Edge of Dark Water is my first Joe Lansdale novel. I know, I know! The man is something of a legend, and I’m a bit ashamed that I’m just now discovering the awesome. But you have to start somewhere, yes? Anyway, I saw a blurb for Edge that said something along the lines of “a mix of Mark Twain and classic Stephen King.” Yes, please! As it turns out, that statement was pretty accurate. The voice of Edge of Dark Water is 16 year old Sue Ellen, who lives with her parents in East Texas, along the Sabine River, during the Depression. While fishing with her father, and her friend Terry, they make a grisly discovery. May Lynn, a girl their age, has been killed and dumped into the river with a sewing machine tied around her ankle to weigh her down. Sue Ellen’s father suggests leaving her there, but Sue Ellen and her friends have other ideas. The beautiful May Lynn always wanted to go to Hollywood, so they’re going to take her there. Unfortunately, this will be an undertaking of massive and terrifying proportions, as they navigate the turbulent Sabine and evade the designs of a sadistic killer out for their blood.
The idea of taking your friend’s body, burning the remains, and stealing a raft to take said remains down the river, and eventually to Hollywood, is really only something the very young would attempt, but that’s one of the things I love about this book. Yes, their idea is a fantastic one, the likelihood of success phenomenally low, yet Sue Ellen, Terry, and Jinx are determined to make it work. Sue Ellen’s alcoholic mother decides to leave her father and come with the group, in what turns out to be a very positive thing in the long run. There are a few significant things that will surely hinder their plans, however. One, Sue Ellen’s father isn’t going to let them get away so easily, and after Jinx has a scuffle with May Lynn’s father, neither is he. There’s a question of money, in the form of stolen loot that our little group has discovered, and a psycho named Skunk is on their trail. No one really believed in Skunk before now. His name was synonymous with the bogeyman, and was something used to scare small children, or so they thought. He’s plenty real though, and when they finally do meet, it’s terrifying. Seriously, this guy will make your nightmares have nightmares. I loved Sue Ellen’s wry voice and she is both wise beyond her years, and yet, just a young girl. Jinx’s dry sarcasm will make you laugh and adds plenty of levity to some pretty horrid circumstances. Terry is an intelligent young man, and most often a voice of reason, but he’s conflicted in ways that might come back to haunt our little group. The author keeps up a pretty relentless pace, and puts these kids through the ringer, keeping you glued to the pages until the very end. Unusual, sometimes brutal, and thoroughly fascinating, Edge of Dark Water is a must read for fans of literary horror and southern gothic noir, not to mention fans of just plain great writing and wonderful characters! You’ll love this one!(less)
Hurricane Katrina is coming, and Drusilla Jaco is battening down the hatches. Well, as much as she can. She’s gone to stay with her grandmother, out of the danger zone, but her mentor, Gerry St. Simon has stayed behind to weather the storm. When she finds out that he’s gone missing, she heads back to New Orleans to find him, and gets much more than she bargains for.
Drusilla is a junior wizard, and her specialty is physical magic (potions and such). As she combs through the wreckage of her mentor’s house, she’s at a loss as to how to go about finding him, and when the handsome and very capable Alex Warin shows up, claiming to be her new partner, all bets are off. Royal Street managed to surprise me in almost every way, which in an increasingly crowded genre, is getting harder and harder to do. Drusilla reminded me very much of Sookie Stackhouse (minus the mind reading.) She’s empathic, and does have quite a bit of magical talent, but in this first book, she’s still very much finding her way. When Alex bursts onto the scene, in the midst of a battle with undead pirate Jean Lafitte, you’d think that sparks would immediately fly and a romance would be inevitable, yes? Well, not so fast. Alex is undeniably hot, and his protective nature is certainly attractive, but there are more important things to worry about, namely some decidedly voodoo tinged murders plaguing the city and of course, the search for her mentor, Gerry. Then there’s Alex’s cousin Jake, who owns the local bar, is ex-military, and is refreshingly “normal”, which is an undeniable attraction for Drusilla. And Jake is certainly attracted to her too.
