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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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REVIEW:  Play by Kylie Scott

REVIEW: Play by Kylie Scott

Play Kylie Scott

Dear Ms. Scott:

Play is the second book in the Stage Dive series, books that center around a band called Stage Dive. I enjoyed the first book Lick which featured a broody singer and a regular girl who marry under the influence in Las Vegas. Play is a completely different type of book in tone primarily because of the male lead, Mal.

Mal is the drummer of Stage Dive and he provided the comic relief in Lick. He’s full of effortless boyish charm. Mal reminded me of a puppy–manic, super friendly, and not good with boundaries.

“Ben slung an arm over Mal’s shoulders, ruffled his hair. “Come find another toy.”
“I am not a child.” Mal pouted.
“How about her?” Ben pointed to a sleek blonde who smiled and preened in response. “I bet she’d like to meet you.”
“Ooh, she’s shiny.”
“Why don’t you go ask her what her name is?” suggested Ben, patting him on the back.
“Do I need to know her name?”
“I’ve heard it helps.”

“Maybe for you,” Mal scoffed. “I just call out my own name during sex.”

There are hints that Mal suffers from a mental disorder like manic depression or something. His highs are very high and his infrequent lows are full of liquor and sullenness. I wondered if he was supposed to be portrayed as just manic due to emotional turmoil or if he was suffering from something more chronic. The reaction of his bandmates to his behavior suggests it was more chronic.

Anne begins the book as somewhat of a doormat. She lent money she couldn’t spare to a friend who takes off, leaving Anne without funds to pay for rent. She doesn’t have a boyfriend but she doesn’t appear to mind being the back up booty call for a friend who just happens to be her boss at a bookstore.  Anne doesn’t exactly learn to have more boundaries as the book goes on but she does stand up for herself, realizing that she’s better than being a back up and she deserves a guy who won’t hurt her, including Mal.

Anne meets Mal at a party held at his bandmate’s new apartment. Mal is looking for a distraction and finds it in Anne. He moves into her apartment before she can say another word and declares to the world that they are a couple. At first, their couplehood is faked. Mal tells her that she can use him as a buffer and Mal uses Anne for entertainment. Their fake couplehood is carried out to truly hilarious lengths.

In one scene, her neighbor–and friend–is having very loud sex and Mal decides that they should have a loud sex competition which involves yelling out and the two of them jumping on the bed until it breaks.

“You’re such a nice girl, Anne,” Mal projected for the sake of our neighbors. “I really like you a lot.”
“Seriously? That’s your version of sex talk?”
“Let’s hear you talk dirty, then. C’mon.”

“Coward.” Mal turned his face to the wall we shared with Nate and Lauren. “You taste so fucking good.”
“Like what?” I asked breathlessly, thigh muscles tightening. The man was lucky I didn’t just attack him with my vagina. “What do I taste like?”
“Well, like honey and cream and…I dunno, bread?”
I scrunched up my nose. “Bread?”
“Yes. Sexy bread that I could eat all the time because you are so delicious and full of wholegrain goodness.”

The story moves into more serious territory toward the end and I was surprised by how both the humor and the sadness came off equally strong. It was funny, sexy, and had a nice touch of poignancy at the end. Whether I completely bought Mal as a stable enough guy to have a long lasting relationship is up in the air. His mania seemed almost too frenetic at times not to be the function of a more serious and underlying problem but it was well hidden under charm and funny lines. B

Best regards,

Jane

PS. If you are interested in the audio, here is a sample.

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