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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:  Patient Z by Becky Black

REVIEW: Patient Z by Becky Black

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Two years ago the zombie apocalypse wiped out the world police officer Mitch Kennedy had a role in. But he’s found a way to continue doing his duty, serving as guardian of a small community of survivors, living in the safest place they can find. When the group takes in Cal Richardson Mitch can’t help but be attracted to the first available–and incidentally, gorgeous–man to cross his path in months.

Mitch and Cal can’t resist each other physically, but each man tries to hold back his emotions. Though he’s strong on the outside, Mitch is too badly hurt inside to risk more pain. Cal’s very sure he won’t stay for long. He’s been a drifter all his life and it came naturally to him to survive alone after civilization fell. He’s sure this is a temporary stopover for him. He has no intention of becoming emotionally involved with a cop who is certain to despise Cal when he learns the truth about him.

But the longer Cal stays the stronger his urge to run, but the harder it becomes to give up the safety of the community and his new friends. The harder it becomes to give up Mitch.

Dear Becky Black,

As much as I love fantasy and sci-fi stories, I usually do not read post apocalypse stories, and I almost never read zombie stories. I do not enjoy horror, and in my mind zombies are placed firmly in the horror territory. However, I wanted to give your writing a try and I am so very glad that I did. If readers are like me and do not care for graphic descriptions of zombies snacking on people, you’ll be glad to know that there are almost none of those in this book. I mean, there are zombies, but they are there as a threat, as a sad part of life (because so many good people ended their lives like that), and not something for the author to describe lovingly, if that makes sense.

This book was such a breath of fresh air for me. It has secondary female characters who are interesting and whom I wanted to get to know better. More importantly, while their lives were connected with the lives of the main characters in some very important ways, you could see or at least infer (if the character had a very tiny role to play even) that they have their own lives, dreams and desires. As for the women who had important roles, they were awesome – being forced to become survivors, they were all heroes in one way or another in my opinion. They were not perfect; these women were very human and believable to me. I also felt that the author had some important things to say about the situation of women in society and she managed to say it without being preachy and without making the main romance between the guys any less important. Truly, the portrayal of women in m/m romances is one of my hot buttons and even if I did not like anything else in this book, I would have still praised this book for this reason. I wish for more books with interesting female characters.

But let’s talk about the romance. I really liked both Cal and Mitch. Of course, due to the setup of the book everybody in this world is forced to become a survivor – it is either fight or be bitten by zombies (or be brutalized or killed by some horrible humans). Both guys’ personalities are shaped by this reality, but I was very impressed with how the writer managed to make past and present collide to create their characters.

Mitch was a cop, and as he said in the book, he never stopped being a cop. How can one not admire a man who wants to protect other people in the best sense of the word. He may forget at times that his trainees are capable enough that at some point they will not need him anymore, but those flaws to me are realistic, and they only make the character more likeable. I could see how Mitch’s wounds of the past influenced the development of his present with Cal, and most importantly, I believed in what was happening.

Cal to me was no less impressive – he may have worried about the things he did in his past, but I was very impressed as to how hard he worked to try to make his present better. That did not come without effort and again, I really believed in the pushbacks that occurred. I sometimes get very annoyed when the characters in romance start to fight if I do not buy the reason of their fight, especially if it leads into the temporary separation of the characters. I completely bought the conflicts in this book: Cal’s past choking him up and not letting him see the reasons, while Mitch was not able to say the right words. I thought it was very well done. I also really liked that the separation that resulted did not last long and that Cal’s better nature took over the moment his friends were in danger.

While I really liked the characters and their interactions in this book, I did wish for more detailed world building – it was not as huge a problem for me as it can be in paranormal settings, but I wanted to feel the places more than I did.
I really liked story, characters and writing in this book, but wished for more detailed settings.

Grade: B

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