Peter is far more the believable human being here, with his flaws and imperfections front and center, I certainly liked Peter more.  And I was genuinely upset when the couple was attacked and devastated when Peter woke alone in the hospital.  That said, I also saw the attack coming, much like watching one of those college kids go down into the basement in Scary Movie.

The remaining third of the book deals with Peter, his visions, and his attempts to locate Jeff before they are all killed in a satanic ritual.  Again, Bowie built the reader’s apprehension and suspense bit by bit, so much so that in parts I was on the edge of my chair reading.  Very skillfully executed indeed.  The one thing that threw me off balance was Lefevre turning out to have real powers as opposed to being just another bogus whackjob with pretensions to evil.  J.P. Bowie never built a case for that happening so it didn’t seam to fit in with the rest of the story.  I did like the idea of Phillip’s spirit assisting Peter but wish we had a more solid base for all the actions of the last act, especially when the psychic powers become all important to the plot and its resolution. As I said I think that there are two successful books here, I just am not sure that A Self Portrait contains one.  I liked the book (with reservations), and I like the author.  If you find my quibbles palatable, then I recommend this book to you.

Cover.  This is not the cover on my book. The cover artist for that particular cover is Deana Jamroz.  But both covers have the same elements and work for the story