Science Fiction, like other genres, has many sub-categories. I tend to stick to contemporary fantasy, but also like good old magic tales. I generally avoid techie science fiction. I love Mercedes Lackey's Elemental series, Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, Simon Green's Ghostfinders series, and Kristen Britain's Green Rider tales. And of course, I was a huge fan of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels until she jumped the shark at about novel #9. Ugh. Same with Laurel K. Hamilton and the Anita Blake novels. There are many, many more I will read and love as the years go by. I've got Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series sitting on my bookshelves,unread. I've got bits and pieces of other series also waiting patiently on my shelves. I always love to peruse the science fiction/fantasy section at my local B&N. You never know what will pop out.
Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge is just one of those books that popped out at me. I'd seen it on a recent visit to the bookstore, but didn't buy it. Then I was somewhere, looking at something, and I saw it again. I checked out some reviews, and decided to go back to B&N and buy it. The idea of bartenders saving the world from monsters by mixing the ingesting certain cocktails that give them certain powers appealed to me on many levels. For one, the creativity Paul Krueger had to come up with this story line. For two, it takes place in Chicago--my "ancestral" home: place of my birth, where my parents grew up and married. I'm a sucker for stories that take place in Chicago.
So, Bailey Chen has returned to live with her parents after graduating from Penn State. She's unemployed, but hoping to get a job--any job--soon. Her childhood friend Zane gets her a temporary job at his Uncle's bar, the Nightshade Lounge. Bailey and Zane have a friendship that is layered with all sorts of unresolved issues of the romantic kind. When he was interested, she wasn't; now she's interested, and he has a girlfriend. One night, Bailey is left to close up the bar. She decides to mix a screw driver to drink before leaving for the night. The strange thing is, this drink Bailey makes gives her some super human strength. And she doesn't realize it until she's walking home, by herself, and runs into something not so human: a tremen. Tremens are demons that look like blobs of grossness, and they jump humans and literally suck the life out of them. They especially like people who have been drinking. Something about the mix of alcohol and human produces a life force that tremens love.
Bailey quickly finds herself as a bartender-in-training of a different kind: a monster-fighting bartender. They patrol the streets at night, making sure humans are safe from tremens. Properly mixed cocktails produce magical effects on bartenders that usually last an hour, enough time to patrol, kill tremens, and get back to the bar. Vodka gives tremendous strength, whiskey grants telekinesis, and rum will get you the ability to blast fire from your fingertips. Pretty awesome stuff!
But of course, things aren't so simple. There are more and more tremens popping up, and in packs, which is highly unusual. Something strange is going on, and it's got to do with one mystical drink: the long island iced tea.
I'm not telling you anymore. This is a fun novel, and the first in what I hope will be at least a trilogy. In between each chapter are bits of cocktail magical history from "The Devil's Water Dictionary", Bailey's guide to creating cocktails. Bailey is your usual out of college, don't know what to do with my life twenty-something. She's pretty smart, but finds out that sometimes being book smart just isn't enough when it comes to fighting demons. The characters that surround Bailey are all colorful and slightly quirky, and I can't wait to see how everyone evolves--if, hopefully, there are more adventures ahead for the magical bartenders.
Rating: 7/10 for a quirky take on contemporary urban fantasy. I'll never look at a cocktail quite the same again!
Available in paperback and e-book.