The Panama Laugh by Thomas S. Roche
Publisher:Night Shade Books/Aug. 2011
Ex-mercenary, pirate, and gun-runner Dante Bogart knows he’s screwed the pooch after he hands one of his shady employers a biological weapon that made the dead rise from their graves, laugh like hyenas, and feast upon the living. Dante tried to blow the whistle via a tell-all video that went viral – but that was before the black ops boys deep-sixed him at a secret interrogation site on the Panama-Colombia border. When Dante wakes up in the jungle with the five intervening years missing from his memory, he knows he’s got to do something about the laughing sickness that has caused a world-wide slaughter. The resulting journey leads him across the nightmare that was the Panama Canal, around Cape Horn in a hijacked nuclear warship, to San Francisco’s mission district, where a crew of survivalist hackers have holed up in the pseudo-Moorish-castle turned porn-studio known as The Armory. This mixed band of anti-social rejects has taken Dante’s whistle blowing video as an underground gospel, leading the fight against the laughing corpses and the corporate stooges who’ve tried to profit from the slaughter. Can Dante find redemption and save civilization?
The Panama Laugh has been high on my to-read list for a bit, but it moved up in the queue because Paul Goat Allen (of Barnes and Noble) said it was awesome. Yep, The Panama Laugh made a zombie fave list of his, and it’s been a few books since my last zombie novel, so it was time. There’s a fairly comprehensive synopsis above so I won’t rehash it. I will say that The Panama Laugh grabs you by the throat, hard, pretty much from page one and doesn’t let you go. Please let me stress this. It. Doesn’t. Let. Up. Dante Bogart is pretty much everything I love in an anti-hero. Yes, I’m a sucker for the bad boys sometimes, I admit it, and Frosty D. (don’t call him that)¸falls right in with just the kind of guy that would get my motor running. When the man wakes up naked, bloody, and loaded for bear in the middle of a battleground, gets up, surveys the scene, takes a suspicious-yet-valuable looking case with him, and makes his getaway, I’m totally his by the time he washes up at the home of his old friend Van Fish, wondering where the last 5 years went. His old flame, Trixie (that’s Dr. Trixie to you) is there too, and she’s a little bit pissed at how Dante left things between them. That’s really the least of his worries though. Trust me on this one. When the laughers start invading the shoreline of Fish’s jungle home, the real fun starts.
Thomas Roche pulls absolutely no punches with Panama Laugh. The guffawing (this is seriously creepy-making), hysterical dead come from every direction, and thanks to a relatively good supply of ammo, lots of guts end up flying around. Lots. A veritable cornucopia of gooey flying zombie flesh fills the pages of The Panama Laugh. As Dante, Trixie, and Van make their escape via air, eventually ending up on a nuclear fortified gunship of the coast of San Francisco, our hero rarely flags. Told in first person from Dante’s POV, the narrative goes back and forth between the action at hand to the events leading up to the zombie apocalypse, and it’s not a pretty story. Corporate greed, a madman’s desire for eternal life, and radical groups bent on depopulation make for a heady cocktail, and Dante’s experience with the nasty cause of the Panama Laugh is very, very personal. Giving away too many details would take away the visceral fun of this awesome, terrifying, gruesome, and warped roller coaster ride, and I certainly don’t want to do that. Roche’s writing is tight, immediate, and engaging, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to read it in one sitting (ok, I read it in two, but I wanted to read it in one.) Horror lovers will eat this one up (sorry about the pun), and if you’re a true zombie fan, it’s not to be missed. I was in the mood for something “zombie”, different, and awesome, and I got all three, and more, with The Panama Laugh. Put this one on your must list!
I have a winner for my giveaway of The Thirteen Hallows!
Congrats to Gena Robertson!
*Winner was chosen by Rafflecopter, has been notified, and will have 48 hours to respond. Thanks so much to everyone that entered!
*UPDATE: 12/31-First winner did not respond so alternate winner has been chosen. Thanks so much!
I’m so happy to have Sabrina Benulis, author of the brand new urban fantasy, Archon, on the blog today! Sabrina was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and we’ve also got a copy of Archon up for grabs, so be sure to check out the giveaway details at the end of the post!
Please welcome Sabrina to the blog!
