Things Gets Messy at Casa de Zombie

Well not literally. Okay, so yeah… literally. But that’s not the point. My life is collecting up a rather harsh amount of virtual clutter right now. I am getting more done each week than I ever did last year, but there is more piling up. I am working on a better form of organization to keep everything together. Or, as the cats on the interwebs machines say, “Time management. I haz it.”

Or at least I will.

An expanded explanation of the news in my corner of the world will help explain the virtual clutter I have been categorizing. It begins with Beyond Her Book with Barbara Vey. While in New Orleans for Authors After Dark, I ran into Barbara. Which is to say, while walking back to the hotel from a trip to Cafe du Monde I told my wife, “I think that was Barbara Vey walking the other way with some of the authors from the con.” I noted this one Twitter, and she answered me back that she made a last minute trip down there and we should meet up for coffee or such. Since then I have taken on the task of being one of her readers. I read books and audiobooks and give her a blurb for her Publishers Weekly blog. This gives her someone to read the stuff that is outside of the genres her normal readers take on, and really aren’t you all interested in what a guy thinks about paranormal romance novels?

As a side note, while this particular gig is awesome, it had brought me to a new realization. (Listen up here Audible and other audiobook publishers.) Sending reviewers CDs is nice, don’t get me wrong. But honestly it is difficult to load those onto my iPod in such a way to make it easy for me to go from my condo, to my truck to my office while seamlessly listening to the piece. You’d think there would be a way to provide us with a download code that we could plug into audible and add the book to our library that way. Plus, you know, less shipping costs. Realistically I do know that programming that into their system will cost money, but it will save money each and every year after that. Just a suggestion.

Also I have taken on submitting full reviews to Wicked Lil Pixie. I’m not listed on the web site, but aside from the fact that I was just offered a chance to do reviews, their list of reviewers is literally “The Ladies.” No way I fit into that listing. Not even if I shaved my beard off. That said, there will be one or two a month going up live there soon. Which is to say that I have a couple of books heading my way, otherwise known as even more books than are already sitting on my blurb pile. Though I have to say, I do like getting a bit more into the review of the book. And maybe opening up a little snark here and there.

On the upside of things, I am well on my way to hitting 100 books this year. Over January I was at 7 or 8 by the end of the month. The downside of it is to meet that I spent less time writing. Which is where I am falling into line with honing my time management skills down to a razors edge.

I have Under the Hood, my charity novel, that I need to finish with the editing so that I can work on formatting it for ePub and print. I also have to sit down with my wife and her friend that pledged to do the cover art. This is where I have dropped off the map the most.

Additionally I have taken on a critique partner. (Don’t worry, I am going through the piece you sent me.) So I am putting aside time to read that. Which includes making comments and suggestions as well.

And finally there are the festivals/conventions. This doesn’t even cover the ones I am simply attending. Though I am bringing cupcakes to Romantic Times since we’re driving to that one. And catering cupcakes to a cookout in the area while I’m there. But that is an entirely different story. This one involves Festa Italia in Madison. As part of the Italian Workman’s Club, I am working on the committee planning the event. Specifically the food tables/vendors. Oh, and marketing (though that is with a number of other guys).

But wait! There’s more!

Odyssey Con 2013. April 12-14 this year. Our guests of honor (literary) are now set and confirmed. Alex Bledsoe (a local author) and Kevin Hearne are confirmed for this con. Both are in my short list of favorites. In addition to attending, I am helping the programming guy with panels as he moved “up north” this past year. To that end, I am organizing some local focused events and media for the convention. Hopefully it will work out as awesome as it is sounding in my head, but we’ll see.

wingedmonkeyNow between cooking, cleaning (though honestly my wife does more of the cleaning than I do), baking and making sure my dog gets his medication twice a day… that is a whole lot of work. And that is before you consider the full time job. I guess what I’m saying is I need to organize my clutter in my condo so I can virtually reduce my clutter to maximize my time management. And hope the whole deal doesn’t turn me into a social media version of the flying monkeys from Oz. Though, to be honest, that last part was simply to attract the people looking for bits on monkeys. And so I can justify the graphic because… y’know… monkeys. 🙂

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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?

Review of Tarnished: the St. Croix Chronicles

Tarnished: the St. Croix Chronicles – by Karina Cooper

Overview

Tarnished-mm-c-200x323My name is Cherry St. Croix. Society would claim that I am a well-heeled miss with an unfortunate familial reputation. They’ve no idea of the truth of it. In my secret world, I hunt down vagrants, thieves . . . and now, a murderer. For a monster stalks London’s streets, leaving a trail of mystery and murder below the fog.

Eager for coin to fuel my infatuations, I must decide where my attentions will turn: to my daylight world, where my scientific mind sets me apart from respectable Society, or to the compelling domain of London below. Each has a man who has claimed my time as his—for good or for ill. Though as the corpses pile, and the treacherous waters of Society gossip churn, I am learning that each also has its dangers. One choice will see me cast from polite company . . . the other might just see me dead.

