Jul 28, 2011

Justin Gustainis Author of Hard Spell - Contest

A few days ago I posted a review of Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation) by Justin Gustainis, a favorite author of mine in the UF genre.

As a special treat for PVN readers Justin is offering a copy of this terrific new novel to one lucky commeter.
[see contest details at end of post]

To wet your appetite read the following excerpt:


     We got a radio call that a female vamp was using Influence on some of the customers at Susie B's, our local lesbian bar.  A lot of vampires have powers of fascination.   That "Look into my eyes" stuff you see on TV is real, although it’s exaggerated – like everything else on TV.  Despite what you hear, Influence can't take away somebody's free will — but a proficient vamp can weaken it quite a bit.  And sometimes, that’s all they need.
     Karl and I dropped in at the bar and talked to the owner, Barbara Ann, who’d called in the complaint.  She wasted no time pointing out the bloodsucker among her clientele.  "She's the one at the corner table sitting by herself — but she won't be alone for long," Barbara Ann said.
     We went to have a word with the young lady (who was probably neither very young nor much of a lady), ignoring the hostile glances from some of the other customers.  Men aren't popular in Susie B's, and cops even less so.
     The vamp said her name was Lucretia.  It might even have been true — she had an old-country Italian look about her: midnight-black hair, dark eyes, pale skin, and red, red lips.  Nice tits, too – for a vamp.
     I was surprised that she found it necessary to use Influence in order to get laid – here, or anyplace else.  Of course, she was probably in the habit of using her beautiful mouth for more than cunnilingus.  Most ladies who’ll happily spend a few hours trading orgasms with another woman will draw the line when it comes to giving up a few pints of the red stuff.
     Karl and I took turns explaining to Lucretia that the law prohibits the use of Influence to secure consent for any kind of transaction, whether sexual, commercial, or vampiric.
     “I really don’t know what you’re talking about, officers,” she said, all wide-eyed innocence.  “I wouldn’t do a thing like that.  Now I think you should both leave.”  Her words seemed to echo inside my head, and she looked right at me as she said them, those coal-black eyes burning into mine irresistibly....
     She must have been pretty old.  Her Influence was strong.  I actually felt my feet begin to move under my chair, before my will reasserted itself and made them stop.  If I’d had any doubts that Miss Lucretia been using her power improperly, they’d just been staked, but good.
     I smiled at her and shook my head.  “Nice try, Vampirella, but no sale.”
     Our police training includes the use of deep hypnosis to make us immune to that kind of stuff, and we get boosters twice a year. 
     Then, mostly to see what would happen, I said, "You know, I don't think Vollman would approve of you taking advantage of people this way.  It doesn't exactly reflect well on your kind, does it?"
     Her heart-shaped face grew very still.  "You know Mister Vollman?" she asked, in a tight, quiet voice she hadn't used before.
     "Sure," Karl said, with a shrug.  He'd picked up on what I was doing.  "We do favors for him sometimes – and vice versa."
     "You don't want us to ask him for a favor that has your name on it, do you, honey?" I said gently.
     She shook her head stiffly.  In a quick rush of words she said, "No, I'm sorry, I won't do it any more, I have to go now, g’night."
     She stood up and quickly walked out of the place, without once glancing back in our direction.
     "Guess Vollman wasn't shitting us," Karl said, as he watched the beautiful vamp's departure.  Maybe he was checking her ass for clues.
     "Nope," I said, and pushed my chair back.  "Looks like he really is The Man."


* Justin is offering a copy of Hard Spell to one lucky reader.

* Leave a comment for Justin about this post for a chance to win.
* Be sure contact information is included with your comment.

* Contest ends August 5, 2011 at 11:59pm EST

* Contest is international!