Sabrina, your brand new fantasy, Archon, just came out! Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
It is very exciting to finally have my story in the hands of readers! Archon is only the first book in a trilogy that has been a long time in the making. I first got the idea for the story in college, then further developed it into a full-fledged novel while in grad school. It took about two years after that for me to find an agent, another year for she and I to snag the right publisher, and yet another for it to get on the shelves. Needless to say, patience was required of me! The entire trilogy has gone–and continues to go–through much revision. Originally it was one enormous book that I had to split into three. In that sense, half of the work on the next two books is done already.
Would you mind telling us a little bit about Archon?
Archon is first and most importantly a very unique novel. Technically, it is a gothic urban fantasy, but the plot of the first book certainly hints at the epic and that’s what readers can expect in the next installments of the trilogy. When I say gothic, Archon is dark, but in a way that suggests a gradual development toward something bright and immensely hopeful. Since the story is so involved, I like to think of the first novel as more of an introduction to the characters and overarching plot than anything else. While the content of the novel is timely considering that it involves angels and demons, by no means are these angels and demons anything like their current literary counterparts. I like the sense of seduction, but the danger of the supernatural is always foremost in my mind when it comes to writing about these beings.
Do you already have a certain number of books planned for the Books of Raziel series, or will you just see where it takes you?
I guess I already answered this, didn’t I? haha Yes, there are three books. After that I could always write prequels, but a sequel series might be tricky. When the story ends, it has a definite sense of finality to it.
What do you like best about writing fantasy?
Typically, fantasy is the genre that requires the most from an author’s imagination. I suppose writing about the world I already live in doesn’t interest me too much! Escapism in every sense, creating a whole world–that’s what’s fun to me.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
My influences are all over the place, but here are some of my favorite books which could give you a good impression of what you might find in my own writing.
Wuthering Heights, The Last Unicorn, Interview with the Vampire, The Life of Pi, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia. I actually read more nonfiction than fiction, which I’m surprised to find is rather unusual for someone in my position.
I also love Japanese anime, which tends to inspire me a lot.
What is one of your most unusual writing quirks?
Lately, I have developed an awful habit of needing to be in pajamas to write.
What’s one of the first titles you’d mention if someone asked you for a book recommendation?
The Last Unicorn. The book is absolute poetry.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
A new book by Lauren Oliver called Liesl & Po. It’s technically a novel for older children and young teens, but it looks to be very interesting, with ghosts and alchemy and a dim world that needs the heroine to bring it color. Right up my alley.
When you’re not busy writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I love it when I have time to watch anime or play video games. And if I have time to read now, it’s like a godsend!
Is there any advice that you would give to struggling writers?
Never ever give up on yourself. Talent counts in this profession, but persistence even more so. If you believe in your work others will believe in it too. Always ask yourself this question: “If no one ever read my story, knew my characters, or jumped into this world I’ve created, would I be happy?” If the answer is ‘no’, then no matter what, you have the true soul of an author and should never stop.
Is there any other news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to mention?
I just finished the first draft of Book 2, and a local book signing for Archon is being planned! I couldn’t be happier.
City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore
Publisher: DAW/Jan. 3rd, 2011
Kind thanks to DAW for providing a review copy
Joe Sunday has been a Los Angeles low-life for years, but his life gets a whole lot lower when he is killed by the rival of his crime boss-only to return as a zombie. His only hope is to find and steal a talisman that he learns can grant immortality. But, unfortunately for Joe, every other undead thug and crime boss in Los Angeles is looking for the same thing.
Whew! Lemme tell ya, if you’re in the mood for some down and dirty noir action with your supernatural fun, City of the Lost is where it’s at! Joe Sunday is your all around tough-as-nails L. A. enforcer who knocks heads and makes a pretty good living at it. All of this comes to a rather abrupt hault when his main employer hires him to knock off someone that is way off the normal meter. When he witnesses his best friend and co-worker kill himself (in a rather spectacular way), he knows things are a bit…off kilter. Sure enough, his newest mark is out for blood, and takes Joe out. But wait, Joe’s not dead. Now, Joe is a zombie; not the rambling, rotting type, but if he doesn’t do certain, er, things, the rotting definitely will commence, unless he gets his hands on a stone that may hold the key to immortality.
