Review, The Better Part of Darkness, Kelly Gay


Book Blurb:
Atlanta: it’s the promised city for the off-worlders, foreigners from the alternate dimensions of heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon. Some bring good works and miracles. And some bring unimaginable evil….

Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She’s recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.’s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim — but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?

Review
Charlie Madigan is a police officer in an Atlanta that is working hard to integrate the radically different off-worlders who are starting to make Earth their home. She’s tough, has a great partner and a supportive police Chief, but a little overworked as she struggles to balance a recent return from death, unruly off-worlders, being a single mom, and an ex who desparately wants back into her life. It is a precarious juggling act, one made harder by someone determined to stop her from solving her current investigation into an off-world drug. Someone who is more than willing to threaten her family, friends, partner and Charlie herself.

Kelly Gay has created a creative and detailed world full of diverse characters. I found her portrayal of Charlie’s rich family life both realistic and also something you don’t see often in urban fantasy, particularly a situation where the heroine is not only a mother but also the principal caregiver – in addition to being able to kick serious paranormal ass. The story moves at a brisk and exciting pace and Charlie’s challenging life leaves readers gasping for breath but definitely wanting more.

I am eagerly looking forward to the next in the Charlie Madigan series.

Find out more about Kelly Gay at her site or by following her on Twitter.

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Review: Already Dead, Charlie Huston

Review
Vampires in NYC. Heck, vampires controlling NYC. Very gangland.

In Huston’s take on popular vampire myths, Manhattan has been divided up by the vampire clans and our hero, Joe Pitt, is a well-connected ‘rogue’ just trying to find his way in the world that really doesn’t like rogues.

Joe is also a PI, who is hired by Marilee Horde, a prominent New York socialite, to locate her runaway teenage daughter, Amanda, who may be slumming with homeless goth kids in the East Village. Meanwhile, a “carrier” is on the loose, infecting its victims with a bacterium that turns them into brain-eating zombies and the group of uptown corporate-type vamps, The Coalition, want Pitt to find and destroy the carrier. After all, an influx of zombies does kind of bring unwanted attention to the undead community.

And what a fucked-up world this is! This story will suck you in, turn your stomach, and yet leave you wanting more. I loved the diversity of the type of vampire groups: corporate uptown-ers; 60s radicals, motorcycle gang-ers, tai chi higher being-seeking vamps, gangstah vamps, etc. Huston takes the usual vampire conventions, mixes in social commentary and adds enough violence to keep the most bloodthirtsy horror fan happy.

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Review: Staked, J. F. Lewis

Book blurb
UNREPENTANT UNIMPRESSED AND TOTALLY UNDEAD
Eric’s got issues. He has short-term and long-term memory problems; he can’t remember who he ate for dinner yesterday, much less how he became a vampire in the first place. His best friend, Roger, is souring on the strip club he and Eric own together. And his girlfriend, Tabitha, keeps pressuring him to turn her so she can join him in undeath. It’s almost enough to put a Vlad off his appetite. Almost.

Eric tries to solve one problem, only to create another: he turns Tabitha into a vampire, but finds that once he does, his desire for her fades — and her younger sister, Rachel, sure is cute. And when he kills a werewolf in self-defense, things really get out of hand. Now a pack of born-again lycanthropes is out for holy retribution, while Tabitha and Rachel have their own agendas — which may or may not include helping Eric stay in one piece.

All Eric wants to do is run his strip club, drink a little blood, and be left alone. Instead, he must survive car crashes, enchanted bullets, sunlight, sex magic, and werewolves on ice — not to mention his own nasty temper and forgetfulness.

Because being undead isn’t easy, but it sure beats the alternative.

Review
Void City isn’t like other American cities. For one, well it is inhabited by a whole lot of supernatural creatures. One in particular, Eric, is not having a good, well, un-life. He is a vampire who owns a strip club and just woke up in an alley with no memory of how he got there (getting embalmed before you rise from the dead can play havoc with the memory) and had to kill a werewolf in self-defense. And wouldn’t you know it; the werewolf was connected. No, not that way: he was connected to a bunch of old-time-religion holy rollers who aren’t too pleased with vamps in general and strip club owning ones in particular.