Applewood - Vampire Book Review

by Brendan P. Myers
By Light Unseen Media, May 2011

[a review by Sandy Rainey]
The smart vampire thriller Applewood, by relative newcomer Brendan P. Myers, has a lot of appeal built into its DNA. At times it will remind the reader of  'Salem's Lot, The Lost Boys, and even the brand-new movie Super 8, which could not possibly have been an influence considering its release date relative to the novel's. I mention these narrative kinfolk not to imply that Applewood is some sort of ho-hum derivative, but to entice more readers into giving this strong effort a chance. In the words of the old Alka-Seltzer commercial: Try it, you'll like it!
The novel is off to a quick start with the discovery of a horribly mutilated corpse in the Massachusetts town of Grantham. The local authorities presume that the damage to the body was done by wild animals—except for Sergeant "Moon" Lombard, who knows a vampire mauling when he sees one. Moon gives the signal, and a tight-knit group of friends from junior high days, long since scattered to the winds, reassembles to confront the danger that bitter experience has equipped them to recognize. One of the friends who answers the call is Scott Dugan, the novel's principal viewpoint character. He returns to his old suburban neighborhood, Applewood, now a rotting and utterly deserted ruin. And his thoughts spool back to that distant junior high time when a plague of nightmare creatures wiped Applewood right off the map.
The bulk of the novel is an extended flashback to those long-ago years, and the late-70s vibe is so tangible you could swear you were there again. (It is the age of the protagonists, their relationships with one another, and the historical and pop culture references that invite comparisons with Super 8, and Myers' handling of the period details compares nicely with that of Abrams and Spielberg.) You need not, however, be a child of the 70s to relate to the experiences of Dugan and his friends: dealing with the loss of a parent, the heartache of first love, the menace of a gang of bullies, the terror of not fitting in—these are the universal rites of passage so faithfully recreated here. The dialog is right on pitch, and Myers' young protagonists react to situations with adolescent authenticity. As we get to know Dugan and his pals, we come to care very much about them. This is Myers' secret weapon, one reason we keep turning the pages as fast as we can.
The other reason? Myers has constructed a tight plot that dashes along at top speed. When three of the boys' classmates turn up missing and the town cemetery is desecrated, strange things start to happen. One by one, the town's citizens begin to disappear. Pooling their knowledge, Dugan and his friends begin to piece together what has happened. A local history project proves invaluable in zeroing in on the threat (Kids: do your history homework!). It turns out that Grantham's Civil War hero, Colonel Alexander Pope, came back from the war a changed man, and brought home a lot more than old war stories. Somehow that old danger was laid to rest; somehow it has come back to life. Knowing that no one will believe their story (if there is even anyone left to lend a hand!), the boys strike out alone to combat a powerful and rapidly expanding evil that threatens to swallow their town and everyone in it.
There are three distinct time frames in the novel, and the reader might wish Myers had spent more time fleshing out the Civil War-era scenes, as well as wrapping up the present-day face-off of the old gang against their long-time nemesis. (To be fair, Myers may be planning a sequel.) But these are minor quibbles. Myers has crafted a suspenseful story alive with period detail and populated with authentic, relatable characters. His is a talented  voice with a lot to offer a genre that can always use an infusion of new blood. 

Sandy Rainey, July 2011

Jul 25, 2011

Hard Spell - Urban Fantasy Book Review

Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation)
by Justin Gustainis
Angry Robot Books, July 26, 2011

Scranton, PA is home to an assortment of supernatural creatures - weres , vampires, trolls, witches, etc - mostly due to the confluence of magical ley lines that run through the city. Detective Sergeant Stanly Markowski and his partner Kurt Renfer are assigned to the squad that investigate crimes involving "supes". It is the wise cracking Stan who narrates this gripping, humor laced, urban fantasy, crime novel. He works closely with members of SWAT  (Sacred Weapons And Tactics unit) and always carries a crucifix, wooden stakes, a large vial of holy water, and a 9 mm Beretta with silver bullets. You can't be too careful!

Stan and Kurt's most recent case involves the wizard George Kulick who suffered brutal torment before finally being murdered. The killer wanted something very badly, but what? After intense investigation the case goes nowhere. Stan decides to enlist the help of  a friend, Rachel Proctor, a witch and licensed practitioner of magic. He convinces her to use her knowledge to contact the dead victim which means using the dangerous art of necromancy. Rachel's reluctance was a reasonable response especially considering the terrible consequences that can occur and unfortunately do.

Help of a sort comes from an unexpected source. An elegant, older gentleman by the name of Ernst Vollman, who also happens to be a vampire and a wizard, introduces himself to Stan. He doesn't know who killed Kulick, but he is certain he knows why. This is the lead the cops have been waiting for.

There is a "noir" edge to this entertaining story.

"This is the city - Scranton, Pennsylvania... My name is Markowski. I carry a badge."

Hard Spell is fun to read from start to finish and is book one in a promising new series. I look forward to more adventures with Stan and the variety of fascinating characters he works with, lives with and fights.

Read an excerpt

Jul 19, 2011

Black Heart Loa by Adrian Phoenix - Publication Celebration and Contest

To celebrate the publication of Black Heart Loa by Adrian Phoenix PVN has been honored with a guest post by the hot and hunky Layne Valin who plays a very important part in the Hoodoo series. I love the long, blond dreads!!

