A Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) #14
R. J. Blain
Fiction, paranormal, urban famtasy
Pen & Page Publishing
May 12, 2020
Most days, Anwen regrets working at a funeral home. With the residents no longer inclined to stay in their coffins where they belong, she's got her hands full making sure everyone follows the rules: In the funeral home, there is no screaming, no murdering, no mutilation, no possessions, no kidnappings, no resurrections, and no cursing of any type. Be quiet and stay polite. The day Old Man McGregor decides to take a walk and disturbs her peace, Anwen learns there's a lot more to the basement in the funeral home than a vampire and a handsome gentleman on ice. If she's not careful, she'll learn first-hand why 'eternally yours' is the most potent of threats. Warning: this novel contains romance, humor, bodies, shenanigans, and mythological puppies. Proceed with caution.
Part of a long series with bodies….
This was a good length and so it was long enough to complete a story in one book. No need for a sequel here and I enjoyed reading through whole.
Just a couple of minor grouches from me though – 1. For me it seemed there was too much emphasis on the Aramaic pantheon; and 2. I got seriously confused at times when the characters were explaining all the different relationships within the angelic host and others. This just needed to be simplified down for those not familiar with this pantheon and the way angels and their various families are linked.
I had not realised, until I looked it up, that angels are common to many religions including Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. Of course Medieval scholars managed to make it all very complicated and to have many different choirs of angels and thrones etc but the one thing that most agree on is that Azrael holds a rather benevolent role as the angel of death, wherein he acts as a psychopomp, responsible for transporting the souls of the deceased after death. I have come across the concept of a psychopomp before in Christine Bauer’s work so this was at least familiar to me. But of course, each religion has a different take on angels – names, roles and hierarchy too.
I’m glad that I didn’t give up though. As I found that the story kept me interested and I loved the Mausoleum and graveyard. Anwen was an interesting heroine and I loved her chats with the dead and the loved the way the dead behaved too.
A different world again – but as the angels and others keep hinting – each world that the universe builds lasts only a time – and then is destroyed for some reason and another world appears and magic appears in this new world at some point too. But each world acquires its magic at a different point in its history. Some characters in these stories live through multiple worlds – often by sleeping for long periods. Interesting thought and philosophy.
After waking in a shallow grave and clawing her way to freedom, Penelope Francis hunts for the rogue who stole her life and transformed her into a vampire. Despite being corrupted into a feared preternatural, she clings to her humanity and refuses to prey on innocents, instead slaking her thirst on other miscreant vampires. In exchange for a chance at revenge, she joins forces with the charismatic master of the Lowrance brood, a choice that may spell the salvation—or destruction—of humanity as she knows it.
OK. So just about everything you thought you knew about Vampires is wrong – just about anyway. As usual, we get new world building from one of my all time favourite authors because she is funny and comes up with weird and wonderful worlds and stories. And the best kickass heroines with real snark and humour.
For a start, vampires are lactose intolerant. Also, they prefer blood from happy animals, so they arrange for the animals to live a wonderful life, organic, grass fed, and frolicky. And to have a nice death too – a happy death where they feel no pain and are not hurt in any way. Also chicken blood is good as is kobe beef steaks, rare of course.
Only those who have gone ‘wrong’ drink from unwilling victims and they frequently get blood lust and thus drain their victims – who are usually not willing, and so these crazed vampires have blood orgies, which the good vampires break up and see that they are punished.
Vampires do indeed live in clans or families, and are usually rich having lived a long time, and everyone has a job and is a useful member of society. They take human wives as otherwise they couldn’t have children. And people become vampires willingly – on the whole – to live this long and rich life.
I look forward to learning how this series continues and what happens to our heroine – Penelope/Pepper – who was turned against her will and yet survived – and gets sick on chicken blood – gets on with her new life within the Lowrance clan.
Warping Minds & Other Misdemeanors
(The Guild Codex: Warped #1)
by Annette Marie & Rob Jacobsen
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy
Published by: Dark Owl Fantasy Inc.
