Tag Archives: Brain Mill Press

The Devils Revolver

Book Review of The Devil’s Revolver, by V.S. McGrath

I purchased a copy of V.S. McGrath‘s The Devil’s Revolver.

Description from Goodreads:
She is Hettie Alabama — unlikely, scarred, single-minded, and blood bound to a revolver forged by a demon.

The first book in an epic, magic-clad series featuring the Wild West reimagined as a crosscultural stereoscope of interdimensional magic and hardship, The Devil’s Revolver opens with a shooting competition and takes off across the landscape after a brutal double murder and kidnapping — to which revenge is the only answer. Hettie Alabama, only seventeen years old, leads her crew of underdogs with her father’s cursed revolver, magicked to take a year off her life each time she fires it. It’s no way for a ranch girl to grow up, but grow up she does, her scars and determination to rescue her vulnerable younger sister deepening with every year of life she loses.

A sweeping and high-stakes saga that gilds familiar Western adventure with powerful magic and panoramic fantasy, The Devil’s Revolver is the last word and the blackest hat in the Weird West.

A YA novel that avoids a lot of the common YA traps. I’m not entirely sure I even realized this was going to be YA, that the protagonist is 17ish, when I started it. (Yes, it’s in the blurb, but I didn’t reread it between buying the book and actually reading it.) Even once I did realize, I never felt Hettie fell into the simpering, angst-filled role that annoys me so much in so many YA stories. What’s more, while there is a male character that MIGHT later fulfill a romantic pairing, this story wasn’t cluttered up with ill-timed youthful luuurve.

I did feel Hettie’s obsessive determination wasn’t wholly explained. I mean, yes, she wanted her last family member saved, but she seemed a little too driven and compulsive. This may have been because the reader is never really given the opportunity to see Hettie interact with Abby, so Abby is forever a theoretical motivation. Also, I felt some of the magic system was a bit hand-wavy.

I enjoyed the writing, which I found clean and easy to read. It have enough Western slang to give it character, but not enough to clutter the narrative. All in all, I enjoyed it and would happily read another McGrath book.

Book Review of Abroad: Book One (Abroad #1), by Liz Jacobs

I received an ARC of Liz Jacob‘s Abroad.

Description from Goodreads:
Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.

Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .

When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?

This is a situational, character-driven novel if I’ve ever read one. It is essentially conflict-less, or at least there isn’t any conflict from outside the characters themselves. Then there are all the points of view.

There are three first-person POVs, which confused me for a while. Two are very obviously a couple-to-be, which in most such books makes them the main characters. But then there is this third POV, which honestly felt like a 3rd wheel to me. That is until I realized it’s not the individual characters the story centers around, but their collective lives, negotiations, and self-discoveries. It’s in how they relate and compare to one another, their similarities and differences that this book shines. And shine it does. Everyone should read it.

My complaints are few, but I do have some. I felt like Dex and Nick’s attraction was a little too instant and there was so little direct interaction between them that I didn’t feel their relationship grow. I feel I learned a lot about their insecurities and various social challenges, but very little about them outside of these narrow disclosures. I thought the sex scenes, though wonderful, were too long and too similar; this despite one being F/F and one being M/M. (It’s wonderful to have both in the same book, BTW.) I thought the writing, which was mostly fabulous, got a little too purple at times, especially toward the end. And I thought the 3 POVs, diluted the story a bit. It made obvious that the intent was to explore different sorts of sexuality and sexual discovery, but it made for a thin plot.

All in all, I didn’t think it was perfect. But I liked it enough to be looking for more.