Purchase from Barnes & Noble

Review

The first book in the St. Croix Chronicles, the book is an excellent example of steampunk fiction. From the first page you are met with a London very different from the historical one. Pollution has put the city to the point of raising the more affluent buildings above the rest of the buildings, but also above the everlasting, discolored fog. Travel between London Above and London Below is done through airship versions of ferries. Goggles, rebreathers and armored corsets are featured heavily. More than that, you can really feel the Victorian Era in the writing.

For me this felt a lot like a Sherlock Holmes story. Consider Doyle writing in a more industrialized setting and putting the light on Irene Adler as the main character. Now instead of simply hinting at drug use, make it a central part of the character. Much like it is with Chess Putnam in Stacia Kane’s Downside novels. This presents you with a flawed woman of strength and means making her own way in a world where she is considered to be less than a man. And while she is a strong female lead, you get a real feel for her coming to terms with how she sees herself as opposed to the way that society (or Society as it were) sees her.

There is plenty of action, an unflinching view of some of the seedier aspects of Victorian society and well developed characters. What’s not to draw you into that kind of story? I also found it incredibly interesting how the romance aspect was handled considering the setting. This may be due to my lack of experience with Regencies or other period romance novels, but it still held my interest as a reader.

Full over I would give this book a five gear rating out of five. There was little that I could find that left me wanting for more. Well worth the purchase, and looking forward to diving into the second (recently released) once I am able.

Review – Touch of the Demon

Overview

Kara Gillian is in some seriously deep trouble.touchofthedemon

She’s used to summoning supernatural creatures from the demon realm to our world, but now the tables have been turned and she’s the one who’s been summoned. Kara is the prisoner of yet another demonic lord, but she quickly discovers that she’s far more than a mere hostage. Yet waiting for rescue has never been her style, and Kara has no intention of being a pawn in someone else’s game.

There’s intrigue to spare as she digs into the origin of the demonic lords and discovers the machinations of humans and demons alike. Kara is shocked to discover that she has her own history in the demon realm, and that the ties between her and the demonic lords Rhyzkahl and Szerain go back farther than she could have ever imagined. But treachery runs rampant among all the lords, and she’s going to have to stay sharp in order to keep from being used to further their own agendas. The lords have a secret that dates back to earth’s ancient history, and it could have devastating repercussions for both worlds.

Yet more than anything else, Kara’s abilities as a homicide detective will be put to the test—because this time the murder she has to solve is her own.

Purchase from Barnes & Noble

Review

It’s no secret that Diana Rowland is one of my favorite authors. This took root even before she released the White Trash Zombie series. So I will try and provide some reasoning behind my review without spoiling too much. Just keep in mind that if she were to write a mash-up of a textbook outlining the life and reproduction of fungal spores and the greater New Orleans telephone directory, I would likely still read it. Twice. (Diana, if you are reading this, that was NOT a challenge!)

That said, this is by far the largest of the books in the series. A full 440 pages of story. Well and beyond the norm for this genre. I even went so far as to accuse her of getting training from Stephen King or George R.R. Martin. Actually thinking back it might have been Rothfuss – gotta give props to the prolific local author. That said, her excuse was 100% correct. There really was just that much story to tell.

For me, I found myself questioning a lot of the arcane information being flung at us. It seemed odd that our main character summoner knew so little about this. The further along in the book I got though, the more it made sense. She was trained to summon demons. Period. There was no other aspect of the arcane other than the wards that were just extensions of the summoning process. In short, within this book (starting off at the cliffhanger ending of the last book) you will find there really is more in Heaven and Earth than can be explained in our science.

Right around chapter 18 is when all the proverbial shit hits the fan like an OCD monkey with an oscillating unit. And a fan too. By that point, your mind should likely be reeling as much as Kara’s is. Well, maybe not quite that much. But damned close.

While drastically different than any one of the books in this series, it is by far the one most packed with story and evolution. A perffect change of pace, upping the conflict and mystery in one fell swoop. It will leave you chomping at the bit for the next one. You’ll have to find out for yourself if there is a cliffhanger at the end of this one or not. Though contrary to everything I had been saying on Twitter the last couple of weeks, Angel Crawford does not make a cameo in the book and there isn’t a reyza based on Felicia Day. Though I have a sneaking suspicion there will be one based on Ron Pearlman in the near future.

I’ll give it four and a half cupcakes out of five. Spicy Demon Lord Cupcakes, of course.

gorilla_koko_reading_her_favourite_bookAnd just for the traffic… LOOK! A gorilla reading a book!

Book Clubs and Reviews

Hello? My name is Zombie Joe… and I… I’m a book addict.

Tell me that doesn’t bring to mind a group meeting in the chilled basement of a church with stale donuts and burnt coffee sitting on a folding table in the back of the room. People all around you shifting uncomfortably in equally chilly metal folding chairs and staring damn near indifferently up at me.