Publication date: August 7th 2020
Synopsis: My name is Kit Morris, and welcome to my warped life. Picture the scene: Me, an average guy with psychic powers—not that my abilities are in any way average—just trying to scrape by in a harsh world. So maybe I’ve conned a few people, but did I really deserve to be thrown in MPD jail alongside magic-wielding serial killers? According to Agent Lienna Shen, one-hundred-percent yes. But her hardass attitude and “Arcana prodigy” status aren’t enough to bring down my former best friend, who slipped through the MPD’s fingers and is days away from unleashing untold horrors upon the city. Or he’s going to steal something. I don’t really know. Whatever he’s up to, that’s why I’m sitting in an interrogation room with Lienna. And that’s why I just offered myself as her temporary new partner for the purposes of thwarting my ex-accomplice. And that’s how I’m going to escape. I might even help with the case before I cut and run. — Warping Minds & Other Misdemeanors is the first book in a new series set in the world of The Guild Codex. It can be read on its own or as part of a larger adventure.More series in the Guild Codex world: The Guild Codex: Spellbound The Guild Codex: Demonized
1. Which author had the most influence on your writing? Your writing style? Your writing genre?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint one specific author. Chuck Palahniuk had a lot of impact on my writing for a while, as did Laurence Sterne’s novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Even screenwriters like Aaron Sorkin and Diablo Cody shaped my writing style quite a bit. In terms of Kit’s voice in the Warped series, I’d have to say that Dean Koontz, especially in his Odd Thomas books, is particularly influential.
2. In your opinion who is the funniest author now writing?
Oh, man. I have no idea. I honestly don’t read very many “funny” books. OH, I KNOW: Annette Marie. All the Guild Codex series are hilarious.
3. What, in your life, are you most proud of doing?
I understood Inception on my very first viewing. (As much as anyone can truly understand Inception.)
4. Do you have an unusual hobby? Is it related to the books you write? Or is it for relaxation? Is itdangerous/ adventurous/ requires travel?
I am a very mediocre rock climber. I don’t think that qualifies as “unusual” because I live in Vancouver and everyone here climbs. I really want to write a rock-climbing scene in a Warped book but I have yet to convince Annette that it’s a good idea.
5. Which is your favourite place to visit? Do you incorporate it into your books?
For the last few summers, I have spent at least a couple of weeks in Kananaskis, which is in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. There is a beautiful campground there by a lake, almost completely cut off from the world. There is no wi-fi, no cell phone reception, no TV. It is the perfect place to reset your brain and eat a lot of fire-cooked food.
6. If you could be any fictional character, which would you be? And why?
It’s tempting to pick Dracula because he’s rich and immortal and talks with a cool accent. But then I remembered that he can’t eat garlic, which is an automatic deal-breaker. So I’m going to go with Captain Jack Sparrow. A life of adventure? Sign me up. Be half-drunk ALL THE TIME? Yes, please. Have an incredible fashion sense and eyeliner that never streaks? …why are we still having this conversation?
7. If you could choose to live in another country/town – which would you choose? And why?
Oh, god. I so badly want to travel more. I can’t pick a single location because I haven’t experienced enough places yet! I spent a couple of weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico last year for a film festival and I could see myself living there. The city was stunning, the people were amazing, and the food…sweet mother of taste bud bliss…the food was yumtastic.
8. What would you take on a desert island to read if you could only take 3 books?
I’m going to go ahead and assume I’m gonna be on this desert island for a while and that I don’t require “How to Survive in the Middle of Godforsaken Nowhere” manual…
Does The Lord of the Rings trilogy count as a single book? Let’s say yes. That’s gotta be in there. A good collection of short stories, like The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury or Nine Stories by JD Salinger, would be on the list. I’d have to finish it off with Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Not only is it a long (which is important on a desert island) and beautiful novel, but it is essentially six vastly different stories nested inside one another. They range from a 19th century drama to a 1960s thriller to a post-apocalyptic sci-fi; that kind of variety would hopefully keep me sane while I forage for coconuts, befriend scorpions, and make a man-kini out of banana leaves.
9. What music – if any – do you think inspires you to write? Is it different for each novel or the same?
My writing playlist varies from scene to scene. For action scenes, I love listening to heavy music: Rob Zombie, Underoath, Static-X, Lamb of God, Bring Me the Horizon, and even some Skrillex. When I need something moodier, I’ll listen to Carrollhood, Holy Fawn, a bit of Billie Eilish, or the entire Gone Girl soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. For more general work, I have hours of Odesza and The Glitch Mob to keep me in the zone. While I’m writing this, I’ve got some Missy Elliot going in my headphones.
10. Has the pandemic inspired you with any new stories to write? If so, what is the story premise?
Totally! In order to prevent going stir crazy during isolation, my wife and I created a web series called Max and Mousee. It’s about a woman (Max) who is so lonely during quarantine that her imaginary best friend from her childhood reemerges to keep her company. Hijinks ensue. We made the whole thing with just two people acting as the cast and crew. It was a lot of fun, although there were some challenges. For example, after filming the first two episodes, I realized that I hadn’t changed the batteries in my microphone for like…seven years? So the sound quality is a little gross early on. But we also threw in a couple of Guild Codex easter eggs and references for any readers who come across it.
11. What about turning your best seller into a film or TV series – would you want to write the script or be on the production team? Why? Why not?
