Reviews of the Living Dead: X-Rated Bloodsuckers

X-Rated Bloodsuckers (Mario Acevedo)

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Eos (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061438871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061438875

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Synopsis

When Felix Gomez returned from the War in Iraq with a disdain for daylight and a raging thirst for blood, he knew he couldn’t settle for an ordinary 9-to-5 job. So after his discharge, the newly undead ex-infantryman chose the career that he felt best suited his vampiric tendencies: private detective.

Now he’s been approached by sexy porn star Katz Meow, who wants Felix to investigate the murder of her once-equally agile friend and fellow toiler in the video sex-biz, Roxy Bronze. But his investigation into L.A.’s hardcore jungle is turning into a triple x-rated nightmare populated by hot babes, sleazy producers, sleazier politicians, sham evangelicals, and fanatical secret societies. And here on the seamy underside of Tinseltown, “immortal” doesn’t necessarily mean “unkillable.”

Review

The first thing I have to mention when discussing the Felix Gomez series are the titles. When you see them on the shelf they make you stop and wonder what the hell is up with them. You grab them, read the back of the book, maybe flip to the front and read the first couple of pages – the whole time hoping you are not seen. It is an awesome idea.

It helps that the opening line of the first book was a winner. I dragged me into the story. But this review is about book two.

For me this book reads starts out similar to a detective noir. Throughout the chapters there are bits of this still sprinkled in there. A damsel in distress, the hard-boiled detective hired to find out what happened to her friend. There is even the love interest that shows the lighter side of said hard-boiled detective.

One of the things (aside from the time it takes place in) that sets it apart from the noir is that as opposed to the “classy dame with gams that reached all the way to the floor” your damsel in distress is a “surgically altered porn star that turns young boys into men through the magic of DVDs.” Felix dives into the seedy underside of LA – porn empires, real estate empires and political empires. The troika of seedy undersides.

The other characteristic that sets this apart from the usual noir detective story is Felix as a hispanic vampire. With his immersion into LA you get to see more of where he came from – the pre-vamp Felix. You also get introduced into some crazy support characters like Coyote. Something of this sidekick reminds me of several characters I have seen in movies and the like. Acevedo’s description of him made him really stand out in my imagination as I read the book. I could practically see (and smell) Coyote in every page.

From the cultural aspect, to the mystery elements and down to the emotional ones of Felix dealing with being not human but still having human emotions, X-Rated Bloodsuckers was an enjoyable read throughout. I didn’t even feel guilty reading it due to either the title or the fact that I had claimed I was going to break from reading to get some writing done. It was good enough to make extra time for. Definitely 4 out of 5 stars – well worth the time to read and money to buy.

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Reviews of the Living Dead: Mage in Black

Mage in Black (Jaye Wells)

  • Format: Mass Market Paperback 352 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; Original edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031603780X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316037808

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Synopsis

Sabina Kane doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to family. After all, her own grandmother, the leader of the vampire race, just tried to kill her. When she arrives in New York to meet the mage side of her family, the reunion takes the fun out of dysfunctional.

On top of that, the Hekate Council wants to use her as a pawn in the brewing war against the vampires. Her mission will take her into the bowels of New York’s Black Light district, entangles her in mage politics, and challenges her beliefs about the race she was raised to distrust. And Sabina thought vampires were bloodthirsty.

Review

While Sabina is the main character in the story and the ongoing plot from the first book is about her, I really felt this was more about digging into the backgrounds of the support characters. The further I went into the book, the more I felt I was getting to know about Giguhl. He really came into his own in this book and became more than just the comic relief demon that was his stronger focus in the first book. Snark and comedy were still two of his strongest weapons, but he shows off more of his demon skills – not to mention more of his relationship with Sabina.

There is also the introduction of her twin sister. We get a glimpse of what Sabina might have been like had she been raised by a more supportive and loving family. Also a family that would have taught her to use the innate magical powers she gained from her father. We also see a change coming over Sabina the more time she spends with the mages.