Told in Joe’s wry voice, City of the Lost grabs you hard on page one and keeps you rapt until the last page. Backed by a supporting cast including a young bruja that counts a bar tending demon as a friend, and a cop with his own agenda, Joe must fine the stone and figure out how to fix his little problem, before it fixes him. On his tail is an ancient man that’s been chasing the stone’s secret for hundreds of years, a beautiful woman that he may or may not be able to trust, a Nazi doctor that wants the stone for his own, and his henchmen, a skull cracker that has a sharp-toothed midget (we’re not talking human here) on a leash. Stephen Blackmoore writes like an old pro, and doesn’t flinch from some of the more violent characteristics of his anti-hero. He’s really, really good at writing gray characters, and yet manages to infuse his creations with humanity, even if they aren’t themselves human, which is a neat trick. City of the Lost is fast paced, funny, scary, at times, charming, and I couldn’t put it down. If you love the novels of Richard Kadray (Sandman Slim), Hank Schwaeble (Jake Hatcher series), and Steve Niles’ Cal McDonald series, then you’ll LOVE City of the Lost. What a way to start out the new year! This is a 2012 debut you won’t want to miss!
Courtesy of the wonderful folks at Penguin, I have a copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness up for grabs for one lucky winner, so please check out the giveaway details, and good luck!
About A Discovery of Witches:
In a sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches became the “it” book of early 2011, bringing Deborah Harkness into the spotlight and galvanizing fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and the descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar’s depth to this riveting story of magic and suspense.
Behold the last new releases before the new year! There are some good ones (most release 12/27)-enjoy!
Wicked Circle (Persephone Alcmedi) by Linda Robertson
The Demi-Monde: Winter: A Novel by Rod Rees
The Demon Lover: A Novel by Juliet Dark
City of Light and Shadow: City of a Hundred Rows, Book 3 by Ian Whates
Ghost Walk by Heather Graham
Empire State by Adam Christopher
Switchblade Goddess by Lucy A. Snyder
Shadow City (Horngate Witches) by Diana Pharoah Francis
77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz
Ghoul Interrupted: A Ghost Hunter Mystery by Victoria Laurie
The Mortal Bone (A Hunter Kiss Novel) by Marjorie M. Liu
Archon: The Books of Raziel by Sabrina Benulis
Hell Train by Christopher Fowler
Silver-Tongued Devil (Sabina Kane) by Jaye Wells
Shadow Heir (Dark Swan) by Richelle Mead
Bedeviled: A Dark Breed Novel by Sable Grace
The Bitter Seed of Magic (A Spellcrackers Novel) by Suzanne McLeod
Warrior’s Redemption by Melissa Mayhew
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend, and I thought, what better way than to kick off the week than to have the incomparable Dakota Cassidy on the blog! Dakota is the author of the Accidentals series, the Hell series, and much more awesomeness. I’ve also got a signed copy of The Accidental Werewolf for one lucky winner, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!
Please welcome Dakota to the blog!
Dakota, you’re the author of the Accidental series, the Ex-Trophy Wife series, the Hell series, and so much more! Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
No—it happened purely by accident. Long story short, I stumbled across a review site in the back of a paperback, looked it up online, found out you could get free books for reviews, and sent in a sample review. They gave me a gig, which fed my reading addiction. In the process of all those reviews, I read a frillion erotic eBooks and had a crazy idea one day after watching a Yoplait yogurt commercial. I wrote it. A friend talked me into submitting it. The next batch of madness is what’s become my career. LOL! I didn’t plan it. I didn’t do any of the things aspiring writers do because I didn’t know I should. I just did it. And now look…
What do you like most about writing paranormal romance/romance and have you ever considered writing in another genre?
I know no one would evah in a million believe this, but I love an HEA. I’m a total gooey marshmallow on the inside and nothing makes me happier than when two people find true love. I also love finding said true love in say, the fiery depths of Hell or with a vampire who eats Ring-Dings. The paranormal aspect and the humor in my writing allow me to create the utterly ridiculous and then take it up a couple of notches. As to writing in another genre—absolutely. If an idea struck me, I’d definitely give it a go. But so far, my heart belongs to romance!
Your books are hilarious! How do you bring the funny over and over? Is there a trick you use to keep your writing fresh?
I really don’t think I’m all that funny, and I truly think that’s been the key for me. The scenes or dialogue I think are a gas usually go totally unnoticed. It’s the stuff that I think is so stupid I should be flayed and strung up at a writer’s convention for that seems to make folks giggle. When I sit down to write, I absolutely don’t remind myself that my label is funny and I’d better produce or I’m screwed. I’m just going with the general consensus and praying no one finds me out.
