What I’m Reading, or The Reason I Have Been Silent Lately

According to the stats section of WordPress, not many of you have been checking out the 52 Weeks page. Towards the bottom of the page will explain somewhat why I have been vacant lately. Though it is a bit more involved than that. I have several new projects that add onto that particular one.

52 Weeks started out as a way for me to justify a book a week for a year. I aimed for 50 novels, giving myself a two week vacation. Realistically though, vacation would be a time when I would catch up on reading – unless we planned something that keep me moving too much to sit and read. You get the idea though.

In checking out the 52 Weeks page you’ll see that I am averaging just under two novels a week. Partially that is due to an overflowing TBR Mountain (seriously, I had to add shelves into Casa de Zombie), but also due to a couple of reading and reviewing projects. If you pop over to Beyond Her Book with Barbara Vey you’ll see my name pop up in the blurbs from her readers from time to time. The irony there is that my helping her with the reading she doesn’t have time for is having a similar affect on me, which lead to the project that affords me the motivation to read the books I from my usual pool of authors (for the most part).

wlpI have started all stealth-like as a blogger on Wicked Lil Pixie reviewing books. These are a different pool of books and are full reviews as opposed to blurbs. I think part of my stealth entry into it is that the page listing on the site for the reviewers is entitled “The Ladies.” I am holding firm to not taking a photo in drag to post to the page with my bio. No matter what my wife says. And even if she tricks me into it, I am not shaving off my beard!

Additionally I am working programming for Odyssey Con this year with Paul. I’ll even be on some panels this time. Not to mention we have a couple of my pool of go-to authors as guests this year. Kevin Hearne, author of the Iron Druid Chronicles, and Alex Bledsoe, author of the Eddie Lacrosse series, Memphis Vampires, the Tufa books and more.

And finally there is the work for Festa Italia this year. I am organizing the Food Vendors this time around. That sounds a lot more time consuming than it is. With my father being the chair, I know this one will run smoothly. Not to mention my timeline and duties are solidly laid out.

Any Madison area folks (even Milwaukee area ones) should take a look at the pair of events listed above. Both should be pretty exciting events. And who can resist Italian food, music and games?

Looking at all of that, you might wonder when I have time for writing. So do I. Seriously last week was filled with 15 hour days. Without writing. This week is a little easier, but I am still looking at 1-2 days like that every week through June. I am shuffling things around as much as I can so that I can have Under the Hood up and available before Romantic Times as well as have a pair of polished manuscripts ready to go as soon as I hit Kansas City.

Eat. Sleep. Day Job. Review. Write.

That is pretty much what my life looks like until the end of the summer. Just about in time for NaNoWriMo. Though I may do a rewrite for Camp NaNoWriMo next month. Not sure.

Insanity, thy name be Zombie Joe. 😉

What’s Zombie Joe Reading?

Of the pair of you reading this blog – maybe even three or four if I count friends and family – I’m sure at least one of you is interested in what I am reading these days. Not the least of which relating to new winnings of a Kindle Fire stocked with books (about 14 or 15 of them I believe) and a gift card for Amazon (fortuitously on the heels of winning the Kindle). So allow me to share what I am reading. I will additionally venture to update my 52 Weeks page with the books that I have completed over the year. If for no other reason to keep a count and see if I can hit 100 by the end.

KoKo-readingAlso this year I have taken on a role as a reader for Barbara Vey, which means many of my choices will be controlled by the books I am asked to blurb for her. Ironically that hasn’t really changed my reading list much, but has given me access to books similar to those I am already reading that I might not have considered before. For instance, the book I am on currently reading (after finishing Kim Harrison’s Ever After) is Demon Hunting in a Dive Bar by Lexi George. While not against reading paranormal romance, this is not an author I am familiar with. Barring my running into her at a panel or the like during a convention, I likely would have never picked up this book.

I have two more that I am finishing. One for a book club, and one because it is a zombie book from a local author. Brimstone Angels: Lesser Evils is the book club read. Though, realistically it is a Wizards of the Coast book club that I don’t have much time to frequent on the forums. If you do have the time, it is a definite benefit as Erin Evans (the author) is involved in the discussion. My local zombie author read is Deck Z: The Titanic by Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon. I have had two friends tell me to read this book (more to do with their friendship to the authors than knowledge of my penchant for zombie media). So I had to pick it up. Plus it fits in nicely with my Local Author Rule.

Reviews of both the above mentioned books will follow once I am able to put my thoughts down.

As for what I’ve read in the last month (other than Tarnished which is the last review I’ve posted), you can find the running list under my 52 Weeks page. If you get there through the tab above you will need to scroll down to the month to month listings.