For my part, the more her rough edges smooth out and she gets more and more human, she becomes a more likable character. You want nothing more than to see her succeed and actually feel the discomfort when she slips up and takes a fall. You go through it all with her.

You also go through more of the supernatural world in this book. You get a feeling for the other dark races involved in the world. The politics, the intrigue, it’s all in there. You leave it getting a feeling of a world deeper than the vampire/mage world that you were introduced to in the first book.

Mage in Black is a thrill ride of ass kicking, magic flinging and demon snarking. It takes you for a ride and leaves you screaming for more. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5. Well worth the money and I can hardly wait for the next in the series.

Reviews of the Living Dead: Blood of the Demon

Blood of the Demon (Diana Rowland)

  • Pub. Date: February 2010
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback, 384pp
  • ISBN-139780553592368
  • ISBN: 055359236X

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Synopsis

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL, MAN AND DEMON, SHE’S ABOUT TO FACE THE ONE THING SHE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO SURVIVE.

Welcome to the world of Kara Gillian, a cop with a gift. Not only does she have the power of “othersight” to see what most people can’t even imagine, but she’s become the exclusive summoner of a demon lord. Or maybe it’s the other way around. The fact is, with two troublesome cases on her docket and a handsome FBI agent under her skin, Kara needs the help of sexy, insatiable Lord Rhyzkahl more than he needs her. Because these two victims, linked by suspicious coincidence, haven’t just been murdered. Something has eaten their souls.

It’s a case with roots in the arcane, but whose evil has flowered among the rich, powerful, and corrupt in Beaulac, Louisiana. And as the killings continue, Kara soon realizes how much there’s still to learn about demons, men, and things that kill in the night—and how little time she has to learn it.

Review

The real strengths of this series and this book in particular are the police procedural elements to it. Looking at the background of the author from her back jacket biography, it is no surprise that it reads a lot like a crime drama. Kara Gillian has a distinctive voice, as does Ryan and the other characters is the book. Much of the dialog between the characters reminds me of a rated R version of the show Castle. The chemistry and banter between them not only keeps you interested in them but also makes them feel like friends.

The arcane elements of the book feels less like a sore thumb that sticks out but a normal tool and element of the world. It seems very natural that the arcane is part of the world as does the concept of portals between this world and the one that the demons are summoned from. Definitions given throughout this book even open things up to the possibility of other arcane elements as potentially existing. It is rather subdued though, more of a flavor in the world and not really the focus of the story.

Blood of the Demon has a little bit for everybody. Mystery elements for the mystery lover, demon summoning for the urban fantasy lover and police procedural elements for the crime drama fan. It even revolves around a love triangle between three characters that is a subplot with similarities to the paranormal romance genre. Definitely a more adult book, it is an entrancing read and held my attention through the end.

I would definitely give this one a 4.5 stars out of 5. Being a fan of the police procedural and the urban fantasy that might have colored my opinion, but in those aspects it really shone.

Reviews of the Living Dead: Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

  • Trade Paperback: 368 pages
  • List Price: $15.00 US/$19.00 CDN
  • Publisher: Kensington (March, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-1641-0
  • ISBN-10: 0-7582-1641-6

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Summary

Succubus (n.) An alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men. Pathetic (adj.) A succubus with great shoes and no social life. See: Georgina Kincaid.

When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants, the wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?

But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid’s life is far less exotic. Her boss is a middle-management demon with a thing for John Cusack movies. Her immortal best friends haven’t stopped teasing her about the time she shape-shifted into the Demon Goddess getup complete with whip and wings. And she can’t have a decent date without sucking away part of the guy’s life. At least there’s her day job at a local bookstore–free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can’t.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle’s demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won’t help because Georgina’s about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny…

Review

This was my first book classified as a Paranormal Romance. Honestly it was the second such book purchased, but the first read. Also, I am not sure this really is a romance as it does not have a “Happy Ever After” at the end – not that any series really can by definition. Also it had a rather loose “Happily For Now” at the end, so it seemed to me to be more of a sexy version of an Urban Fantasy. Which fits right in with my current tastes.

