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REVIEW:  Deadshifted by Cassie Alexander

REVIEW: Deadshifted by Cassie Alexander

DeadshiftedDear Ms. Alexander:

I am a confirmed fan of your Edie Spence series. I got in on the ground floor and have thoroughly enjoyed watching Edie negotiate the near constant threats of her world, sometimes with exasperation, sometimes with blind terror, but always with a sort of scrappy determination I find uniquely hers. She’s a survivor, which means she’s not above crossing the gray line between what is strictly ethical and what is . . . not. It’s what I like best about her. In a sea of heroically noble (and powerful) urban fantasy heroines, Edie is painfully human. She has no hidden powers. She’s not the long-lost heir of anyone. She’s a night nurse with a messed up family and a serious case of sleep deprivation. Her up close and personal knowledge of the supernatural doesn’t make her special. Rather, it seems to isolate her even further. But she refuses to throw in the towel. And after the fairly catastrophic events of the last book, Shapeshifted, I wondered what in the world could come next.

A cruise isn’t exactly Edie’s idea of a relaxing vacation. But she’s trying to be a good sport and share in her boyfriend Asher’s excitement at this chance to get away from the inner city clinic where they both work, to say nothing of the lingering trauma from the events of six months ago. It seems they’ve been granted a rare period of peace, and she means to enjoy not being alone anymore. So all aboard it is. And things actually seem to go rather swimmingly until Asher spots a face he hoped to never see again. A face from his altogether dodgy past. Edie knows he wasn’t always the fairly straight and competent doctor he pretends to be nowadays. But the fact that he retains the memories of all the people he touched as a shapeshifter does tend to get in the way sometimes. Especially when she has something important she needs to tell him and has no idea at all how he’ll respond. But when the face he spots turns out to belong to a particularly ruthless villain, Asher is determined to find out what he’s doing there. But before they know it, an epidemic breaks out aboard the ship. Passengers are being felled left and right, in inexplicably gruesome ways. Edie finds herself using every nursing skill she has to outrun the disease and keep Asher from being sucked back by the demons of his past.

I was surprised to find this one set several months after the end of the last book. I guess I expected to ease into things along with Edie and Asher. Instead, they have a very comfortable feel to them from page one. And initially I felt as though I was playing a little bit of catch-up as to the status of their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on board with Asher from way back. I couldn’t wait to see how they were as a couple. And on that front, I felt incredibly rewarded with this installment. It felt right. They felt right. The fact that they were for all intents and purposes stowed away on an ocean liner allowed them a level of intimacy and a reprieve from prying eyes that they never would have been afforded at home. I appreciated the trust and space they gave each other. Neither of them are shy violets. And yet they share a history of isolation, of loneliness. In each other, they seem to have found acceptance, if not absolute security. Their interactions are full of care and, if  Asher is a bit reckless by nature, I felt safe in his feelings toward Edie. Of course, all too soon the training wheels are ripped away and the thrill ride begins in earnest.

This series has never shied away from the gruesome, and Deadshifted makes a bid to be the grisliest of the lot. The vacation becomes a living nightmare as the epidemic victims behave in increasingly bizarre ways before succumbing in an alarmingly short period of time. Everything about this book felt chilled. In fact, it felt a bit like I was on the sinking Titanic, with doom hanging directly overhead and an unnamed horror just below the surface of every pool of water. The collective ambiance was effective in the extreme, at once gripping and claustrophobic. As always, Edie is an absolute force. True to her nature, she’s in no way content to stay put while Asher tracks down his man. Determined to do anything she can to save lives, her own and Asher’s included, she tracks down the makeshift infirmary and plunges in. Asher is not the only one being followed. As things creep closer and closer to complete anarchy, fascinating alliances and relationships develop between the few desperate passengers who are still standing. This forthright attention to the way mere humans react against a backdrop of mythic disaster remains one of the most compelling strengths of this series. As is the fact that consequences always play an extensive role. In this case, the consequences are sure to be myriad, as the shuddering, game-changer of an ending opens a whole new can of blood-sucking worms. A-

Cheers,

Angie

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REVIEW:  Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

REVIEW: Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

Ghost Train to New Orleans (The Shambling Guides) by Mur Lafferty

Dear Ms. Lafferty,

 

I’ll admit it, I almost didn’t pick Ghost Train to New Orleans up.  I found it on BookBub and figured “well, why not.”  I needed something a little different and New Orleans is one of my most favorite cities in the entire world (beignets and Jackson Square, two of the most wonderful things in the universe).  To say that I was pleasantly surprised is putting it mildly.  To say that I was thrilled and, immediately upon finishing the book, ran to Amazon to find your backlist, would be more appropriate.  Even though this is the second book in a series, it can easily be read as a standalone, though knowledge of the events in book one (The Shambling Guide to New York City) can definitely add a bit more flavor to the reading experience.

 

Zoe Norris is a mere mortal thrust into the world of coterie – otherwise known as paranormals, AKA:  Things What Go Bump in the Night.  This isn’t something she takes lightly at all, especially not as an editor of the up and coming coterie travel guides put out by the low-budget, but very friendly, Underground Publishing.  As one might imagine, things are a touch tense between coterie (made up of everything from werewolves and water sprites to zombies and old gods) and human beings, though they’re kept in check by Public Works.  What, you didn’t think the water and sewer departments ONLY handled water, sewers and trash, right?  And poor Zoe is the lone mortal in an office filled with things that would happily have her for a snack.  Or a chew toy.  Or something to bounce off of a wall.  They’re kept in check only by the senior editor, her boss.  Oh, and Zoe’s sparkling personality, too.

 

After the success of the New York guide, Zoe’s tasked with taking her band of merry psychopaths on a brand new train (the aptly named Ghost Train, so titled because of its intangibility to the human eye) down to the haunted-ish city of New Orleans, also voted the place most loved by coterie in the United States.  I mean, come on, what paranormal being WOULDN’T love a city where they can pretty much walk freely among the masses with no one being the wiser?  The only thing considered weird in New Orleans are the pasty faced tourists wearing Bermuda shorts and sandals with black knee socks.  Not only does Zoe have to ride herd on her coworkers, but her zombie-bitten, coterie-unfriendly Public Works boyfriend decides to come along as well.

 

What could go POSSIBLY wrong with this obviously Brady Bunch-esque picture, right?

 

Let’s just say that everything goes predictably to hell in a prettily decorated basket, one with a bright red bow.  And it does so in all the best possible ways.  While occasionally Keystone Cops-ish in nature, Zoe’s discoveries about herself, the world around her, and what she –thinks- she knows are highly entertaining and laugh out loud funny.  Of course, there are plenty of moments where the hair on my arms stood up and I wanted to turn all the lights in the house on and ensure I had a priest on speed dial.  The characterizations are delicious and the creepy other-ness of some of the characters is absolutely fabulous.  It’s refreshing to see paranormal characters who don’t necessarily subscribe to what we consider normal human behavior.  Too many times I’ve seen centuries-old characters who act and react like the average, modern-day mortal.  It’s refreshing to see some who are so outright alien that they raise hackles and trigger the lizard brain responses in the reader.

 

There really wasn’t anything I didn’t absolutely love about the book.  The descriptions of New Orleans made me want to get on a train (though AMTRAK is nowhere NEAR as cool as the Ghost Train) and head down there.  The story made me miss Mardi Gras something fierce.  I wanted to hang out and have some drinks with most of the characters and go with them to closed krewe parties.  I laughed, I cheered – I didn’t cry, really – but I thoroughly and completely enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one.  A-

 

Mary Kate

 

 

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