Audiobooks will be a challenge. I have a number that I purchased for my wife that I have yet to get to, but I also have more I need to blurb. Likely I will catch up on the blurb books before I dive into anything new. The drive to Kansas City for Romantic Times this year should help with that. At least 16 hours worth of it anyhow.The last audiobook I listened to before the year started was Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole. I had read the print book, but I picked up the audiobook for my son to take to work with him. An excellent military urban fantasy listen.

For what I have purchased this month, the last two I picked up (using the aforementioned gift card) were Gilded by Karina Cooper (since I won said card during a Tarnished blog event) and Dirty Little Secrets by Liliana Hart.

What about you? What are you reading?

Happy Birthday!

Honestly this is more akin to the way Frosty the Snowman would proudly proclaim “Happy Birthday!” every time someone put that top hat of his on. I know, the title and one sentence explanation has confused you. Allow me to explain… no, that will take to long… allow me to sum up. My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland released today. In celebration of this (and since my wife forgot to take the remaining devils food cupcakes to work this morning) I am indulging in birthday cake.

In case one of my wife’s team members are reading this… don’t sweat it. I’ll make a new batch tonight after writer’s group.

First thing you need to know is the challenge. Remember how Amber Benson said if she had 85 reviews on her book posted to Amazon she would take herself singing the Macarena and post it up? This is similar but infinitely cooler. Diana has proclaimed that if White Trash Zombie makes the New York Times Bestseller List that she will get herself inked with the I Love Brains tattoo from the cover. This alone would get me to buy it, but I am kind of an ass that way. For the rest of you, I have included a short review of the book. (And yes, I have been sitting on this a couple of weeks. Don’t judge!)

My Life as a White Trash Zombie

Purchase from…

I heard about this book last year during during the Romantic Times convention. Diana was talking about the newest book she was working on about a white trash zombie who gets a job as a morgue tech for easy access to brains. I know it’s shocking, but the an unpolitically correct story about a zombie is totally up my alley. Also, being a huge fan of the Kara Gillian series by Rowland I have been waiting impatiently for this book to release.

The book opens with Angel waking up in the hospital. She was brought in as a suspected overdose victim. Her scattered memories and the mysterious package left for her at the hospital hint at something entirely different. Now don’t accuse me of spoiling the book for you, but she has been turned into a zombie. Of course the reason why she has been turned into a zombie and who her mysterious mentor is keeps you hanging through the ending of the book. In fact the majority of the book is about how being turned into a zombie is one of the best things that has ever happened to her.

Also a good deal of the buildup is world-building. Namely, introducing you to what it means to be a zombie in this book series. It also lays the groundwork for how the zombies abilities and weaknesses work. The author takes the difficult situation of having to make a zombie likable and excels at it. By the end of the story I was really rooting for her.

This brings me to the end of the story. As I insinuated in an above comment, I will not spoil the story. George R.R. Martin may threaten to put a spoilers head on a pike, but the author in question on this series has certifications maintaining her aim and ability with deadly weapons. (According to her own bio she has worked in the police force among other jobs.) That being said, I will say that her ending took me by surprise. My expectation is for an ending (even one with a twist) to be along the lines of the direction I thought the story was going. Rowland caught me on this one, marking it as one of my favorite reads so far this season.

I will over the caveat that this is a story about zombies. Those with a weak constitution should be forewarned. Even if you are a little skittish at the thought of brain-eating zombies, I would urge you to read this as you might very well be surprised at the extent to which you enjoy the novel. Mrs. Zombie (who is ironically not a fan of the gore) is chomping at the bit to read my copy of it.

Easily I will give this one a full 5 dancing zombies out of 5. If you want to go the Slayer route on it, Faith calls this one 5-by-5. No matter what pop culture reference you use, it is easily worth the money. To prove that fact, even with my library budget tight I am going to stop tonight and  purchase a retail copy. Normally I would consider this one for a Nook purchase, but that cover art is just to damn good to pass up!

Review: Dead Beat

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #7)

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: May 2006
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Format: Paperback , 528pp
  • ISBN-13: 9780451460912
  • ISBN: 045146091X

Purchase from…


When a killer vampire threatens to destroy head of Special Investigations Karrin Murphy’s reputation unless Harry delivers the powerful Word of Kemmler to her, he has no choice. Now Harry is in a race against time to find the Word before Chicago experiences a Halloween night to wake the dead.


It’s all about the Word of Kemmler. Or is it? Mavra is involved, so who can say? Throw in zombies, necromancers and the usual lot of plot twists, turns and magic gone awry and you have Dresden at hit finest.