The book was not only a quick read but was one of those books that I had problems putting down. Seriously, it was cutting into my writing time and I even decided to spend today finishing it rather than watching Night of the Creeps which just came in from Netflix. Overall, it was an endearing read on many levels. It is tough enough to write a story where your protagonists jobs are to tempt good mortals toward sin and despair. The job is even more difficult if you want your reader rooting for them in the end. By the end of the book I wanted to see Georgina get a happy ending. I wanted to see her find the right man, get married and have the kids she has dreamed about for centuries. But again, that would not make for much of a series.

The relationships in the book did seem to be the paramount plot. The mystery and action were definitely seeming like the subplots. Which, for me, worked out. It was as if I was lulled into a comfortable place so that the effect was greater when the serial killer jumped out from off camera and started doing his grizzly business. It definitely quickened the pace and the heart rate during those scenes.

Overall I would give the book a 4.5 stars (dancing zombies… whatever) out of 5. A solid read that was definitely worth the money. I will be suggesting it and likely loaning it out to my wife’s coworkers (once I warn her about the naughtier scenes in the book).

Shopping List for the Literary Zombie

Last night as I was pulling into my garage and all of a sudden my Droid beeped about a half dozen times in rapid succession. It was my Google Calendar alerting me that today there were a number of books releasing that I needed to stop and pick up. Not that I needed the reminder – I have been sitting on a couple of Borders gift cards in anticipation of this day. I even stopped in last night to see if they were already out so I could go straight home and bask in the awesomeness today. No such luck.

While I would love to hand-write a list on a legal pad, scan it and post it; that is beyond my abilities and time I have available this morning. So, I will offer the books to you in a blog listing. The upside to this format is I can include links to buy them. 😉

Battle of the Network Zombies by Mark Henry

Yes, I did read the ARC of this book and reviewed it. Mark even signed it for me. But in addition to there being changes from the ARC to the publication of it, the retail version has the cover on it and what kind of #SaveAmanda minion would I be if I did not buy one or two copies of this book? You want to read some of the funniest, sickest urban fantasy shit out there? Pick this one up. Hell, pick up one for a friend. New to the series? Happy Hour of the Damned just came out in mass market paperback. A Wisconsin local? If you get me the book before I leave for Romantic Times in April I will get Mark to personalize it and snark it up for you.

Demon Possessed by Stacia Kane

Another member of the League of Reluctant Adults who is releasing today. This is the third in her series about the head of a demonic family. Some of the most solid prose I have read and is a highly entertaining read. I couldn’t put them down when I was reading them. She also has a Gatling gun series coming out this summer you should keep your eyes open for. (That refers to the books coming out in a rapid succession, very little wait between releases.)

Blood of the Demon by Diana Rowland

The first of this series was an awesome combination of a police procedural and a rather unique urban fantasy. The world is not teeming with all manner of supernaturals – just certain people can summon and bind demons to service. The majority of the book is standard police work style writing, until you get into the parts of the serial killer being a demon summoner. If you are interested in reading the first book, I could include you in our Geobooking experiment – especially if you are in Wisconsin.

Dead Matter by Anton Strout

At the 2009 GenCon Writer’s Symposium Anton would introduce himself as a “Jim Butcher Lite” during the seminars. A light urban fantasy with a healthy amount of humor in it. I would agree. The series is definitely part Men in Black and part Ghostbusters. The Department of Extraordinary Affairs has taken the psychometric skills of Simon Canderous and allowed him to use him for a more charitable means. Of course they also offer him all the pamphlets on zombie hunting and dealing with ghosts he can handle.