The setting of post Katrina NOLA is also a character in and of itself, and adds nicely to the atmosphere of this sparkling debut. Ms. Johnson’s writing is very polished and the pace of the novel is compelling without being too urgent. The characters get to know one another, and genuine friendships are formed, and one-sidedness is not to be found. Even the seemingly diabolical Jean Lafitte has a “better side”. I loved her concept of the Beyond, where the undead, the dead, and other supernatural beings make their home, and it will provide plenty of material for future novels. I, for one, want to explore Old Orleans more and get to know its colorful inhabitants better. Add to the mix characters right out of NOLA’s jazz age, shape shifters, plenty of magic, and compelling storytelling, and you’ve got the recipe for a great read! I identified with Drusilla immensely and can’t wait to follow her on her next adventure!(less)
Invisible Sun is a companion novel to the wonderful Black Hole Sun, so you don’t have to have read Black Hole Sun first, but it will definitely make the experience that much more fun. That said, as much as I loved the first one, Invisible Sun blew me away! The action starts right away, with Durango and Vienne on a job to steal some rather sensitive data, and as soon as they wrap that up, they head out to meet Vienne’s family. It’s not quite what you think, though. Vienne was raised at a monastery, and watching as tough guy Durango deals with quiet, contemplative monastery life is entertaining to say the least. Not to mention the dance lessons! Seeing this gentler side of Vienne (who’s about as tough as they get) is new for Durango, but just reinforces his feelings for her. When trouble at a nearby collective stirs our Regulators into action, this kicks off a series of events that tests the very limits of our heroes.
I did say I love this series, yes? I do, and I adore Durango and Vienne, so this one was hard for me to read in places. Durango’s love for Vienne carries the book, and they’re both nearly done in by what the bad guys put them through. Vienne’s ordeal is particularly bad, and my heart broke for her repeatedly. The bad guys (especially the star baddie, the sniveling Archibald), are really bad and have no problem with mowing down anyone that gets in the way of their plans. Seriously, Archibald’s preoccupation with fire is chilling and terrifying. Durango makes a new friend in Riki-Tiki, the young Tengu initiate who would rather be in the middle of the action, and she’s sure to charm your socks off. Also ever present is Mimi, Durango’s AI that only he can hear, and who’s sarcasm steals the show repeatedly. Speaking of action…it rarely lets up and there are a few revelations that had my jaw on the floor. I hate that I’ll have to wait until March 2013 for the next one, but it will be worth it. Totally.(less)
Since the events of Green-Eyed Demon, Sabina’s twin sister, Maisie, is still reeling from her horrific ordeal and Sabina is having issues dealing with it as well, not to mention her new resolution not to drink blood from humans. However, Sabina is happy with her mage boyfriend Adam and is relieved that she’s not on the run anymore from her nasty grandmother, and super-vamp, Lavinia Kane. Maisie’s issues aside, life should be good for Sabina, right? Wellll, not so much. See, for the sake of her and Adam’s relationship, Sabina has put aside her vamp nature to concentrate on her newly discovered mage talents. That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but denying her dark side is beginning to take its toll. When Adam and Sabina are asked by the powers-that-be to find out who has killed a human and a mage, Sabina reluctantly admits (to herself), that the challenge is just what she needs to get out of her rut, until she finds out that Alexis, former vamp Enforcer (what Sabina used to be) will also be helping them out. Alexis is a walking cliché and there were plenty of times that I wanted to slap her (you’ll see what I mean), but she certainly provides some color. See, it’s suspected that someone is challenging Slade (remember Slade? Hotness INC?) for control of the New York area, and conflict involving Slade is most definitely stress that Sabina doesn’t need, especially after their last tryst (which was super hot, btw). I’ll admit, Adam is nice, and he loves Sabina, but damn that Slade is the hotness and sometimes I’d love to be able to pull Sabina aside (you know ,in urban fantasy bookland), and whisper “Slade. Slade. Slade”…but I digress. What all of this amounts to is a ton of stress for Sabina, and also constant worry for Maisie, who is expected to deliver a prophecy at the upcoming peace treaty signing (and is acting rather strangely, even for someone that’s been through the kind of trauma that she has). Remember, the peace treaty that will assure peace among the dark races? Yep, it’s a huge thing, and everyone is under pressure to produce and perform, and Sabina is no exception.
