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July 9, 2016

Monsters, Mixed Drinks & Millennials: Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

review by Donna Huber

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge
I was really excited to start reading Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge after my interview with author Paul Krueger last month. The story's premise had great promise to be a terrific summer read.

Bailey Chen recently graduated from college and plans for a great adult life. Yet, things aren't going quite as planned as she is back living at home with her parents and working as a bar back in a high school's friends bar. But things aren't what they seem, as Bailey soon learns.

I liked Bailey. I saw a lot of myself in her when I was her age. I always had a plan growing up and knew exactly how life was going to turn out. Or so I thought. The other characters were likeable, but I felt like they could have been better fleshed out. Like I knew something was off about Mona. But instead of dropping more hints through out the story and showing the reader what was up, it is told to the reader at the end.

I also expected something more from Bailey. I thought there was too much emphasis on her ability to make a perfect cocktail without much thought, though when she was trying to make the perfect cocktail it failed, for there not to have been something of importance to it.

Actually, my biggest problem with the book was there was more telling than showing going on. This lack of showing made it feel like the story was lacking something.

If a novel is written in three acts, I felt as if there was act 1 and act 3 with a summarized act 2. Krueger did well in introducing the characters and this world where monters are attracted to the intoxicated and bartenders mix magical cocktails so they can fight them. It was when we got to the meat of the story that it faltered and turned more to telling.

Kruegar also seemed to go for 'easy outs', which, of course, telling the reader what they need to know is easier than showing. For example, little is known about the history of bartending because there was a "blackout" period were almost all documents were lost. How convenient.

While paranormal urban fantasy is not usually my thing, there were a few things that drew me to the book. I liked the plot thread of a new college graduate trying to find her way into adulthood. There was a diverse cast of characters. If you couldn't tell from the last name, Bailey is Chinese-American. I was also hoping that it being 'new adult' that the fantasy would be light or at least the reader would be slowly introduced to the universe as they often are in young adult.

I wonder though if the publisher thought the diverse cast would score enough brownie points with the reader to make up for the plot holes. For me, whatever points the book earned for diversity were lost with the reveal about Bailey's parents. It was like the author realized that he had stereotyped her parents and couldn't have that so right at the end he through in a twist, which I thought could have been executed better.

As for the 'new adult' designation...Thankfully it really did describe the target audience/age of the characters and not a code word for erotic scenes between young adults. If there weren't such an emphasis on alchohol consumption the story could have easily been YA.

Actually, my favorite part of the book was the description of the different cocktails. After each chapter there are pages from the "Devil's Water Dictionary", a manual for tremens-hunting bartenders, that provides the recipe for the cocktail and then history about the ingredients. The cocktails are real cocktails, so if you are hosting a book club meeting or a bookish party, themed libeations will be easy to provide.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge was a fun read for when I was lounging in the pool. The plot wasn't overly complicated and the characters are unique individuals making the book an easy read. There was enough room in the ending that more stories could follow and I liked it well enough to read more should it become a series.

Buy Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge at Amazon

Donna Huber, founder & publisher. Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances.

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (288 pages)
published: June 2016 by Quirk Books
ISBN13: 9781594747595
target audience: new adults
genres: fantasy
source: publisher

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