Bites

Pub date: August 7, 2012.

Author website.

It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.  (netgalley.com)


Now my main issue with GIRL OF NIGHTMARES is not turning into a blithering fangirl idiot in this review.  But that’s going to be really hard because it’s horror and YA and unforgiving and AWESOME.  I’ll try, though.  I’ll try.

This time around Cas, for the first time ever, is trying to be a normal teenager.  He has stayed in the same place for nearly a year and will even renew his tenure at his current high school.  A never for him.  As a result he’s attempting to date (thanks to Carmel) and move on from the whole Anna issue.  Except she’s not letting him move on.  Cas starts seeing her everywhere and it gets to a point where he starts questioning his sanity.  Lucky for him his marbles are all where they should be and something far deeper, and grander, is going on around him.

Blake doesn’t spare punches in GIRL OF NIGHTMARES.  While it doesn’t have the feel of “truer” horror (as in the genuine scare factor involved) to me there’s still an unyielding, unforgiving horror to her storytelling that’ll slot it in with the rest nicely enough.  Blake is unforgiving with her gore, the trials she puts her characters through and the means they need to meet in order to achieve their ends.  And she does it with such well-timed snark that I’m in awe of it.  It’s not forced, it never feels like a contrivance and it fits in genuinely with it’s surroundings.  Said snark is used sparingly but in just the right moments that it hits perfectly and it left me giggling more than once.

I had an issue with Cas referring to Anna as his girlfriend.  That’s just a level of morbid that surpasses even my rather effed up capacities.  And it’s also rather sad that the only girl Cas felt he could have a connection with was a murderous dead one.  I felt sorry for him on a few different levels but at least the entire story was realistic about it.  Yes, he referred to Anna as his girlfriend.  Creepy.  But it didn’t delude anything.  There was no talk about bringing her back to fleshy life so her and Cas could live happily ever after.  Cas knew she was dead; Anna knew she was dead.  Different planes of existence.  Full stop.  Patrick Swayze got off back in Albuquerque.

I also had problems with Cas’s mom and whether I was supposed to think of her as a good mom for letting Cas do his thing or a bad mom for letting him do his thing.  Probably one of the main reasons for them having to move so often was if they stayed in one place Cas’s mom would have the Department of Children and Families wedged so far up her ass she wouldn’t be able to walk.  At the rate he keeps ending up in the hospital (he tripped and fell into a campfire?  might as well just make him walk into doors too) all signs would start to point to child abuse.  But he’s Cas and following in his dad footsteps and this is the family business blah blah blah.  But I really wanted his mom to be a real mom and be like, “EFF THAT.  You’re grounded.”  She wasn’t though.  She made her candles and enabled his behavior and cleaned his wounds.  I don’t know how I feel about that.  She fit the story and if there were a contrivance here she’d be it.  Luckily for the story as a whole I was able to suspend my disbelief enough to tuck it back.  She’s not very prominent and I was so caught up in the action that I wasn’t able to dwell on it long enough anyway.

There were tears at the end so beware.  It was shocking.  I kept trying to guess where it was going to go but, as you know, I kind of suck at that so I was nice and surprised by the ending.  It was unexpected and refreshing in that it didn’t pander to the “norm” in YA.  All the more reason to love Blake.  She writes her story and everyone else be damned.  This is it and nothing else.

GIRL OF NIGHTMARES was an excellent continuation of the ANNA series.  Well worth the wait and not at all disappointing.  Just the right amounts horror, gore, fear, tears, snark and sass, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES hits all the right places at all the right times.  YA needs more horror and I’m so incredibly happy that Blake is a contributing factor to even that imbalance out.  It’s nominally free of romance (except for Cas’s, um, issue, I guess) but it has some hidden angst found in the likes of Thomas and Carmel, the comic reliefs in what is otherwise a pretty dark story.  I have no doubt GIRL OF NIGHTMARES will be a hit and will have people salivating for more ANNA.

Ban Factor: High – We see things getting tortured.  Shit comes back from the dead.  There are swears.  It’s all over, folks.

Pub date: July 25th, 2012.

Author website.