Hard YES. Filmmaking is my first love. I’ve done some acting and made some of my own films. One of my dreams is to be a television showrunner. If I got the opportunity be involved in the film/TV adaption of my book, I’d be on that like Jack Sparrow on a fresh bottle of rum.
12. Is it easy to write humour?
I often find it easier to write humour than to be super-duper serious. It’s probably a coping mechanism. Maybe I should see someone about that…
Annette Marie is the author of Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series Steel & Stone, its prequel trilogy Spell Weaver, and romantic fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced adventures and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it’s not quite that bad) with her husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.
Rob is a Canadian writer, actor, and director, who has been in a few TV shows you might watch, had a few films in festivals you might have attended, and authored some stories you might have come across. He’s hoping to accomplish plenty more by the time he inevitably dies surrounded by cats while watching reruns of Mr. Robot.
Currently, he is the Creative Director of Cave Puppet Films, as well as the co-author of the upcoming Guild Codex: Warped book series with Annette Marie.
Ravens Hollow Coven Book 2)
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
City Owl Press
jun 30th 2020
What are the stakes for falling in love?
That’s the question tarot card reader Gillian Howe ponders when she hosts a supernatural speed dating event. Making the perfect match is her passion, too bad she can’t find one for herself. A chance encounter with a wealthy vampire provides her an opportunity to attend an exclusive after-party and prove she isn’t opposed to love. But she finds herself plunged into a secret society of trancing, blood bonds and human escort rings. The night ends in a police raid and of all the vampire detectives in Raven’s Hollow, Garrett Mulroney shows up at the scene. Even if he is scorching, hot, he accused her of a crime she didn’t commit and nearly ruined her life.
Fate has thrown them together again…
Garrett has been down this brutal road before and it didn’t end well. His sire tried to force him into a life of debauchery, but he chose to uphold the law instead. The fact that the one woman he can’t seem to get out of his mind or out of his lust-filled dreams is at the center of his investigation doesn’t bode well. It’s a good thing she hates his guts, because it helps douse his growing desire for her and focus on the case. But when Gillian’s cousin is kidnapped into the Du Sang Brotherhood, she becomes the prime witness. Now they’re forced to put their differences aside and go undercover by pretending to be a couple. The more time Garrett spends with Gillian, the more he wants her in his life—and in his bed.
Knowing who to trust and who to love becomes a matter of survival, and possibly the only way to take down the Brotherhood.
As this was a series, I decided to set the scene with book 1 of the series.This was useful to understand the background if not the characters per se, as they were very minor in book 1.
I also hoped that the writing would have improved as so often happens, as the authors develops the series and setting. And it had.
But only marginally.
I didn’t feel though that this book could stand alone. It needed to be set within a series. And unlike the work of RJ Blain, these vampires were standard. Mostly blood drinkers of unwilling victims. But with our hero fighting against tis sterotype.
I found the witches rather unconvincing in the spellwork – too simplistic in the word usage – and thus too easy to be misapplied. And their potions were made too easily – lack of effort all round really. Which meant that the story line lacked drama. And I found the ending unsatisfactory.
And is it a vile or a vial? What holds a potion in US spelling? Author please let me know.
As you can’t allocate half points, I’m giving this a 4 when for me it was really 3.5.
Autumn had come, and I was powerless to stop it—this time. A yellowed leaf clung to its branch, mocking me with its splash of color. The rest of Central Park clung to the hope of summer. I stood on my toes and snatched at it, but a chilly wind ripped it from my reach.
The leaf landed on the path several steps away. When I reached it, I crushed it beneath my boot.
“Wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, Allison?”
I twisted my heel while wrinkling my nose. With light brown hair and creamy skin prone to burning rather than tanning, Mark would never be my tall, dark, and handsome, though he was good looking and aggressive with his money. With my sort of luck, he’d never account for anything more than an occasional lunch buddy who needed my help with his finances. Then again, maybe it was better for both of us that way.
Some girls had all the luck. Me? I had more money than I knew what to do with, most of it acquired from Mark in management fees like I was some sort of modern-day vampire. Too bad money couldn’t buy me a life.
“Who said I went to bed last night?” Hopefully, he wouldn’t think too long or hard on my delayed quip.
“What’s got your tail in a bunch?”
I shoved my hands in the back pockets of my jeans and swallowed my relieved sigh. No tail. Good. Last thing I needed was to sprout a tail on Halloween at noon. “N-nothing. You’re always ‘blah, blah, blah, something’s wrong.’ Nothing’s going on.”
Mark arched his brow at me. “So what did that poor little leaf do to you?”
“It failed its calculus test twice.”
#2, from Winter Wolf:
I slammed my car’s door, spun on a heel, and swore I would have a perfectly normal visit to the mall. All I needed was one little book. Even I could walk into a bookstore, pick up a novel, and leave without causing any trouble.