In this book we see a bit more of the humanity of Harry, which I think is what makes him the kind of character we keep coming back for. We get insight into the psychological effects from the attack that injured his hand. We also gain some insight into why it is he’s still able to walk after the amount of abuse he has taken over the years.

In short, we get to be awed and empathetic to him in nearly the same breath. We are also introduced into more of the magics that are so dark that the use of them tags you for instant execution with the White Council. Namely, the use of necromancy. Apparently the Council frowns upon people who play with dead things.

And finally we are again shown a world where Harry may sling around a lot of power, but there are things out there with a lot more punch than him. These are the things that he usually winds up at odds with and this book is no exception.

The evolution of the characters, even the minor supporting role characters, keeps me coming back. The action keeps me excited and interested in the book as I am going through it. The snark make me laugh. And it is all a combination of everything I want in my urban fantasy.

If you haven’t tried them yet, I would also suggest trying the audiobooks of this series. They are unabridged so you aren’t losing anything, but what you gain is a beautifully narrated audiobook by James Marsters. A definitely must-read, and one of the many I own on audiobook as well as print.

Review: Green Eyed Demon

Green Eyed Demon by Jaye Wells (Sabina Kane Book #3)

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: March 2011
  • Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback , 400pp
  • ISBN-13: 9780316037778
  • ISBN: 031603777X

Purchase from:


Things to do:

1. Rescue sister.
2. Murder grandmother.
3. Don’t upset the voodoo priestess.

The clock is ticking for Sabina Kane. Her sister has been kidnapped by her grandmother, the Dark Races are on the brink of war, and a mysterious order is manipulating everyone behind the scenes.

Working on information provided by an unlikely ally, Sabina and her trusty sidekicks—a sexy mage named Adam Lazarus and Giguhl, a Mischief demon—head to New Orleans to begin the hunt for her sister. Once there, they must contend with belligerent werewolves, magic-wielding vampires and—perhaps most frightening of all—humans.

But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won’t be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about most, she must save herself from the ghosts of her past.


Sabina Kane is one of those characters you just can’t get tired of, but this series grows less about her and more about the group of characters that include her. While Adam (mancy, sexy hexy, whatever you want to call him) is a staple of the series, there is no denying the draw that is Giguhl. Hell, Giguhl is the only one of the characters from this book series with his own Twitter account! But that doesn’t keep Wells from introducing more support characters in the book, each one with a definite personality of their own.

The world-building in the book is also a deep and ever-evolving thing. New Orleans proper can be a mysterious, dark and yet magical place. Put the same locale in the hands of this author and the next time you visit you’ll be looking down dark alleys to catch glimpses of that dark world she has convinced you is there. It has been nearly ten years since I last visited the Big Easy, but her description of it had me feeling like I was sitting down for beignets and cafe au lait.

The final aspect of the storytelling involved in this series that keeps me coming back for more is the action. In the first book Sabina possessed the fighting skills of a vampire assassin. By book two the mages had helped her identify her magical abilities and she had started to develop them. You’ll have to read this book to see where her fighting skills and magic have taken her now.

From Giguhl’s snark and the newly introduced characters (one of which influenced a change in a character for my weekly D&D group), to the use of the New Orleans flavor ending with the fights and mystery behind the magic of the world (something really only scratching the surface of currently) this book is a wild ride. The worst part about this book is now having to wait for book four to release. This book is one of the handful that I have read in the past year that I would rank within a 5 star rating.

Book Review: Hunger

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: October 2010
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Format: Paperback , 177pp
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • ISBN-13: 9780547341248
  • ISBN: 0547341245

Puchase at…


“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home—her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power—and the courage to fight her own inner demons?

A wildly original approach to the issue of eating disorders, Hunger is about the struggle to find balance in a world of extremes, and uses fantastic tropes to explore a difficult topic that touches the lives of many teens.


Having heard about this book starting this summer at Romantic Times, I was very interested in reading it. Being a comic book fan from way back, I had seen an anorexic girl as Famine before, but in a novel format I was expecting it to be a lot more involved. Any of you who read back into the X-Men vault for their use of Famine would agree that it was nearly possible to not even catch the girl in question was anorexic.

In Hunger we as readers ride along in Lisabeth’s head. You hear her Thin Voice, you watch as she counts calories and equates them to time on the exercise bike. You watch as her friend goes through the very clinical steps to binging on food. This very raw view of the eating disorders makes it an uncomfortable book to read in spots. Not that this slowed me down, but it made characters in very fantastical situations very real.