What’s one of your most unusual writing quirks?
I don’t really have any quirks per se. I do have things I need when I write—like my smokes, a bottle of water and some Zamfir. Yes. I said Zamfir. Don’t judge. He soothes the crazy.
What are a few of your favorite authors?
I love, love, love Nina Bangs, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Karen Rose and SEP.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
Money for services rendered No. I’m kidding. I’m sort of OCD about organization, so I have a pic of the DH and me at our wedding and an alarm clock. Oh, and a lamp. That’s it.
You have a busy family life and you’re also an animal lover with a house full of pets! How do you juggle a full writing schedule with the demands of a family?
You know, lately, I’ve asked myself the same. For some reason, when the kids were younger, it seemed much easier. Now they need bigger things from me in terms of time. My youngest always seems to need a ride somewhere for some project so he can go to some stupid Ivy League school and rape me of some more cash. Or he’s hungry and wants to go to McDonalds. When he was little, I just sent him to bed. Now, if I do that, he’s going to plot my death.
So I try to think of a future that includes me alive and him paying for my retirement village home in like Albuquerque. LOLLOL! My mom lives with and she’s always chaos in motion. So I try to write at night mostly—when all the little soul suckers have gone to bed. I also make a point of writing no less than 5K a day. I treat this writing gig just like I would a job I’d go to every day from 9-5. But it ain’t easy when you’re mom interrupts you to tell you there’s a Murder She Wrote marathon on.
Dakota, you always look great, and your hair is the stuff of legend, at least with me and Chelsea of VBC (thank you for letting us pet it, by the way!) How do you maintain such fabulousness with such a busy schedule? I can barely find time to brush my hair, so I’m in complete awe!
You two are a rarity indeed. I don’t love having my hair touched and it comes from when I was little. I had kinky curly hair, and my mom used baby oil to get a comb through it. I can still feel the burn of all that tugging! As to the fabulousness, I pay a lot of money for maintenance. A lot. Soon I’ll have to add monthly botox payments to a plastic surgeon if things keep going downhill like they have been. And I don’t look like what you all witness when you see me at a convention or signing. Trust that. I have my hair in a chip clip, no makeup, and my Pajama Jeans on. You’d all be so disillusioned to see the real DC. So.
You’re such an accomplished writer. Is there any advice that you would give to writers struggling to get published?
I appreciate the compliment, but I don’t feel accomplished. I always feel, and always will feel, that I can improve. That no matter what, there’ll always be room for improvement. Not to mention, I feel more blessed than anything else. I’m pretty lucky to have sold one book being the kind of hack I am.
And if I could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers—it would be this: Don’t ever get too full of yourself. The second you believe your own hype is the second someone comes and steals your hype and sells it on eBay. It’s so important to be able to suck up the criticisms that come with this line of work. It’s important to listen. It’s important to remember there’s always someone smarter, prettier, faster, overall better than you. Don’t let anyone steal your dream, but while in pursuit of that dream—be humble, listen to your gut and don’t be a jerk.
Is there any other news of upcoming events or projects that you’d like to share with us (makeup/hair /general fabulousness tips always welcome)?
Never wear the color yellow on your body. EVER. It looks good on like two people in the world. Save it for furniture and walls, flowers—a nice sports car. LOL! As to upcoming releases, I have Waltz This Way in March 2012, Accidentally Dead Again in June 2012, and The Accidental Genie in Nov of 2012!
No Proper Lady by Isabel Cooper
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca/Sept. 2011
England, 1888. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and no one has any idea that in a few hundred years, demons will destroy it all. Joan plans to keep it that way. All she has to do is take out the dark magician responsible-before he summons the demons in the first place. But as a rough-around-the-edges assassin from that bleak future, she’ll have to learn how to fit into polite Victorian society to get close to her target.
imon Grenville has his own reasons for wanting to destroy Alex Reynell. The man used to be his best friend-until his practice of the dark arts almost killed Simon’s sister. The beautiful half-naked stranger Simon meets in the woods may be the perfect instrument for his revenge. It will just take a little time to teach her the necessary etiquette and assemble a proper wardrobe. But as each day passes, Simon is less sure he wants Joan anywhere near Reynell. Because no spell in the world will save his future if she isn’t in it.