There is also a contest with prizes for THREE lucky winners! [see details at end of post]

Many thanks to Layne (and Adrian) for the following:

Vessel for the Dead. Ghost ship. Spirit cabinet. Crazy

I’ve been called them all. And the only one that ain’t true—yet—is the crazy tag. But supposedly that’s my fate. The end of the road for all Vessels—insanity and/or a desperate, usually messy, suicide by the time you hit your late teens or early twenties.

Me, I’m twenty-five. And working hard on kicking fate’s ass.

So, hey. Good to meetcha. My name’s Layne Valin and I’m a Vessel for the Dead. (Laughs) And no, this ain’t a Vessels Anonymous meeting. No such thing since this ain’t an addiction—Vessels are born, not made, and death seems to be the only cure.

Most people don’t know that Vessels even exist, not even when trying to wrestle one into a straitjacket. A Vessel looks like anyone else—like you or your little brother or maybe your best friend—no way to spot one, not even when you’re the poor bastard trying to wrestle the tweaker into that goddamned straitjacket.

But to a wandering ghost, lost spirit, or a furious shade, human Vessels are one huge open door with a WELCOME sign winking above in moonlight-gilded neon. A never-ending invitation to the dead from the moment you’re born until the moment you die. A Vessel can’t refuse a ghost. Can’t turn them away. A Vessel has no say, period.

Most Vessels lose control of their bodies whenever a ghost slips inside, becoming little more than bound and gagged stowaways shanghaied by ethereal, uncrossed-over body pirates hoping to say goodbye to loved ones, to seek revenge for their murder, to finish a final task, or simply clinging to flesh out of denial, y’know? That paralyzing fear of the unknown.

You know what’s ironic? A possession’s most dangerous moment happens when the ghost splits the Vessel’s body. When the dead depart sometimes they hook into your memories—accidentally or otherwise—and unravel a few. Forever.

No say in ghosts taking over your body for whatever purpose and for whatever length of time until they cross over. Possible permanent personality meshing. Lost memories. Quite a few straws piling up on that insanity-camel’s back, yeah?

I aim to change all that. Hell, I am changing it. Just look at me. Twenty-five and I ain’t been wrestled into a straitjacket once. (Yeah, yeah. Don’t say it.) I’ve also learned that there is a way to communicate with our ghostly passengers, a way to work together.

I believe we’re born Vessels for a reason. And that reason ain’t insanity and suicide. I hope to pass the shit I’ve learned onto other Vessels, teach them how not only to survive intact, but to make a difference in someone’s life—even if they’re dead.

Sure, I think being born nomad, as well as a Vessel, gives me an edge over non-nomad (otherwise known as in-town squatters. I know sounds judgmental, and trust me, it is) Vessels. For those of you who don’t know, nomads are a pagan cross between Gypsies and outlaw bikers. We travel. We respect nature. We believe in the things most people no longer do: werewolves, vampires, elementals, old and young gods . . . ghosts.

And magic. I also believe that a certain hoodoo apprentice with black hair, café-au-lait skin and tilted violet eyes, fierce and compassionate and brimming with magic, a woman named Kallie Rivière, helps sharpen that edge.

Me, I’m hoping that together, Kallie and me, we can find a way to transform a curse into true destiny and fate into purpose. I’m also hoping for another taste of those soft lips. (Winks) Sure as hell can’t hurt.


Here’s the first chapter of Black Dust Mambo. (Hoodoo Book 1)

And the first two chapters of Black Heart Loa. (Hoodoo Book 2)

Black Heart Loa is also a July featured read on BN.com’s Paranormal and Urban Fantasy online book club!

And feel free to check out The Maker’s Song series (A Rush of Wings, In the Blood, Beneath the Skin, Etched in Bone—and in 2012, On Midnight Wings). 

Here’s the first chapter of A Rush of Wings.

You can also find Adrian at:
WebsiteFacebook , Facebook Fan PageTwitterMySpaceGoodreads
Dante's Club Hell Forum
Dante's Club Hell Yahoo Group
Pocket After Dark


* For the first prize Adrian is offering one signed set of the Hoodoo books (Black Dust Mambo and Black Heart Loa) to one reader.

*Two other winner's may choose from any one of Adrian's titles. (See http://adrianphoenix.com/ for a list.)

* Leave a comment for Layne or Adrian about this post for a chance to win.
* Be sure contact information is included with your comment.

* Contest ends August 2, 2011 at 11:59pm EST

* Contest is international!

Jul 10, 2011

Etched In Bone - Vampire Book Review

Etched in Bone (The Maker's Song)
by Adrian Phoenix
Pocket (February 22, 2011)

Etched in Bone brings together the threads forged by the three worlds vying to capture Dante for their own purposes: The Shadow Branch whose scientists experimented in an attempt to turn him into a psychotic killer; the vampire Nightkind who see him as the prophesied True Blood; and the Elohim who believe Dante to be the long awaited Creawdwr.