Additionally, the ending of it left you with a message of hope. It is hard to state the reasoning behind this without spoiling any of the story. Just know that it does not leave you with thinking there is anything that is good about having an eating disorder. The author makes that abundantly clear in her end notes at the back of the book which include contact information to get help if you are suffering from an eating disorder.

While a being a bit raw and difficult of a story to watch unfold, it was also something I couldn’t look away from. It takes a very hard lesson to learn and puts it out there plainly, something that could very well give thoughts to those in similar situations. Even if you have not gone through their trials, it is definitely a book that gets you thinking. One of the better books I have read recently.

I would rank it around a 4 stars out of 5. It likely could be even higher, but I am still torn on the ending. Of course that just goes to show I am still thinking about it.

Review: Blood Rites (Dresden Files 6)

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

  • Mass Market Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Roc; 1ST edition (August 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451459873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451459879

Purchase at


Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, takes on a case as a favor to his friend Thomas-a vampire of dubious integrity-only to become the prime suspect in a series of ghastly murders.


Harry Dresden investigating murder on the set of a porno. Seriously, what else needs to be said here? As a reader, what more could you ask for?

Want puppies? The book opens with Harry collecting puppies stolen and guarded by winged, poo-flinging demonic monkeys. Everyone knows that the only thing cool than monkeys is demonic monkeys. The poo-flinging is really just a given.

Want vampires? Well this is a Dresden Files book. In the unlikely event that there are no demons, fallen angels or fae – you’ve got vampires. Hell, most of the time you have all of those.

As you can tell by my reading list, I’m a big fan of the Dresden Files. One of my biggest concerns was that I was falling behind on the series. Audible changed that all for me. Honestly, it was the local library before Audible. I checked out one of the books in audio from the library. From there I went back and in Audible started buying the series all over again in audio. James Marsters is by far one of the best narrators I have listened to yet.

That said, the book itself is the bread and butter of what I look for in most of my urban fantasy reading. I am looking for action, magic, fantasy and a hint of smart-ass humor. Mostly in that order, but let’s be honest – smart-assed humor probably ranks above fantasy in that line-up.

Ranking up pretty high on my list of things I love about this series is the fact that while Harry seems to get more powerful as the series continues on, he was never the most powerful wizard of a generation or anything like that. Dangerous, sure… Mortal, most definitely. Yet still he seems to manage to worm his way out of seemingly impossible situations, though never unscathed.

Of the series itself, this one is fairly key and is a great example of why I prefer to read a series in order. There are several changes to Harry’s world that are introduced in this book. Big changes. Ones that are going to affect the rest of the series. It’s not “Harry turns into a woman, grows a third arm that casts only ice magic and a pair of eyes in the back of his head that can see only into the past but are near-sided” kind of changes, but ones that feel to me like the reward for caring enough about the characters to stick with them.

I’ll give this one a solid four and a half stars as I like monkeys and puppies easily as much as I like Harry Dresden.

The Journey Speeds Up

Today brings a few things that push the throttle on “The Journey.” Only of of which is my guest review of Crimson Wind by Diana Pharaoh Francis done on Wicked Lil Pixie. There’s just something about spouting off about a series you enjoy and that’s one that I enjoy a lot.

To explain how it is that reviewing a book  I didn’t do fuels my resolve on finishing my current work isn’t very easy. Well that’s not entirely true, it just seems to me like it might confuse others. Reading a really good urban fantasy or horror story makes me consider the story, the plot, the characters and then trails me off into considering mine.

The characters in my current project are about as dissimilar to me as they can get. But they’re fun. The main character is vulgar, bitchy and even more damaged than I am, but I have to admit it is kind of refreshing to have her say things that I never would. I like playing around in their backyard – in a manner of speaking.

Also, there is my writing group. Our groups numbers are small, but that means that each week we can read a little bit more than we could have if we were a larger group. I have received some really good feedback on the first chapter – and not just that it was funny in the places it was supposed to be funny. Actual advice on how I can tighten up the flow of the story. This is the important distinction between a writing group and a critique group – we don’t just motivate each other to write, but we help each other with ways to improve what we are writing.

To be honest there is one drawback to the small number of members. To date, I am the only unpublished writer in the group. So, if you are in the Madison area and are an unpublished writer…

Finally there is #dietgame, a hashtag challenge on Twitter. A group of us get together, set a goal of what we want to lose and use the hashtag to keep each other motivated. Secretly, I think Dina James is just living out her dream of being a drill sergeant through it. Last year went well until my wife started baking practice for my zombie cake, so I think this year should go pretty well.

Next up will be a running tally of where the WIP (work in progress) is and what the next goal is. Keep an eye out for it. And maybe another review or two.