When Joan travels back 200 years and lands in 1888 England, a la Terminator, she’s immediately greeted by snarling cerberi and an English Gentleman by the name of Simon Grenville. Joan is in search of the man that’s at fault for causing the fall of civilization, and the horrid world she lives in, and plans to destroy him, in hopes of saving mankind. Turns out that Simon has his own agenda involving the evil Alex Raynell, and he agrees to help Joan in her mission.
The opening scene, when Joan arrives in a dark, rain swept field and must fight numerous beasts to save herself and Simon, really got me excited for this book. Honestly, I expected lots of action, fighting, etc., but the reality was somewhat different than that. That wasn’t a bad thing though! In fact, I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed reading about the lengths Joan goes to in order to fit in to proper society and get close to the man that’s she’s after. On the back of the book, it says “It’s Terminator meets My Fair Lady”. Well, the beginning certainly was Terminatoresque, but we really don’t see any real action until the last quarter of the book, but like I said, that’s ok, because I really liked the characterizations, especially how Simon is drawn to Joan in spite of her rough exterior and less than delicate sensibilities. Joan is hard not to like, and Simon enlists his younger sister, Ellie, in helping Joan fit in, with hopes that it will bring her out of her shell, for it’s Ellie that Reynell had brutalized, bringing about Simon’s wrath and the end of what was a close relationship between Simon and Alex. Simon is a skilled magician, which is part of why he has no problem believing Joan’s story as to where and when she came. There are definitely some sexy bits, so No Proper Lady will definitely appeal to romance fans, but I believe it should appeal to anyone that enjoys a well written story, and the juxtaposition between Regency England and the not so distant future might appeal to fantasy/light sci-fi fans as well (if you don’t mind some serious sexy with your sci-fi.) I’ll definitely look forward to Ms. Cooper’s next novel, No Honest Woman, in April 2012!
I’ve got a winner for my Shatter Me Giveaway!
Congrats to Jenelle Riane (NightBookThief)!
*Winner was chosen using Rafflecopter, has been notified, and will have 48 hours to respond. Thanks to everyone that entered!
Touch of Power (Healer Series #1) by Maria V. Snyder
Publisher: LUNA/Dec. 2011
Kind thanks to Harlequin for providing a review copy
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.
Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life….
I love, love, love Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study (and her Inside Out) series, so was very excited to hear about her new book, Touch of Power, featuring 20 year old Avry, a healer on the run from those that would have her executed because of her power. After healing a child in the town she’s hiding out in, she’s arrested and sent to the guillotine, but rescued by a band of men that value her power. It doesn’t seem to make much sense that people would want to execute a healer, does it? No, it doesn’t, however, healers are thought to the be the cause of a plague that has decimated the human population, to the tune of about 6 million dead. That is why they want to execute healers. However, there are certain people in power that would love to have a healer at their disposal, so there is also a significant bounty on Avry’s head. So, Avry goes on the run with the mysterious (and initially annoying) Kerrick, and his group of friends, and that’s when the story really takes off.
See, Kerrick and Co. want her to heal someone, but this someone is a person that Avry doesn’t have that great of an opinion of (to say the least), but who may hold the key to peace, so convincing her he’s worth healing will be hard. Rival mercs and bounty hunters are around every corner, and that’s not counting the deadly Death Lillies that litter the valley, but there’s more to those than meets the eye too. Ms. Snyder has a talent for storytelling, and she manages to do it very well without a lot of the flowery prose that you see in fantasy novels. I love that, and she really has a knack for getting you to turn the pages. Avry reminded me a little of Yelena in Poison Study, but she’s definitely very much her own woman. There’s plenty of action and intrigue, and some twists that I honestly didn’t see coming, also a bit of romance. Ms. Snyder’s baddies are bad (with maybe a touch of gray, but just a touch), and her good guys are really good. This is so refreshing for me, amongst the dark fantasy full of gray characters. Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some gray, but sometimes a story with a really strong glimmer of hope is much needed! Also, I believe Touch of Power is aimed at adults, but other than some violence and a bit of gore (and sex references, but , but no details-Avery is 20 after all), I really think teens would enjoy it as well. It’s a great start to a new series by one of my favorite authors, and I’ll look forward to continuing Avery’s adventures in Scent of Magic in 2013 (yarg, but all good things, right?)