Available in print for the first time, Dragon Age: The Silent Grove is the perfect introduction to BioWare’s dark fantasy universe In this essential, canonical story from David Gaider, lead writer of the games, King Alistair, accompanied only by rogues Isabela and Varric, embarks on a quest deep inside the borders of Antiva – a nation of assassins Together, they will encounter a prison break, dragons, the mysterious Witch of the Wilds, and one of the greatest secrets in the history of the world. (goodreads.com)

I’m falling more and more in love with comics the more I read them.    This is such a great introduction to this whole world and it’s left me feigning for more.  Between the artwork and the snark I really couldn’t get enough of it.

It’s a fully realized world that gives me everything I’m looking for in a fantasy (kind of like Gaider tapped into my head and pulled out my fantasy needs) without overdoing it.  There’s magic and sorcery and dragons and villains and damaged heros and anti-heros but none of it seems overdone.  Unlike some fantasy it’s not trying too hard at all.  In fact it’s barely trying because it really doesn’t have to.  The world feels effortless.  From the beginning I’m in the middle of it, I believe in it and it keeps me reading.

The three main character are all absolutely amazing.  Alistair is a total snarker which, for a king in fantasy, at least in my experience, is a no-go.  An unserious king?  No way.  Way, Ted!  It’s like if Simon Pegg wrote a fantasy this would be it.  Alistair knows what he needs to do and tries his damndest to get it done but holy shit if things don’t get in his way.  He emotes a little, cracks jokes to himself and then sets back out again barely feeling set back but maybe just a little.

Isabela is a total hardass chick that I’d like to get to know more about.  She’s a pirate, captain of her own ship and damn it all if she doesn’t remind you about her fists of glory and the fact that she can nail you to a wall.  But she’s not so tough as to be obnoxious.She falls a few times and while she’s not the kind of person to constantly take help she knows when she needs it and begrudgingly accepts.  She’s also one to readily offer her help.  For a price, of course.

And Varric?  The snark-master dwarf?  I don’t know how you have comedic relief in something that’s kind of a comedy already but Varric is it.  The quips he kept coming out with had me laughing out loud.  Literally.

Here’s some snarkxamples (snamples?) –

06/09 page 79
96.0% “”My name is Alistair Theirin and I’m king of Ferelden. Long live the king, long may he reign! And so forth. Pray to the maker he doesn’t do something stupid…””
06/09 page 68
83.0% “”Evidently we’re going to ask Claudio how it feels to be stabbed in the chest.””
06/09 page 39
48.0% “”That sound is coming closer.” “What do we do?” “Brown our trousers.””

One is Alistair, two is Isabela and three is Varric.  I need more DRAGON AGE.  Sooner rather than later.  Like fantasy?  Like humor?  Like a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously?  DRAGON AGE. Now.

Ban Factor: High – Fantasy world with no Christianity, magic and dragons.  It’s just far to much for small minds to process.

Published April 3, 2012.

Author website.

Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.


But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could–from the criminal’s point of view.


And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.


In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret–could he be more like his father than anyone knows?  (goodreads.com)

Lyga is demented.  And I love him so hard for it.  I HUNT KILLERS is unique and thoroughly disturbing and though all of us who read it, at times, questioned just where Lyga was when he wrote this, we had a lot of good to say about it.  So incredibly well-written, if you don’t feel just a little repulsed as what’s going on in these pages then something must be wrong with you.  Seriously.  I mean I wasn’t as affected as some of my fellow YAckers were but there were moments where I pulled back a little.  I’m only human.  Mostly.

The Keeper of the Book this month was Holly so why don’t you come stop by her site, Book Harbinger, and see what we had to say about I HUNT KILLERS.  CORNNUTS!

Ban Factor: High – OMG, are you kidding me?  The banners would burn this one alive.

Published March 1, 2010.

Author website.