On the bright side, Giguhl, our favorite demon minion is always by Sabina’s side, and his unshaking devotion to Sabina is one of the most enduring things about this series. He’s dealing with some stuff of his own though, namely involving one cross-dressing, cabaret singing fairy, but he’s also organizing a roller derby team (since the Demon Fight Club snafu), which offers some levity to the story, and many giggles (heh, giggles for Mr. Giggles:). The author puts poor Sabina through the emotional ringer in this one, and some twists will cause your jaw to drop (at least, they did mine). There are lots of changes for our heroine and her friends, and Ms. Wells doesn’t hesitate to pile the conflict on. But Sabina is up to it, even as she fights her own guilt and personal demons, not to mention her constant struggle to find herself. This series just keeps getting better and better, and you’ll find yourself turning the pages of Silver-Tongued Devil with the speed of a blood thirsty vamp (sorry, couldn’t help it). Trust me, by the time you finish this one, you’ll be more than ready for Blue-Blooded Vamp to hit the shelves in 2012!(less)
Abby Sinclair has her hands full. She’s taking care of Moira’s half angel/half faerie son Benjamin while Moira is off on the Queen’s business, her bodyguard Talivar (also Moira’s brother) is showing more than a passing interest in doing a little more than just guarding Abby’s body, she’s becoming more and more proficient in the Dreaming, while also fielding “Dear Abby” letters from the OtherFolk of Portsmyth. See, Abby is Moira’s TouchStone, which gives Moira the ability to stay in the mortal world without limitations and travel the CrossRoads of Faerie at will. Abby is also a KeyStone, which means that she can be TouchStoned to someone without a contract, just by physical contact. Abby’s also still reeling a bit from her breakup with Brystion (incubus and full on hottie.) Full plate! Things start getting really weird when a kidnap attempt is made on Benjamin by a woman claiming to be the new Protectorate of Portsmyth. That’s a big problem, since the current Protectorate is Moira. So, where exactly is Moira?
Unfortunately, that’s not all that’s gone wrong. The Queen is not acting like herself, and some pretty severe steps have been taken, which are taking their toll on Faerie, and war may be brewing between daemons and faeries. I really enjoyed A Brush of Darkness, but Allison Pang really brings the awesome with this one. Still have questions about Abby’s past ( I know I did)? Don’t worry, lots of those will be answered here, and then some. Were you hoping for a sweeter love story for Abby, as well? Talivar certainly fits that bill. I could go on a bit about Talivar…but I digress. I mean, Ion was hot, but fickle, and sometimes a bit of a jerk, but what do you expect from an incubus? If you love Faerie, again, you’ve come to the right place. The author’s world building is nothing short of excellent. Seriously, it was good in the first book, but it’s awesome in this one. Abby will not only have to navigate her new and delicate relationship with Talivar, but she’ll also have to do it while navigating the labyrinthine intrigues of Faerie, including a rather memorable trip through the outskirts of Faerie and some sticky negotiation with the Unseelie. Court intrigue abounds, and the author is expert at weaving in some pretty cool pop culture references while tying together multiple plot strings with some pretty intricate knots. I mean, she references Portal…how cool is that?
Abby is one of my favorite characters in urban fantasy right now, and her supporting cast is almost as awesome. Phin, your favorite wee, ass-biting, panty wallowing unicorn is back in all his glory, and shockingly enough, you get to see a more serious side of that rude little guy in this one. It’s kind of…disconcerting, yet also very cool. Allison Pang actually takes the time to really flesh out her minor characters and you find yourself caring about them almost as much as her major players. How she does it, I don’t know, but she’s captured magic in a bottle twice, and I’m also counting on the third time being a charm. Trust me, at the end of this one, your jaw will drop and you’ll begin the countdown for the next book. Very, very highly recommended!(less)
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Acquainted With the Night. Piper Maitland is a new author for me,and I’m certainly always up for discovering new authors,plus,it’s blurbed by Diana Gabaldon,which is a win. I had a feeling I’d like it,but had no idea I’d enjoy it quite as much as I did. I’ll be honest,I have a ton of books on the TBR pile,so I readily admit to checking a books length,and if it exceeds the 300 page mark,you might see me wince a little bit. Acquainted weighs in at a healthy and robust 500+ pages,but I swear,they go by fast! Caroline Clifford (Caro),is a former doctorate candidate turned London tour guide. Not really her dream job,but it’s a living,and she has a roommate she gets along with,so things aren’t too bad. When she gets word that her Uncle was killed in a horrible way while on a Bulgarian archeological dig,it’s a tragic blow for Caro,and it’s at that point that things begin moving very fast for our heroine.
