Review: ‘Death Most Definite’ by Trent Jamieson

Published in August of 2010, book #1 of the Death Works series is Death Most Definite, Australian author Trent Jamieson’s debut novel. Set in the city of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, the story focuses on Psychopomp Steven de Selby, whose job it is to facilitate the journey of the souls of the newly dead to the afterlife. Yet the newly dead girl he just met doesn’t want him to do so. Instead of needing him to ease her journey to the Underworld, she’s trying to save his life.

 

The back cover blurb:

Steven de Selby has a hangover. Bright lights, loud noise, and lots of exercise are the last thing he wants. But that’s exactly what he gets when someone starts shooting at him.

Steven is no stranger to death-Mr. D’s his boss after all-but when a dead girl saves him from sharing her fate, he finds himself on the wrong end of the barrel. His job is to guide the restless dead to the underworld but now his clients are his own colleagues, friends, and family.

Mr. D’s gone missing and with no one in charge, the dead start to rise, the living are hunted, and the whole city teeters on the brink of a regional apocalypse-unless Steven can shake his hangover, not fall for the dead girl, and find out what happened to his boss- that is, Death himself.

 

It’s a certainty that our main character, Pomp Steve de Selby, wouldn’t have lived through the first chapter had it not been for  newly deceased Lissa Jones. A fact which makes him tend to rather like her quite a lot. Maybe a little too much. Even though she’s dead.

After the attempt on his life, things just go from bad to worse to horrific for Steve and he’s literally running for his life while those around him are all dragged down. So here he is, attempting to deal with the dreadful weight of loss and betrayal that’s been heaped upon him out of nowhere, while realizing that he’s the only one left who might be able to prevent a regional apocalypse.

The dead need to be pomped and as time passes and his Pomp colleagues dwindle, Steven is the only one who can ease their passing to the Underworld. And dammit, it’s getting hard! To make matters worse, Stirrers are beginning to inhabit the bodies whose souls are seeking passage. They’re everywhere and they’re after Steven. Now, Stirrers aren’t your run-of-the-mill, Romero-esque, living flesh-eating zombies. Oh, no… they’re much worse. Here’s how the book describes an outbreak of Stirrers:

Bodies will disappear from morgues, people will see their deceased loved ones walking in the street, or wake up with them in their bed. And there will be no joy in the occasion, because they are not loved ones, just something that possesses their memories: an imperfect and deadly mimic.

Stirrers are voids. They will turn a house cold and they will swallow laughter. They are the worst aspects of time only sped up and grown cruelly cunning. Bad luck follows them.

The scariest thing about them is that instead of mindless sacks of flesh and bone shambling aimlessly about and trying to eat people, Stirrers are actual beings from the depths of the Underworld that inhabit dead bodies and move them about. They do very unzombie-like things like talking and driving cars and shooting at people and such. People like poor Steven de Selby. As a Psychopomp, he can “stall” these Stirrers, or banish them from the bodies they inhabit. He only needs to shed some blood, his blood, and touch them to do so. But it’s difficult, it’s painful, and they’re just… everywhere.

Steven is racing against the clock, trying to avoid being wiped out, trying to avoid the Stirrers, trying to discover his betrayer and the reason for the Pomp massacre, trying to stop the apocalypse… and trying to find his boss because as creepy as he is, Steven could really use his advice and assistance. Where in hell is Death, anyway? With help from the dead girl he’s falling for,  despite knowing better, and a couple of Black Sheeps who didn’t want to join in the family business but happen to be relatives of newly murdered Pomps, he’s going to try to find out. Even if it means going to hell and back.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, the humor in the writing and the way Steven wore his heart on his sleeve. His bewilderment and pain in the face of the fiasco his life and his world became, literally in the blink of an eye, were believable and it was easy to sympathize with his plight. The story was fast-paced and the plot was like nothing I’ve read before. It held my interest so completely that I read it in three parts, kicking out the entire last half of the 320 page paperback in one sitting. I most definitely look forward to the next installment of the series, the recently released Managing Death.

Fave quotes:

‘It’s the first new law of the universe according to Steven de Selby’s life: things always get worse-and then they explode.’

‘Why were the seventies all about vomit colors?’

‘This would all be so very Mad Max if I was driving a V8, and if it wasn’t me.’

‘Shit, give dead people firearms and soon enough it’s all they know. Shoot this, blast that.’

“I never bothered with a computer for the real work. Who needs one, eh? Though I do like my Twitter.” ~Death

Review: ‘Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit of Sausages’ by Tom Holt

I had the opportunity to read a galley of Tom Holt’s hilarious Life, Liberty, And the Pursuit of Sausages last week and am squeaking this review in just before the book is actually published on February 21st. Picture Indiana Jones, sliding beneath the closing stone door in the hidden corridors beneath the palace in The Temple of Doom. Okay… this isn’t really like that, but that was a great scene, you have to admit.