In this candid confessional, comedian Carla Collins divides the world into the angels who guide us, inspire us, and save our butts; the sexy and trendy vampires who suck the life out of us; and the douche bags who constantly annoy, disgust and taunt us. With a fast wit, fake breasts and real heart, Collins shares her unconventional journey from a small steel town in Ontario, Canada to Tinseltown L.A. On this wild and revealing romp, she navigates her way through seventy-two imaginary friends, multiple fianc s, eight dogs, two marriages, and one topless grandmother. Her hard-earned life lessons will show you that by taking risks, embracing humiliation and tapping into the power of laughter, anything is possible–and everyone is manageable. Attract more angels into your life, control your vampires, and keep all the douche bags at bay.  (goodreads.com)

I laughed my ass off reading ANGELS, VAMPIRES & DOUCHE BAGS.  Seriously, Carla has a wit and timing about her that just can’t be beat.  She’s a petite little blonde that’s packed full of snark but never even comes close to toeing the line of being a snatch.  Her comedy doesn’t stem from any kind of nastiness.  There isn’t a bitterness to it.  Sure, some of the things in her life weren’t all that great but even the seedier moments are spun on their head and given a humorous light.  Carla is exceptionally self-deprecating, something I can wholly appreciate.  Trust, no one’s going to find you funny unless you can laugh at yourself first.

While having a nominally unhealthy obsession with hookers, Carla tells like it it is, her life spread eagle on the pages for all to see.  She doesn’t try to hide anything and she certainly doesn’t sugarcoat any of it either.  Her stories are told with a poignant voice that really only sprinkles in the snark but the lines are so well-timed that they kind of sneak up on you and you find yourself laughing before you can even really process what you read.  Seriously, I need to see this woman live because she’s a damn good storyteller.  I can imagine her sitting around a table just chatting and just the WAY she tells the stories sucks you right in.  The tone, the voice, it’s funny without actually being funny simply because you know there’s going to be a line there that’ll crack you right the hell up.

If I quoted all of my favorite lines I’d pretty much be duplicating the entire book but here are some of note enough that I stopped reading to plug into my Goodreads status thingy –

“I hesitated, because to me, tantric sex sounds like a Kevin Costner movie – it goes on forever and nobody comes.” 

“I was at the counter and figured I needed a back of Mentos,  a copy of People magazine and a bag of boobies.” 

“That Jerry Maguire movie was bullshit.  You need to become complete yourself first; then ideally, find another complete human to compliment you.”

Between the most excellent pearls of wisdom and the snap, it could hardly go wrong.

Except it did.  Not at the fault of Carla, though.  From page 75 to 104 it duplicates from page 17 on 32 pages.  I’m not kidding.  And I’m not talking some extra pages shoved into the greater book.  I’m talking about these 32 pages replaced the greater part of the VAMPIRES portion of this book.  I was filled with chagrin.  I mean talk about total buzz kill.  And it cut me off in the middle of an epic story and I still have no idea how it ended!  I’m missing 23% of the book and that makes me cranky.  Cranky to the point where I don’t know how to rate this.  I loved everything I read.  Carla has an intriguing life and a kick ass voice that’ll make me want to read anything she’s ever written.  But an inbred one-eyed, one-handed clown bound the book and robbed me of a chunk of it.  Cranky.

I believe I shall rate it based on writing alone even though missing that part of the book put a huge damper on it for me.  Like I said, not Carla’s fault so I can’t discount her for it.  But I can grumble.

Ban Factor: High – Did you miss the part about Carla having a nominally unhealthy obsession with hookers?  Or boobies?  Or the tantric sex?  The banners are swooning.  Someone get some accordion fans.

Pub date: May 29, 2012.

Author website.

A sweeping, threaded narrative of the global phenomenon known as the Vampire Wars! Mankind is silently infected by a millennia-old bacteria unknowingly exhumed by a scientific expedition in Antarctica. Now, in some rare cases, a person’s so-called “junk DNA” becomes activated, and depending on their racial and ethnic heritage they begin to manifest one of the many diverse forms of the “others” that are the true basis for the legends of supernatural creatures. These aren’t your usual vampires and werewolves — it goes much deeper than that.  (netgalley.com)

V WARS is actually more of an anthology centered around a single spine of a plot.  Maberry is in the middle of it all, weaving the basis of the world with JUNK, ESCALATION, SPECIES, GENOCIDE, EMBEDDED and LAST BITES.  JUNK takes up the biggest chunk of the story, centering on Michael Fayne, aka Patient Zero (not Joe Ledger).  The guy that started it all.  I only know Jonathan for his zombies but let me tell you he can do vampires too.  I just LOVED the science behind it, how it was basically a virus that activated dormant, or junk, DNA in our genetic code giving humans vampire tendencies.  Unlike zombies most of these guys blended into society so you would have no idea if the person standing next to you on the subway is leering at you because you’re hot or because they’re hungry.  To pun terribly, it’s a more evolved pandemic than something like a zombie virus, as that’s what people with the mutations come to think of themselves as.  Evolved.  They’ve moved on to the next phase of humanity.