This time I wouldn’t blow out the lights. There wouldn’t be a single power surge. I wouldn’t turn on every unplugged device in the electronics store on my way across the mall. In the ten minutes it would take me to get in and out, the only thing anyone would notice about me was the fact that I wore a high-collared sweater in late summer. I had a mission, and I would complete it without fail. The novel my agent insisted I read would be mine.
For a long moment, I considered turning around and getting back into my car. Dominic would forgive me if I didn’t start reading the book until tomorrow. I could call in a favor and ask someone to pick up a copy for me. Then I definitely wouldn’t run any risk of blowing anything up. If I had been smart, I would’ve just ordered the damned thing on the internet, but I had waited too long.
Fishing my cell out of my pocket, I unlocked the screen with a swipe of my finger. The charging icon mocked me. Despite running every battery-draining app I could find, the battery held a full charge. I opened another app, a devilish program capable of killing the battery in ten minutes. It wouldn’t, not with me around, but if I was too busy keeping my phone topped up, maybe my mall shopping trip would prove to be mundane.
I shook my head, laughing at my foolishness.
No one would notice my phone. No one would notice me for more than a second. They’d notice my clothes, and then they’d file me away as yet another weirdo wearing something strange to catch attention. L.A. was full of people like that.
I had no reason to worry. Even if I managed to embarrass myself yet again by losing control of my powers, no one would know I was the cause of unplugged electronics turning on or unusual power surges.
Straightening my shoulders, I fixed my eyes on the line of glass doors and marched my way across the parking lot.
In and out. No blown lights. No power surges. No feeding power to unplugged electrical devices. No charging batteries for strangers. I was in control, and I would charge only my phone.
Making my way to the entry, I paused long enough to hold the door for a little old lady who insisted on making her way through the regular doors despite her walker. I couldn’t blame her. If I lived to be her age, I wouldn’t want to rely on automatic doors either.
She thanked me with a pat on the arm. Flashing her my best smile, I slipped inside.
I could handle ten minutes in the crowded corridors. Maybe if I told myself that enough times, I’d believe it.
I stuck to the center of the hallway, dodging kiosks as I worked my way to the bookstore. Despite being so near to closing time, the place was busy, leaving me to navigate a sea of bodies. I considered stopping at one of the jewelry kiosks. There was something appealing about the humble, cheaper baubles, but I didn’t quite dare.
In and out. No stops, not even to admire the gemstones twinkling under the display lamps. This time, I wasn’t going to break anything, not even a single light.
#3, from Blood Diamond:
The world was full of corpses, and I, Dante Jackson Emmett Anderson, knew them by name. Unfortunately for me, my brother knew my secret.
When my brother asked for help, it usually involved unidentified bodies or paperwork. When he had shown up at my door, I hadn’t expected an invitation to join an Inquisition field operation, one dangerous enough to warrant the use of my brother’s armored truck. He had me dead to rights when he told me I’d be driving, and judging by the way he had smirked while spinning the keys around his finger, he had known it.
I doubted the red-painted, tempting seductress of a monstrosity could be eliminated by anything other than a missile or a tank; even if someone wanted to blast their way in, they’d need a ladder to reach the door. I wasn’t small, not at six foot three, and I needed the help of the step rail and roll bar to climb in. The rest of the team needed me to give them a hand.
I drew a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. I should have refused my twin and ignored the lure of driving his absurd, stupid truck. I should have told him I would do a stint at the Inquisition headquarters shuffling papers and naming dead people instead of pretending I was trained for field operations.
Drumming my hands against the leather wheel, probably the only normal thing in the truck, I waited. The manila envelope on the dashboard mocked me, reflecting in the windshield as I watched the darkening forest for any signs of the team’s return. Once I opened it, I’d know more about the operation and its Inquisitors than I wanted. I’d know the names and faces of the dead, and if my bad luck held, I’d get a glimpse of their final moments.
The dead were vindictive like that.
I leaned forward, resting my forehead on my hands. My brother had been in enough of a hurry to get me into his truck and on the road I hadn’t had time to change out of my suit. Combat boots, fatigues, and Kevlar protected the Inquisitors. I wore a silk dress shirt and an equally thin jacket a bullet would ignore before tearing a hole through me.
Clenching my teeth, I bumped my forehead against the wheel as I cursed my idiocy.
A smart man would’ve put the idling engine into gear and left. If I did that, I’d be the target of my very own Inquisition operation. I doubted even the Red Beast could withstand a pack of angry Fenerec armed with more firepower than the military. They had missiles, and I had supplied all six warheads to them. If they launched one at the truck, they’d blow it—and me—into scrap metal and unidentifiable bits.