New Theme: The Journey

So this week I was sitting at the table in my living room, collecting up the things I would need for this week’s Wednesday Encounters at Misty Mountain and watching Zombieland on cable. Sure, I have seen it several times. Yes, I do know the movie inside and out. But it falls withing the Found Movie Rule a friend of mine introduced me to. I found it so therefore it is my destiny to watch it. Then destiny kicked me in the danglies.

A movie came on after Zombieland and I didn’t turn the channel. Hell, I didn’t even turn it off even though I had no wish to watch it. The movie was Julie and Julia. While a movie about a woman blogging about cooking her way through a Julia Childs cookbook doesn’t really seem that interesting it did make me think about my direction with this blog. It also made me consider how much I could use this as a tool to assist me in my goals – to become published.

At the heart of it I am still Zombie Joe. The blog will still contain the occasional post about D&D or a rant that came to mind that day. What it will also contain is a record of my steps from the point of beginning a manuscript to publication. In short, similar to the Oprah by 2011 blog from my online friend, Tina. I will never make Oprah’s couch, nor do I ever see making it onto a book club for one of the daytime talk shows. But that is not my goal, it’s Tina’s goal. My goal is to write the kind of story that I would be interested in reading and publishing it. Urban Fantasy, Horror or something Paranormal – all likely with a touch of snark or humor.

This November I had planned on starting my horror piece for Nanowrimo. That gave me a start date. I set the goal the same as in the movie – 1 year. Instead of a set amount of recipes to complete in that time, I have a set wordcount and a goal of bringing the story to the publishing network and getting it represented and published.

To represent this better, I have renamed the blog to The Journey of a Thousand Miles. Because the reality is that even with a complete manuscript already making the rounds with agents this path seems like a large and arduous one. And zombies are not well known for their speed. Perseverance and stamina we have though, so eventually I know I will get there.

Care to join me in Year One of my new Journey?

Taste of Night – Second Sign of the Zodiac (Review)

Taste of Night – The Second Sign of the Zodiac by Vicki Pettersson

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Avon Books; Reissue edition (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060898925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060898922

Purchase from


Equal parts Light and Shadow, Joanna Archer must fulfill a destiny she never wanted. Once a photographer and heiress to a casino fortune, she is now dedicated to the cause of good . . . but susceptible to the seductions of evil.

A deadly virus is descending on Las Vegas—a terrifying plague unleashed by the powerful overlord of Zodiac’s dark side: Joanna’s father. Chaos and panic grip Sin City as agents of Light fall prey to the terrifying epidemic. Death reigns supreme—and Joanna stands at dead center of an epic and terrible war long foretold, the last hope of a damned world.

But first she must somehow conquer the malevolence that grows all around her . . . and within.


After reading the first book in the series, I went and downloaded the second to my Nook in and effort to read a series through to the end before starting a new one. I was not disappointed with this plan in the least. It was almost as if it was an extension of the first book, flowing right into it.

As I expected, there was none of the slow intro that there is many times in the first book in a series. If you read the first book, you would already know about the paranormal world Jo lives in. This allows us as the reader to dive right into the story – and dive right in we do. The action picks up in the beginning giving us a depth in the Shadow Agents. In this book the action is there, the overhanging doom of the plague is there but it is flavored with an almost humanizing of the Shadow Agents.

Don’t get me wrong, they are still as nasty as Taco Bell at two in the morning, but you get an idea of why they are that nasty. You almost feel sorry for them. That is until one of them opens up their mouth and says something. Which is the feeling I get that the author is trying to show us – a bit of how Jo is seeing things.

She is part Shadow and part Light. Her mother, the previous Archer for the Light had her while infiltrating the Shadow side with the Tulpa, Leader of the Shadows and a being created fully from thought and will. An evil agent on the Shadow side created him out of his imagination. And now this creature with near limitless power knows that Joanna Archer is his daughter.

The idea of the “cursed battlefield” that is the Second Sign that the Zodiac troops are looking for is presented in a couple of different ways. The reason this appealed to me is that it left it up to me to interpret which one was really happening – if there was indeed only a single cursed battlefield.

The one thing that I wanted to see more of in the first book I felt like I was given. More of a style of Krav Maga from Jo. Without spoiling too much, there is at least one major fight scene where I feel she was displaying more of the brutality of the fighting style working in conjunction with her superhuman powers. More inline with the initial fight she had with Ajax and the Shadow that killed her sister.

With more of a depth of feeling and caring for the characters, more of a Krav Maga feel to her fighting and everything from the first book that I loved, I am moving this one up a bit higher in the grading system. At least an A- and well worth the money and definitely worth the time to read. Book 3 is already sitting in my Nook waiting for me to open it.