Cat’s Claw by Amber Benson

The only non-Leaguer on the list today, she still was on the calendar for quite a while in expectation of the latest in the Calliope Reaper-Jones series. Her first book was Death’s Daughter and introduced us to Callie who is the daughter of Death (well the CEO of Death, Inc. anyway). Aside from her geek cred as one of the “Minions of Whedon,” her first in the series was an entertaining story about a reluctant Death. And it even had a Bollywood scene in it. You heard me… Bollywood! That alone should make you pick it up!.

Well, I am pretty sure I hit them all. There are a couple more coming out next week, but I will leave those for their own Shopping List posting. Until then, go out and get some books!

Geek in Review – Nightlife

This book started out as part of a push to read more urban fantasy – specifically more books from either Wisconsin authors (see Rule #36 – The Local Author Rule) or members of the League of Reluctant Adults. Just a hint, Rob Thurman does not live in Wisconsin. So while this started off as reading a new series from a Leaguer and accounting for it in the February New Author Challenge, it has become so much more. If you are not following Rob Thurman in Twitter, then you are blissfully unaware of her smurf obsession. But this is a review of her writing, not her online activities.

The book centers around Cal and Nik, a pair of brothers – one of which was fathered by a demon-like creature they call Grendels. Nik is the full human of the pair, but a painfully health-conscious martial arts “super-ninja.” Cal (short for Caliban) is more of the free spirit. He likes to drink beer, eat cheeseburgers and can use his otherworldly abilities (strength and speed) to make up for his lack of training and discipline.

Even before I saw the statement online, I could tell the similarities between this book and the show Supernatural (which came out at the same time as the first book). One big difference is one of them being half-supernatural themselves and another is that they are spending their time on the run from the supernatural threats of the world, not confronting them in an effort to help people. You see they are on the run from the Grendels who kidnapped Cal when he was 16 and they were moving out of the trailer that their gypsy mother and them shared. When he appeared a couple days later he was a couple years older. (Which is more of a parallel to Angel than Supernatural, but still cool.)

As an introduction to the world and the way it works, this was a solid piece. It gave us not only a solid understanding of how the brothers worked, but the world that they lived in – that supernatural underworld that was part of New York, but not as much a part of it as it is in say Dead to Me by Anton Strout. The book did seem a lot more “thick” than it actually was, and my one issue with it would be that the ending seemed to drag a bit but still lead well into the next in the series without having a overdone cliffhanger.

Overall I would give it around a 3.5 or a B, I might go as high as a B+ but the Papa Smurf comment towards the end of the book hit a little close to home. For those of you not following Rob Thurman or me in Twitter, that is not really supposed to make sense. I cannot await to dive into book two of the series, but Richelle Mead is next in my February challenge and I am behind in my reading.

Geek in Review – Battle of the Network Zombies

February is the opening of the League of Reluctant Adults floodgates. Like the poor little Dutch boy who could no longer keep his finger in the dike, the raging waves of Leaguer books are heading to stores come February 23rd. The one I am probably most excited about (with apologies to the other authors) is Battle of the Network Zombies by Mark Henry. This is the third book in the Amanda Feral series that shows us the seedy underside of the Supernatural Seattle. Unfortunately from time to time it shows us other “seedy undersides” as well.

Back in November, in the midst of the insanity that was Nanowrimo, I received the ARC of the book I won through a contest on Bitten by Books. National Novel Writing Month or not, I was not going to wait to read this book. I also wrote a review of it that unfortunately never saw publication. I used the basis of that for this review – most definitely I kept the tag line for it. But that will have to wait.

If you are not familiar with the Amanda Feral series, I suggest picking up Happy Hour of the Damned. It is the first in the series and explains a lot of the world and the characters. Also, it just released earlier this week in mass market paperback so is only $6.99. If you are located in Southern Wisconsin and want to get your copies of Mark Henry’s books personalized, signed and possibly have dirty stick figures drawn in them (his words, not mine), then contact me and I can do that for you in the end of April. Seriously, he told me to bring a whole suitcase full of them and I will make sure he is at least two drinks in before he signs any of them.