When handsome Jude Barrett comes into her life,claiming to have a connection to her uncle,Caro doesn’t know what to think,but clues left behind with her uncle’s things will set them on a globe hopping adventure to find what may be the key to immortality. See,Jude is a biochemist,and had been researching vampiric properties in mice when things took a bad turn for him he had to run for his life. Turns out Caro’s uncle may have known a little something about the existence of vampires,and it could also have a connection to Caro’s parents and her past. What follows for Caro and Jude is an adventure filled with mysterious monks,religious idols,illuminated texts (one book in particular will prove very important),and the phrase “trust no one” will certainly prove true. Expect some sizzling hot romance with Caro and Jude,and while the twists are fairly easy to predict,I didn’t mind,because the ride was so much fun. A fascinating,historical story,some truly evil vamps (and a nasty human villain),brisk pacing and tight prose make Acquainted With the Night a worthwhile,rollicking read! The author certainly left things open for further novels with Jude and Caro,so I’ll definitely be on the lookout!(less)
A very long time ago,the sun god Belan created the Eternals to be partners for the witches created by his lover,Danu. Eventually,consumed by power,the most powerful witches performed a ceremony using an Artifact that nearly unleashed a demon horde upon the earth. After the witches were nearly destroyed by their greed and lust for power,they shattered the Artifact,then they each took a piece and hid it somewhere in the world. They then sentenced themselves to 800 years of atonement,after which there would be an Awakening of power in each of the witches,and also joining with their Eternals to find their piece of the Artifact and put right what went so wrong.
The Awakenings began with Shea in Visions of Magic and I really fell in love with the lore of the witches and their Eternals. Visions of Skyfire is Teresa Santiago’s story,and she’s a bit different from Shea. She’s always known she has power,having been taught by her abuela from an early age. She also knows about her Eternal,so when Rune shows up to save her from the Magic Police,she’s not so much surprised as relieved. About the Magic Police:they’re pretty nasty,rounding up witches and putting them in prison camps. One of their foot soldiers with a personal vendetta played a role in Visions of Magic and also shows up again here,determined to kill any witch he can get his hands on. I had a great time following Rune and Teresa through Mexico as he teaches her to fight using her hands and her magic. Then there’s the Mating (it’s exactly what it sounds like) to bring both of them fully into their powers,and also bind them for eternity. Rune’s having some trust issues however,since in each of Teresa’s incarnations (in the past 800 years),she’s been less than forthcoming with him and a little more power hungry than she should be. Visions of Skyfire has plenty of passion (strictly adult here,folks),magic,and action,and will not only appeal to Paranormal Romance fans but also to Urban Fantasy fans. Teresa is a pragmatic and tough witch,and it’s her strength that really carries the novel. I also really love the idea of having an Eternal (yep,it’s the romantic in me coming out-don’t tell anyone.) The Awakening series is magical,fun and passionate,and not to be missed!(less)
I love zombies, but I’ll admit, lately, I’ve been kind of on a kick, and I’m almost to the point where I’m zombie’d out. This was good news for Vacati...moreI love zombies, but I’ll admit, lately, I’ve been kind of on a kick, and I’m almost to the point where I’m zombie’d out. This was good news for Vacation, though. I’m a fan of Matthew Costello from way back, so when Vacation was brought to my attention, I was quite excited to dive into it. Vacation has “zombies” of a sort, called Can Heads (cannibals, see?), and they’re driven by an unknown virus, possibly brought on by the terrible world conditions. Drought, famine, and economic collapse are a part of Jack Murphy’s life, and as one of the few remaining NYPD cops, he works hard to keep the streets safe for the people scraping by in this dangerous new world. He and his family live in relative, if tenuous, comfort, in a walled off section of the city and rarely venture outside. ‘Cause, baby, it’s nasty outside the walls, and increasingly clever Can Heads are finding their way inside the walls with alarming frequency. After an incident that leaves Jack’s partner dead, and Jack himself clinging to life, his boss urges him to take a vacation, suggesting the Paterville Family Camp, high in the Adirondacks, as as a getaway option. So Jack packs up his wife, Christie, and their son and daughter, and they hit the road.