Each subsequent story of Maberry’s moves on to how the reaction to this virus would escalate in the world, the breakdown of the species (which I loved because all of these authors delved into some seriously off the beaten path vampires, the variety was awesome), deeming the mutants enemies of the state by the government and thus sanctioning their slaughter, the vampires teaming up to fight back and then vampires hiding in plain sight.  These stories were sprinkled along the book, mixed in with other authors and they created an excellent complement to everything else going around.  Everyone really wrote so well within Maberry’s imagined world that while the voices differed the stories seemed authentic.  Seriously loved it.

Nancy Holder authored ROADKILL about bikers defending the border and then ultimately losing their grip on reality and who is really the enemy.  I liked this one for the ambiance.  The story didn’t hold me so much as its setting.  I could feel the grit and the grime of the desert and it ground out the unreality of the situations into something tangible.  Probably because I’ve been to Arizona and could actually picture it.  Made it all the more real.

John Everson wrote LOVE LESS about a talk show host that’s pretty much a closet sociopath.  I liked this character for her ingenuity but that’s where it pretty much ended.  She wasn’t sympathetic although she presented a really interesting variety in the vampire species going around.

Yvonne Navarro wrote EPIPHANY which was quite possibly my second favorite story in this compendium.  Also set in Arizona, it focuses on a seventeen-year-old Native American girl still living on the reservation and ostracized from her society in part because her parents were nonconformists to their world but also because she was raped.  She begins to morph into a kind of snake-like vampire that was just super crazy from the beginning.  She even adopted slightly snake-like features (if you’re thinking Voldemort you’ve gone too far) and made a pretty good job for herself because of her, um, talents.  Between the setting and the fantastic character in Mooney, I didn’t want this particular narrative to end.

Scott Nicholson wrote HEARTSICK, a short I wasn’t all that impressed with.  Loved the lore of the Raven Mockers that would eat people’s hearts but the characters were a bit too stereotypical heehaws for my liking.

James A. Moore added STALKING ANNA LEI which had a not-so-appealing vampire (something kind of cat-like) but a great plot.  A brother is on a mission to find his sister who he thinks was kidnapped by an ogre-looking vampire.  Except this nasty vampire is leaving a blood trail that points right back to the MC.  Definitely suspenseful and an author that’s rather unforgiving with his characters.  I liked it.

Keith RA Decandido wrote THE BALLAD OF BIG CHARLIE which deviated from the truer vampire line just a bit to add in shapeshifters.  Charlie is a Bronx DA who also happens to be a werewolf.  This is the story that, for me, really zeros in on something more political in terms of equality.  Is Charlie even human anymore?  Should he be allowed out of the house?  Is he safe?  Obvious parallels to society’s current issues with gay people and their rights, or minorities, or any people in adversity really.  It takes place an extended amount of time after the zero event so society has had a chance to thoroughly react to the issue and polarize itself.  I normally don’t like moralizing but I was okay with it here.  It didn’t seem contrived and fit really well with the story as a whole.  This one probably came in a solid number three from the top for me.

And last but not least Gregory Frost wrote VULPES about a Romanian scientist getting exposed to the virus in Antarctica but it doesn’t go where you think it might go considering her home (as people’s mutations depend on their heritage).  She is actually the antithesis to the vampires, a protector of mankind.  A great way to end the book, really.  Her line of mutation is the medicine for the vampire virus.  It’s not pretty but with the “bad” mutations come the “good” ones that’ll help protect society.

With the ridiculous mix of vampire lore going on in V WARS, there is definitely something for every vampire lover in here.  From the scientific aspect (which I found believable) to the emergence of little known vampire species (and the authors’ willingness to deviate from the beaten and cliched path) and the various effects it has on the world, V WARS kept me entertained from beginning to end.  This is a serious Christmas gift for at least a couple of my die hard vampire-loving friends.  And I’m not talking about Twihards either.  They can stuff it.  These vamps would devour Edward whole, pound his granite glitter skin into eyeshadow and hand it out at strip clubs.

Ban Factor: High – Vampires, gore and sex.  This one’s not for the kiddies.