Also, any purchases made of either Happy Hour of the Damned or Battle of the Network Zombies will help towards the Save Amanda campaign. With the economy the way it has been, trade paperback sales have been deadly – more so than our favorite snarky zombie socialite. If the mass market sales and the initial sales of Battle of the Network Zombies do not show promise, there may be no book four. And from everything I have heard, we all will want to see a book four.

I suppose I should hop down off this soapbox and produce an actual review of the book for you. I will include some links at the bottom where you can go to join in on other contests involving the Save Amanda campaign. But for now let’s talk Supernatural Reality Television.

This book focuses on two things, Amanda’s need for money and her love of the celebrity lifestyle. Let’s face it, she is a high maintenance girl – mortuary grade make-up isn’t the only thing a zombie needs to keep herself from looking a little green around the edges. And those psycho little Reapers are not cheap. Don’t let the Shirley Temple look fool you, they cannot be paid in gumdrops and Barbie dolls! From the start of the book, Amanda deals with both of these needs by signing on for one of Mark Henry’s obsessions – a reality television show. (Seriously, an intervention might be in order.)

Amanda joins the cast of a show to pick out a bodyguard for a rather raunchy nature spirit that feels he needs protection – in the form of a busty female supernatural. Well, for the most part. The cast of characters in the show ranges from a drag queen werewolf (probably one of my favorite characters in the book), an oriental floating head and guts style vampire nail tech to a pair of drunken sirens. All just lining up to be judged by Amanda, the Simon of the show.

If the first two books showed anything it is this. In addition to all of the characters being damaged way before they became monsters, nothing in Amanda’s life ever goes according to plan. The whole story is an amazing roller coaster ride and is way more raunchy than either of the first two books. That is not to say it is bad though. Quite to the contrary, it is freeing to see Amanda and Mark both really open up in this book and let loose. Of course this is at the cost of me ever eating corn on the cob again. Ever!

One of the strangest things about this book is that there really is no “protagonist” to the story. Amanda is the main character, but she is a monster. She does not wax emo over the fact that she has to kill to survive. She will eat your face off and only apologize for the clothes you are wearing or your hideous makeup job. Yet still, with all of these monsters who are out on the prowl eating defenseless people, you still get invested in the story – you still care about the characters. Even when they are being seriously gross.

If you enjoy dark humor along the lines of the movie Heathers, this is definitely the book for you. Although I would start at the first book, you will want to pick up the other two. If you are not into some of the more gross aspects of the undead lifestyle, this book might bother you but I don’t think it will detract you from the story enough to enjoy it. My wife has read the first two and loved them even though she is not into “gross horror stuff.” Simply put, Battle of the Network Zombies is similar to dislocating your shoulder during sex – it is really uncomfortable in spots, but you are enjoying yourself too much to stop.

I feel totally safe in giving this book a solid A. Five out of five dancing zombies. You name the scale, and this will top it. It is fun, wild and disturbing in the most crazy awesome ways. Definitely worth the price of admission, which brings me to the other offers and contests revolving around the book.

Amberkatze’s Blog – Guest Blog and Contest with Mark Henry

You can go there and read the discussion on the books, Mark’s rockstar lifestyle and enter to win copies of his books. All just for asking questions, pointing other people towards the blog or purchasing copies of his other books!

The Qwillery – Author Comments and Photoshop Funnies

Go to the Qwillery you can enter to win a copy of Happy Hour of the Damned and a Zombie Rubber Duckie – just for leaving a comment!

If any more pop up and are still current I will add them to the list. Otherwise, besides my offer to get your books personalized, you can purchase online from the University of Washington book store and request in the notes of your order to have him personalize it. Otherwise, get them to me by April.

Save Amanda!