The opening scenes in Vacation were exciting in their visceral, violent action, but really, it’s when the Murphy family hits the highway for the drive to Paterville that really brings the creep. Papers had to be filed and fees paid in order to pave the way through the official checkpoints and Jack is fighting increasing stress, while his family is eager to get out of the confines of the walls they’ve lived behind day in and day out for years. Jack just can’t put the cop away and relax, but trust me, this turns out to be a good thing. A nasty incident at a deserted rest stop doesn’t help to allay Jack’s fears, but he puts aside these feelings, hoping that Paterville will offer his family a little bit of freedom and happiness, if only for a short while. They manage to arrive at Paterville without further incident, but among the lake swims, fireworks, and admittedly good food served in the dining hall, there’s always a sense of “wrongness”, and the author does a great job at building dread. What I really appreciated about these characters, is when the proverbial “sh*t” finally hits the fan, and the nasty (really, really nasty) truth about Paterville comes to light, Jack’s wife, Christie, doesn’t question her spouse. She trusts him implicitly and shows an amazing resilience and toughness in the midst of a terrible situation. Too many times, in novels and movies, spouses (men and women both) show disbelief and hesitation when confronted with a situation that requires swift action. Christie is no slouch in the courage department, and she’ll do anything to protect her kids, and she never questions Jack’s devotion to his family. And make no mistake, he’s devoted. This is a horror story, to be sure, but at the forefront is Jack’s love for his family, and his determination to do anything possible to keep them safe. Vacation was unputdownable, and I read it in one evening. Never too gruesome, leaving just enough to the imagination, it will raise the little hairs on the back of your neck and keep you glued to the pages until the shocking end. Fans of zombies, creeping horror, and just plain good writing will eat this one up (pun totally intended.)(less)
It’s 2044,and 18 year old Wade Watts lives in “the stacks”,which consists of layer upon layer of trailer homes (some reaching 20 high). Steeped in poverty,his only escape is OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation),a virtual world where he can attend school,never get beat up,and has every book,song,or piece of art he could ever imagine at his fingertips. The Great Recession is entering its third decade,and finding a job to help pay for his OASIS travels is pretty much out of the question. Fast food joints have 2 year waiting lists,fossil fuels are dwindling,and the human race is using OASIS more and more to escape from a world that is collapsing all around them.
When the creater of OASIS,the eccentric,80′s obsessed James Halliday,passes away,he leaves a legacy behind:hundreds of billions of dollars,there for the taking for anyone that can find a series of keys and gates within OASIS,and find the Easter Egg at the end. Millions have tried and failed,and years go by with no progress,the game becoming somewhat of a legend,something never to be solved,until Wade finds the Copper Key. When Wade’s crush,a female blogger named Art3mis,also finds the Copper Key,the race is on,like,well,Donkey Kong (sorry,couldn’t help it.)
Wade instantly becomes a celebrity,and others soon begin nipping at his heels,including IOI,a huge conglomerate bent on taking over OASIS and making it their own money making playground,using any means possible,and I do mean any. True gunters (OASIS freaks),are determined not to let this happen,but with vast resources at IOI’s disposal,they are a real threat,and when they make Wade an “offer he just can’t refuse”,his virtual,and real life may be at stake.
Told from Wade’s point of view,we get a glimpse into a future where a virtual world holds more sway than reality,and human reaction is played out inside an 80’s drenched world where old school video games are the norm,and every tiny detail has meaning. Wade has spent nearly his entire existence memorizing facts from Halliday’s manifesto,Anorak’s Almanac,watching hours and hours of 80’s sitcoms,listening to 80’s music,and soaking up anything else that Halliday has deemed important. Ready Player One is kind of like “It’s a Mad,Mad,Mad World” on steroids,and of course,involving millions of players instead of a handful. Yes,Wade’s best friend and crush are avatars,but what is that when you have an endless world at your fingertips,and you can be anything,and anyone,that you want?