I requested this galley largely in part due to the suggestion of a good friend who had the chance to read the book before I did and I’m exceedingly happy that I did so. Despite, or more likely, because of the many mind-warping aspects of this story, I highly enjoyed reading, puzzling over and laughing with-though never at-this book.

 

A short blurb about the book:

Polly, an average, completely ordinary real estate solicitor is convinced she’s losing her mind. Someone keeps drinking her coffee. And talking to her clients. And doing her job. And when she goes to the dry cleaner’s to pick up her dress for the party, it’s not there. Not the dress – the dry cleaner’s.

And then there are the chickens who think they are people. Something strange is definitely going on – and it’s going to take more than a magical ring to sort it out.


More than a magical ring, indeed. Perhaps a magical… pencil sharpener? Sure! Why not?!

Between a dry cleaner’s that relocates at random, a housing development that periodically disappears while the pristine, untouched land where it used to be comes up for sale again, and a couple of knights that have been duking it out for hundreds of years, in the dry cleaner’s toilet, no less… there’s plenty going on to keep one interested. There’s a real estate solicitor who keeps finding her coffee cup empty to the one that keeps finding hers full… what’s funny is that they work in the same office. Literally,  in the same chair at the same desk talking on the same phone in the very same office. At the same time. But they’ve never met. Something is certainly odd!

The absolute silly kept me laughing and more importantly, kept me reading. The sheer ‘what the hell is going on?’ feeling that the bizarre events elicited in me was plenty to keep my interest up and keep me reading. Despite jumping from character to character, at times right in the middle of a sentence, it didn’t make the flow of the story any more difficult to follow. Was I confused by the events of the story? Sure. Was I interested in the plight of the characters? Absolutely. Did I enjoy the hell out of it? You know I did. I generally take breaks between chapters as long as the ones in this book but upon scanning the first sentences of a new chapter, I was sucked in and just had to find out what mind-boggling events would transpire next.

Definitely a fun read and you can choose to either fly through it or stop between chapters to ponder the possibilities… and the ridiculousness of such expensive sausages!

A few fave lines: “The world would be an OK place if it wasn’t for people.”

“It’s one of the basic laws of human nature that a man suddenly finding himself in possession of an unanticipated pencil sharpener will immediately proceed to sharpen all the pencils in his possession.”

“His satnav seemed to have given up entirely. It kept warbling, ‘At the end of the road, phase-shift into an alternate universe,’ so he switched it off.”

Review: ‘Pale Demon’ by Kim Harrison

I was fortunate enough recently to be approved to read a galley of Pale Demon (link has sneak-peek at first chapters!), the soon-to-be-released 9th installment of Kim Harrison’s popular urban fantasy Hollows series featuring witch and independent runner, Rachel Morgan. It’s summer in Cincinnati as the story opens a couple of months after the ending of Book #8, Black Magic Sanction, and Rachel is about to embark on a trip out west, to attend her brother’s wedding and formally have her shunning removed by the coven of moral and ethical standards during their annual convention.

 

Here’s the blurb:

Condemned to death for black magic and shunned, Rachel Morgan has three days to somehow get to the annual witches convention in San Francisco and clear her name. If she fails, the only way she can escape death is to live in the demonic ever after . . . for ever after.

Banned from the flight lists, Rachel teams up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack, headed for the West Coast for his own mysterious business. But Rachel isn’t the only passenger along for the ride. Can a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car survive for over 2,300 miles? And that’s not counting the assassin on their tail.

A fearsome demon walks the sunlight, freed after centuries of torment to slay the innocent and devour souls. But his ultimate prey is Rachel Morgan. While the powerful witch with nerves of steel will do whatever it takes to stay alive, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.

 

While this review contains no spoilers for this book, it most definitely contains spoilers for the series to date so if you have yet to read through book #8, proceed with caution! I’ve been looking forward to the impending release of this book for some time but as I’ve been doing my re-listen of the entire Hollows series over the past month, I’ve become increasingly excited to finally read this ninth installment of the series. I was not disappointed.

At the end of Black Magic Sanction, Rachel had made a fragile agreement with a reluctant member of the coven to have her shunning rescinded in return for her silence in regards to the little-known fact that witches came from demons. Oliver, the coven member she was blackmailing… erm, making the deal with, rather… was quite insistent that he couldn’t make the deal himself and stated that Rachel would be required to apologize to the coven in person for her previous use of black magic… and she had to go to San Francisco to do so.

So at the start of this book, the staff of Vampiric Charms Independent Runner Service is ready to hit the road and head  to California. Mass transit is out and so they hop into Rachel’s mom’s Buick and set out on the open road. With Trent. Yes, charming, charismatic (and oftentimes first class jerk) bio-drug lord and multi-millionaire elf, Trent Kalamack  has his own urgent, and apparently secret, business to attend to on the West coast so he’s going along for the ride. Rather, he’s requested that Rachel escort him and keep him alive because his ex-fiance’s family is trying to kill him. How nice.