Okay. Maybe it’s just me.

The truth of the matter is that I have a number of collections (as many geeks do) but none rivals my collection of books. I attribute this mostly to influences from a time I don’t really remember. Back in high school I had teachers expanding my reading list to put me outside of my comfort zone. How else do you explain a 16 year old boy reading The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood? Also we had this history teacher that had two memorable traits to him – a nervous tick of sorts he did during lectures when he really wanted you to remember something, and his saying that the sign of a successful person is the ability to own books. Yeah, that’s when it started.

To give you an idea, right around my graduation Being a Green Mother by Piers Anthony had just released. At that point the Incarnations of Immortality was my favorite series. Not wanting to wait for it to become available in the library I purchased the hard cover to give myself as a graduation present. I think we have a picture of it sitting on a table with my Oxford Unabridged Dictionary (my graduation present from my parents). But that was then…

Last year was the first year I took a challenge to read a set number of novels. This is assuming you don’t count that semester of college where I had 32 books to read (one of which was Heart of Darkness). I aimed to read 52 books (1 a week) but in Goodreads I signed on for 100. I didn’t meet the 100 (and didn’t even put in all the ones I did finish in Goodreads) but I did make it past 75. Some of those were audiobooks due to a form of permission to listen to audiobooks in Stephen King’s On Writing.

With how hectic my life has become between work, a writing schedule, reading, running a D&D game twice a week and the cupcake “hobby” it seems rather daunting to catch up with my reading schedule. To this end I am not going to read all the way through any book that doesn’t have me hooked in the first act. I’m also giving a pass to the front of the line for any favorite authors or ones I know I will get signed within two years time. Ironically those are also the books that I will pick up in print as opposed to on the Nook.

In the past couple weeks I’ve taken on two different book clubs. The Team Awesome Book Club (reading a non-fiction book) and just this week the G+ meetup/discussion of “vaginal fantasy” books hosted by Felicia Day. If you haven’t, check out her bookshelves on Goodreads. I have no idea how she has the time to read so damn much, but it is impressive. Of course, being who I am I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about the “vaginal fantasy” title. In looking through her shelves, I have read a few of the vaginal fantasy books. In reality, most of the urban fantasy, science fiction and paranormal romance I’m reading it written by women. Even more of the main characters in the books I’m reading are female as well.

Honestly I think this is a statement less about the quality of male authors and more about the increased percentages of female authors on the shelves of my section in the book store. Also, it doesn’t hurt that my online resources for reviews and the like are recommending the female authors and characters more often. Kara Gillian from Diana Rowland’s first series and Chess Putnam from the Downside novels by Stacia Kane are at the top of my list of favorite characters. Both of their series I think would fall in the description given for a “vaginal fantasy.”

Now consider that I am a member of the Madison Romance Writer’s group and was one of the few men at Romantic Times in 2010. John Scalzi and I were discussing at lunch (with a few of my favorite female authors) about the awesomeness of being at a con and not having to wait in line at the restrooms. Everywhere I went I was incredibly outnumbered by women. And it was by far the best time I’ve had at a convention in a long time.

This of course all leads me to my current goal for the weekend – to finish Silver Tongued Devil and Grave Witch. Silver Tongued Devil is another of my favorite series and has Giguhl – another of my favorite characters, but a decidedly male one. Grave Witch is the vaginal fantasy offering to be discussed Monday. In addition I have D&D Encounters to run Wednesday night, Writers Group Thursday night, dinner with friends Friday and my Sunday D&D group. Now work in some writing time.

Seem crazy? … Hi, have we met?

Personally I am dealing with the fact that I work full time and want to become a published author. I need to learn to increase my time management skills to handle all of this. Don’t worry, I have a pecking order on things left to die first. I may be insane, but I’m not an idiot!

The last three weeks have been nailing down the diet into a pattern that works. Now I’m looking to ramp up the reading and writing time back to what it was last year with the addition of the diet plan. If you see me blogging less or running down the streets of Madison like Daffy Duck (woo hoo woo hoo woo hoo) then you know what has happened.

What are you doing this month that’s insane? Because really… sanity is totally overrated.

Change Write Now (January 24, 2012)

  • Food – made it, even with going out to lunch today…
  • Water – really need to learn to swim (over 64oz)
  • Exercise – over due to an overzealous dog
  • Writing – made goal, still need to clean it up for group
  • Habits – both met, especially since there was no time to weigh myself
  • Sleep – over 6 hours, but not by much

Project Stats

  • Writing – naughty piece should be ready to go, starting dragon poem
  • Reading (print) – Silver Tongued Demon (into the good parts, but this is longer than the last one)
  • Reading (Nook) – Grave Witch (haven’t started yet, want to finish STD first)
  • Listening (iPod) – Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Notes: Hexed is a “re-read” as I read it in print. The narration is awesome! The reader really gives life to Oberon. He is quickly becoming another of my favorite characters.

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…

Synopsis

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.

Review

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.