Dante's tortuous childhood has caused him continued physical and mental anguish. Some of those closest to him often fear for his sanity. At the same time Dante is like a young god coming of age as his supernatural powers increase. Although many seek to control Dante he is determined to forge his own path with the love of his life, Heather Wallace, at his side. Heather has bonded with Dante in a way no other has been able. Her touch is often the only thing that can bring him relief, and sometimes even that doesn't work.

The Maker's Song series should be read in publication order beginning with A Rush of Wings: Book One of The Maker's Song. Each succeeding book builds the story and fleshes out the many characters. Etched In Bone has a cliffhanger ending which makes waiting for the next installment of this engrossing urban fantasy very difficult. I can't recommend this series highly enough.

The Maker's Song

A Rush of Wings

In the Blood: Book
Beneath the Skin

Etched in Bone

Jul 6, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro - Vampire Book Review

An Embarrassment of Riches
by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor Books; First Edition edition (March 1, 2011)

(Reviewed by Sandy Rainey)

This twenty-fourth outing for the Count Saint-Germain is set in Bohemia in the thirteenth century. As per usual, our favorite vampire exile finds himself embroiled in the sort of political intrigue that always seems to dog him, try as he might to avoid it. Just before the book opens, Saint-Germain for once is living peacefully on his ancestral lands in Hungary when the Hungarian King Bela forces him into exile at the court of Konig (King) Otakar in Bohemia, ostensibly to supply Bela’s granddaughter and Otakar’s wife, Konige (Queen) Kunigunde, with gemstones, and to watch over the expatriate queen and help ease her homesickness.

Saint-Germain has no desire to join the other noble Hungarians at court, but Bela threatens harm against Saint-Germain’s fief and vassals if he does not comply. Saint-Germain’s position is precarious from the start: King Bela does not seem to trust him, and the Bohemians suspect that Bela has sent Saint-Germain to spy on them. Seeing little choice, Saint-Germain and his steadfast manservant, Hruther, take up residence in a rotting Bohemian manse, giving it a medieval-style This Old House refurbishing as the plot progresses. Saint-Germain is under virtual house arrest: He may appear at court or tool around Otakar’s capital city, Praha (Prague), but efforts to venture any further will result in swift retribution against his fiefdom.

The political situation is puzzling, to say the least. One would expect that the Hungarian Kunigunde’s marriage to the Bohemian Otakar would secure some sort of peace between the two nations. Not so: Bela and Otakar are actually at war throughout the book. Otakar aspires to be the next Holy Roman Emperor and figures that his growing list of conquests will help make his case; he would like nothing better than to add Hungary to that list. No wonder Kunigunde is so glum in this impossible circumstance of divided loyalties. As babies begin to come (girls, lamentably), Kunigunde also suffers from a severe case of what we would call postpartum depression. Even Saint-Germain’s songs (as always, he functions as a sort of vagabond troubadour) and the shower of jewels he bestows upon Kunigunde and her offspring cannot alleviate her sadness.

From this description, the reader acquainted with the Saint-Germain series might presume that Kunigunde becomes Saint-Germain’s paramour; she is the sort of victim of entrenched sexism that he often attempts to assist. But he is far too circumspect to become involved with the Konige, however much he might pity her. Besides, he has his hands full with three other ladies of the court. Gentleman readers of the Saint-Germain cycle might sometimes envy his effortless success with the ladies. This time, though, Saint-Germain manages to reel in three of the least appealing and most demanding women he has ever become entangled with. All of them pose a threat, and are unafraid to wield what power they have; one of them is particularly unscrupulous and will stop at nothing to eliminate her rivals and get her way.

As time passes, Saint-Germain’s position goes from difficult to untenable. For once, he practices alchemy openly, churning out precious gems as never before (hence the book’s title). The presence of the generous jewel-maker is thus tolerated at court, but nevertheless intrigues and enemies multiply as the novel progresses. Saint-Germain and Hruther are all too aware of the net tightening around them, but no means of escape is evident. Still, the most pressing danger turns out to be one neither Saint-Germain nor the reader anticipates, leaving to Hruther (has there ever been a more loyal and resourceful sidekick?) the task of putting all to rights.

An Embarrassment of Riches is a worthy addition to the Saint-Germain canon, offering all the familiar touches that readers have come to expect while keeping them guessing with unaccustomed developments. Yarbro continues to entertain reliably with this vampire series that will surely never be equaled; may it ever be so.

Reviewed by Sandy Rainey