In situations like this it is good to turn to your friends. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be very willing to help. His best friend and business partner is acting off and the woman who would have been his wife (if he hadn’t become a vampire) is getting on in years and cranky. Then there is his current girlfriend, Tabitha, who really, really wants him to turn her. When he gives in and does it instead of the happily ever after she’d expected, he loses interest in her, especially after he meets her younger sister.

These days, a vampire owning a strip club is cliché, but Lewis makes Eric a character well worth watching. He may have difficulty remembering things but he is still a young vamp and hasn’t lost his humanity. He runs his business with kindness, taking care of his girls – and donors – with respect and understanding. Sure he is crude, sarcastic and caustic, but he genuinely cares about the people around him and he works hard to try and protect them.

I found the world that Lewis build around Eric fascinating. Not only are the characters rich, the way he describes the vampire hierarchy is complex and original. Excellent work.

Rating
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This may not be for everyone…

It contains two things that may not go over well in the UF/PR community.

First, it is about a same sex relationship. Male/male. So if you think that is ooky, don’t read any further.

Second, it is about fan fiction. You know, a story written, by a fan obviously, using characters created by other people for books, movies or in this case a TV show.

Some folks look down on that sort of stuff, but frankly I’ve found some writers there that blow me away. Sure, they may not have created the actual character, but they stay so true to the character that someone else created you can barely see the difference. And the stories, the situations, the plots, the love scenes… amazing. I once spent almost a whole year reading nothing but fan fiction, discovering some of the best writers I have ever read, (saving lots of money) and never felt any loss because it wasn’t an actual book. Why some of those writer don’t have publishing contracts I just don’t know. I guess because most of what they had written – to date – had been fan fiction…

Now I am not saying that they are all good. There is a LOT of dross out there for that rare spot of gold. Believe me; there have been many, many some times the stuff I was reading made me want to scrub my eyes with bleach. Of course I’ve also paid for some novels that made me want to do the same thing.

When it comes to fan fiction, I am not sure how published writers feel about it. Most, I think, ignore it. I’ve seen some writers mention it in their blogs and say that they are okay with it, and then I’ve seen others be very vociferous in their denunciation of it. Personally, I would think it would help sell more books or attract people to TV shows and movies. I know I have done all of those things (picked up a book, started watching a show or a movie) because of a ‘fic. Still, I am not a published author (yet) so I may feel different once that happens.

About the ‘vociferous denunciations’; I have seen most because of that one little fact that I mentioned first: they don’t like the whole slash aspect. Now, not all fanfiction is slash, but there is enough of it out there that it could be threatening. Homosexuality is not fully accepted (yet) and it can cause some people – especially the original creators of the character – to balk.

As I have not yet a creator of an original character (that any of you know about yet at least) I can’t comment on that. I, again, may feel differently once I finally make it into print. I do know that I have no problem with homosexuality (and before you ask, hetero woman here). I do have a caveat when it comes to sex; it must be between consenting adults (no force, children or animals), but that caveat goes for all sex, regardless of orientation.

Whoa! Way to start getting way off topic… my point is that I read fan fiction. I read both het and slash fan fiction. And once in a while I find a writer who blows me away.

And I am babbling now because I found one. The show they write for is CSI: NY, which is one of my person fave shows. And being someone who has all the DVDs and is an avid watcher, I can tell you that I really think this writer has gotten the ‘voices’ of the characters spot on.

The aspect that they have added – which is why I am mentioning it here – is that they have added a supernatural element, integrating it seamlessly into the reality that is New York City. In this world, supernaturals exist alongside humans, perhaps not fully peaceably, but they are there and people know about them.

I also think this fic sets itself apart from others I have read because, for the most part it is about one character, and focuses on his back story. Supernatural back story, and also his relationship with the other CSI: NY characters. With characters who may have been alluded to through the show, but not introduced. And even a few characters who have been introduced in the show (or other shows), but at a time long before they went on to television ‘fame’.

The author has also done a pretty complete ‘world’ build for this story. Much like Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris or Laurel Hamilton have done; this writer has created a world where supernaturals are among us, we know about them and have an uneasy co-existence with them. It has depth and it has history.