So they’re off… and what a ride it is! Rachel fears an attempt on her life from the coven, they’ve got elf assassins on their tail, and the icing on the cake would be the day-walking demon that eat people’s souls and has turned his blood-thirsty eye toward Rachel. Witches, elves and demons, oh my! Makes for quite the interesting road trip.

Of course one of the highlights of this book is the great deal of interaction between Rachel and Trent. There is plenty of time to chat on a 2,000 mile long road trip and I’m happy to say that they do a lot of it. One of Rachel’s greatest issues with Trent for the past couple of years in the world of Cincinnati after the Turn, is trust. She doesn’t trust him, and why should she? After all, he kept her prisoner, killed an employee right in front of her, entered her in the city’s rat fights, tried to hunt her down with dogs and… need I go on? Trust? Definitely an issue. Although… he did keep her alive after she performed the same service for him after the explosion on Lee’s boat in book #3, Every Which Way But Dead, among other things that have made her question her previous opinion of him. Yes… to trust or not to trust. That is the question for Rachel in regards to Trent on this latest of her many adventures.

As was revealed earlier in the series and highlighted in book #8, the two have known each other since they were kids and Rachel attended Trent’s father’s Make-A-Wish Camp where Rachel received the bio-drug treatment that enabled her survival from the usually deadly Rosewood Syndrome. Most witches die of the disease and so it’s never been discovered that those who suffer from it are the witch community’s closest links to their demon ancestors. It’s also not widely known that witches are even related to demons. And now Rachel is a living, breathing, demon magic-wielding link to them. Which is where all of her problems seem to originate: with her ability to kindle demon magic and because of that, with her inevitable association with demons. One demon in particular.

We get to see a new side of Algaliarept in this book and it’s quite an interesting peek. I thoroughly enjoyed Al’s scenes, particularly those in which he shows a bit more emotion than anger, hatred and general demonly nastiness, which is usually all we see from him. As I’ve stated in previous reviews, I do enjoy this character, especially when listening to the audios read by Maruerite Gavin as she does a particularly fine job with Al’s voice. I won’t spoil anything but I will go so far as to say that I was very  moved by a couple of Al/Rachel scenes. Take that as you will, considering my aforementioned tendency to be a crybaby.

We also get to see a bit more of the ever after than Al’s kitchen and the random surface scene. I have the hope that we’ll get to see more one day, especially if Rachel’s able to do a bit more re-decorating. *wink* Newt made a reappearance in this book and frankly, I rather enjoyed her scene. I can only hope that Gavin does her voice the way she originally did it because during Newt’s brief appearance in BMS, I almost didn’t recognize Newt, her voice was so different.

Pierce is featured quite a lot in this book, once Al sends him along to babysit and he does help Rachel out a bit, though he does screw up royally, as well. I’m still touched by the lengths to which he’ll go to protect Rachel and I do believe that he loves her. “I will cry when I go because I could love you forever.” That line from Black Magic Sanction still gets me!

Jenks and Ivy are, well… Jenks and Ivy. Awesome as always, snarky comments and ass-kicking expected and included. Jenks also has the occasion to talk with Trent a lot while on the road trip, their sleep schedules being the same and all. The result is quite interesting and I can’t help but want to see where that particular association might go in future books.

Last, but surely not least… especially considering the circumstances in which he enters the story, is Bis. Oh, Bis… the young gargoyle who was kicked off the Basilica earlier in the series. For spitting on people, no less. It’s no wonder he and Jenks get along so well, but Rachel’s been squeamish about the whole bonding with a gargoyle thing. Bis truly goes above and beyond in this book and I find myself liking him more than ever. You go, Bis… you bad-ass little gargoyle, pixy babysitter and line-jumper, you!

If you’re a fan of the Hollows series, then I dare-say you’ll enjoy the hell out of the 9th book in this fun and touching series. If you’ve never read a Hollows book then I highly recommend that you remedy that gross oversight in your reading repertoire and burn through the first eight books so that you can get to this one. You’ll be glad you did. I promise.

And now, for a few of my fave quotes: Ivy to Rachel: “Fine, you drive. I’ll sit with my head hanging out the window like a golden retriever.”

‘Jenks darted in, and I followed, eager to see what a penthouse suite looked like. Nice. I think the word would be “nice”. Or really nice. I’d go as far as friggin’ nice.’

Jenks: “Take a chill strip, Rache. They’re faster than the pills and come in convenient dispensers.”

I.S. Guy: “If Rachel permanently eliminates the threat of this day-walking demon, no one will care if she’s the queen of the damned and eats live kittens for breakfast in front of kindergarteners.”