One the surface,Ready Player One is a geekfest of the highest order. Children of the 80’s,like me,will thrill at the shear amount of nostalgia that packs these pages,and also at the absolutely wondrous virtual world that the author has created for his characters. The references are a blast,my favorites being a challenge that involves acting out the movie WarGames and a sequence involving a key scene from Blade Runner. Underneath the skin,however,is a story about an insecure,lonely teen that has been raised by a reality that just isn’t real,and who finds out that you really should be careful what you wish for. There’s a heartbreaking love story here too,and some lovely nuance underneath the geek. Ernest Cline’s writing is intricate,sharp and witty,and he delivers a story with plenty of action that will not only excite you with its race to the finish,but also make you think about what it means to be human. The power of friendship and love (even if it’s in virtual reality),and sheer determination are strong themes here,and as you move toward the ending,everything will click together perfectly like Tetris blocks,leaving you pleasantly exhausted and wondering where the time went. Ready Player One is a sci-fi gem you won’t want to miss!(less)
It’s the perfect time for a zombie read,isn’t it? Halloween is just around the corner,spooky decorations are going up,and AMC’s The Walking Dead’s Season 2 premiered on Sunday night. Yep,perfect! If you’ve been following the blog for a while,it’s no secret that I’m a pretty rabid Jonathan Maberry fan,so when I got a copy of Dead of Night,it was all I could do not to drop my current read and dig in. Dead of Night is a zombie novel. It even says so right on the cover,but don’t expect your usual zombie fare. Dr. Herman Volker has been on a mission:a mission to punish those like the heinous killer that ravaged his mother and sister so many years ago. A retired government project called Lucifer 113 fit the bill rather nicely,so it’s a good thing that Volker had a hand in its development. When a savage serial killer is set to die by Dr. Volker’s hand,he sees an irresistible chance for vengeance. Lucifer 113 is injected into the killer,and his body is set to be buried in a pauper’s grave. This isn’t quite what happens though. An aunt no one knew existed orders the killer’s body be returned to her for burial,so Homer Gibbon is sent back to the small town of Stebbins. This will turn out to be a very unfortunate turn of events,first not only for mortician Doc Hartnup and his cleaning lady (who’s timing is just terrible,seriously),but for the entire town of Stebbins. A nasty,nasty virus is on the loose,and it’s turning its victims into rotting,slavering spitting corpses that just want to eat,and eat,and eat. Homer Gibbon isn’t quite like the other monsters though… He’s much,much worse.
Dead of Night’s narrative mainly goes back and forth between Officer Dez Fox and her partner J.T,and reporter Billy Trout and his camera man,with some interludes involving military and the upper levels of US government. Dez and Billy have a longtime,fiery,on again,off again relationship,and Billy would like nothing more than to be back with the woman he loves,yet Dez has spent her life pushing away anyone that really cares about her. Both of her parents died very young,and J.T. is very much a father figure to her. Dez is one tough cookie,though,and when the government begins to turn on the inhabitants of Stebbins,Dez may be their only hope. Meanwhile,Billy Trout is uncovering the horrible truth about the virus that is taking over the townspeople one by one. Dead of Night has man of the traditional zombie elements that fans have come to expect,but with Jonathan Maberry’s deft touch and relentless pacing,the story jumps off the page and takes a bite out of you from page one. These aren’t your run of the mill zombies,either. These are far more horrible than the usual mindless,ravening creatures. I won’t tell you why,because that’s a big part of the story,but suffice it to say that Maberry brings humanity to Dead of Night,just like he does in his Joe Ledger series,and some parts are simply heartbreaking. Zombie and horror fans won’t want to miss this,and even if it’s not your usual fare,I urge you to give it a try,because,in my opinion,it’s really hard to go wrong with anything that Jonathan Maberry writes. Horror and thriller elements combine explosively in a book of zombie apocalypse that you won’t soon forget!(less)