Frankly, if this story didn’t contain characters from a TV show that I love deeply, and it was a straight UF story, I’d still count it as one of the best I’ve read in while.

Okay, I’ll shut up now, but if you do want to risk the read, I highly recommend “We Don’t Die” by jetpack-angel. The list of the component chapters (still ongoing) can be found at: http://jetpack-angel.livejournal.com/4166.html.

Win “Deader Still” by Anton Strout!

I posted a review for Anton Strout’s first book in this series, “Dead to Me” here, giving it 5 Dragons. I mentioned that the next in the series, “Deader Still” was coming out on Feb 24th… well it is out now!

And Bitten by Books is giving you an opportunity to win a copy of the book.

Stop over and follow all their rules for how you can win the book (there are lots of ways to get an entry (or more). And remember… if you win ’cause you say it here you have to share the book with me. J/K (or am I?)

Good luck!

Review: Dead to Me, Anton Strout

Book blurb
Psychometry – the power to touch an object and divine information about its history-has meant a life of petty crime for Simon Canderous, but now he’s gone over to the good side. At New York’s underfunded and (mostly) secret Department of Extraordinary Affairs, he’s learning about red tape, office politics, and the basics of paranormal investigation. But it’s not the paperwork that has him breathless.

After Simon spills his coffee on (okay, through) the ghost of a beautiful woman – who doesn’t know she’s dead – he and his mentor plan to find her killers. But Simon’s not prepared for the nefarious plot that unfolds before him, involving politically correct cultists, a large wooden fish, a homicidal bookcase, and the forces of Darkness, which kind of have a crush on him.”

Review
What happens when Good and Evil meet at the junction of bureaucracy?

Simon Canderous has spent years using his special gift of psychometry for nefarious purposes, but he is working for Good now, in the form of New York City’s Department of Extraordinary Affairs. Author Anton Strout’s description of life in the bureaucratic hell that is a government agency is spot on – even if the agency’s role is to protect the Good. Mountains of paperwork, fascinating but bizarre characters and the occasional zombie cleanup definitely make Simon’s determination not to fall back into a life of crime interesting.

While still trying hard to learn the job under the tutelage of his mentor Connor, Simon manages to find himself mixed up with a very confused ghost, evil cultists, a wooden fish, and a bunch of FOGies.

Much like the forces of Darkness, I too have a bit of a crush on Simon. Or maybe it is on Anton Strout for creating him. I love this world he has created and I am going to be eagerly waiting for the door to the bookstores to open on February 24th when the second Simon Canderous story, Deader Still, comes out.

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Review: New Tricks, John Levitt

Book blurb
Mason used to be an enforcer, ensuring that suspect magic practitioners stayed in line. But he gave all that up for a quiet life scraping out a living playing guitar, keeping a low profile with Louie, his magical… well, let’s call him a dog. Luckily, Louie has a sixth sense for danger, and Mason knows exactly how dead he’d be without him.

It’s Halloween in the Castro district of San Francisco, which means that for once Mason doesn’t have to worry about the fact that vampires and ghosts are stalking the streets. What he does have to worry about is how his old flame Sarah became the victim of an attempted possession – leaving her an empty shell.

Mason’s only clue is the green rune stone found is her hand…

Review
Mason is not having a bad year. He’s got no girlfriend, no money, no upcoming gigs; he’s even gone back to working as a practitioner just to make ends meet. He’s in a major funk, and even partying on Castro Street isn’t helping.

When he is called on to help find a fellow practitioner who has gone missing, Mason finds himself with a new mystery to solve: what – or who – had left one of his old flame’s an empty shell.

Poor Mason. He really doesn’t have much luck with his old girlfriends does he? And things don’t necessarily get better in New Tricks.

Mason is joined in this tale by the some of the same characters found in the first book – including the required Louie – as well as some new ones who prove intriguing, though I admit I did figure out whodunit early.

Still, as in the first book, the plot is very enjoyable. We are given an opportunity to learn more about the possible genesis of ifrits, including a theory which, when acted upon, results in the creation of a horrible and deadly situation. It also begs the other questions: how far should practitioners go to help themselves rather than others, and does the end justify the means?

After reading this book I am even more invested in this series, and eagerly looking forward to more tales about Mason and Louie.

Rating
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