Review of Already Dead (Joe Pitt #1), by Charlie Huston

I borrowed a copy of Already Dead, by Charlie Huston, from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

Those stories you hear? The ones about things that only come out at night? Things that feed on blood, feed on us? Got news for you: they’re true. Only it’s not like the movies or old man Stoker’s storybook. It’s worse. Especially if you happen to be one of them. Just ask Joe Pitt. 

There’s a shambler on the loose. Some fool who got himself infected with a flesh-eating bacteria is lurching around, trying to munch on folks’ brains. Joe hates shamblers, but he’s still the one who has to deal with them. That’s just the kind of life he has. Except afterlife might be better word.

From the Battery to the Bronx, and from river to river, Manhattan is crawling with Vampyres. Joe is one of them, and he’s not happy about it. Yeah, he gets to be stronger and faster than you, and he’s tough as nails and hard to kill. But spending his nights trying to score a pint of blood to feed the Vyrus that’s eating at him isn’t his idea of a good time. And Joe doesn’t make it any easier on himself. Going his own way, refusing to ally with the Clans that run the undead underside of Manhattan–it ain’t easy. It’s worse once he gets mixed up with the Coalition–the city’s most powerful Clan–and finds himself searching for a poor little rich girl who’s gone missing in Alphabet City.

Now the Coalition and the girl’s high-society parents are breathing down his neck, anarchist Vampyres are pushing him around, and a crazy Vampyre cult is stalking him. No time to complain, though. Got to find that girl and kill that shambler before the whip comes down . . . and before the sun comes up.

Review:

Early on in this novel I thought it was going to be a total fail for me. I wasn’t certain of Joe’s voice to start with, and then the first female character was introduced. She was simply a bar patron, no one he even spoke to. But the way he ogled her, the way he referred to her only in terms of ‘the number,’ ‘the number in the dress,’ etc made me go, “Oh, it’s gonna be one of those books.” I resigned myself to a disappointing read. 

And while I think the representation of women in the book remained problematic, with one large exception, I really did end up liking the book. The exception is that the plot is based around rape. Several years ago, I started noting in reviews when a book includes rape as a plot device. I started doing this because it’s so problematically frequent in books. Since I started, I swear it feels like a full 2/3 of the books I review include it. Are there really so few other options out there to progress a plot? It’s not that I take issue with rape in books in general, I take issue with it being all pervasive and everywhere. So, I note it when I see it. And here, in Already Dead it’s not graphic, but it’s especially heinous, what he’s trying to stop. 

Outside of that, I liked Joe. I liked his smart mouth, his gruff attitude, his buried but real soft side. I liked the gritty representation of New York and the inclusion of quite a lot of diversity. Granted, being a dozen years old, the language in the book is sometime a little cringe-worthy, but time ages all things. All in all, I plan of continuing the series.

Review of The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie

I purchased a paperback copy of The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie.

Description from Goodreads:

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water. 

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea. 

Spoilerish Review:

Those in my book circle seem to love this book and I can see why. Perfectly readable writing, YA lesbian leads, a bad-ass female pirate captain, racial/identity/economic diversity, acknowlegement of power differences, dads and brothers who play domestic roles while women work, all things it’s nice to encounter, and even better when gender norms are perverted, not just swapped. The characters are natural in their role and the author doesn’t play it up for points. 

But the simple overall fact of the matter is that, despite liking aspects of the book, I didn’t enjoy the book. I felt that Cassandra’s sudden siding with her captors simply because she’d gotten to know some of them was beyond plebeian. Her sudden willingness to kill her own because she’d become attached to one person made me grit my teeth. It’s far too weak a motivation. 

And the ending? Well, I feel like the villain won. Nothing in the ending felt satisfying. I didn’t feel like Cassandra accomplished anything or grew. In fact, she put herself in the hands of her enemy. Nope. I was not happy with the ending.

Review of Dead Man (Black Magic Outlaw #1), by Domino Finn

I picked up a freebie copy of Dead Man, by Domino Finn in 2017. I upgraded to an Audible copy in my recent audio book buying spree.

Description from Goodreads:

I’m Cisco Suarez: necromancer, shadow charmer, black magic outlaw. Sounds kinda cool, doesn’t it? It was, right until I woke up half dead in a dumpster.

Did I say half dead? Because I meant 100% dead. Full on. I don’t do things halfway.

So here I am, alive for some reason, just another sunny day in Miami. It’s a perfect paradise, except I’m into something bad. Wanted by police, drenched in the stink of dark magic, nether creatures coming out of the woodwork, and don’t get me started on the Haitian voodoo gang. Trust me, it’s all fun and games until there’s a zombie pit bull on your tail.

I’m Cisco Suarez: necromancer, shadow charmer, black magic outlaw, and totally screwed. 

Review:

Entertaining overall, but there was a slow start with far too many info drops and the plot was a tad on the thin side. There were also a couple inconsistencies, like someone walking to work and saying they’d get a ride home and then Cisco showing up at work to borrow her car, which is there. However, I liked Cisco and was invested in what happened to him. I’d be willing to read the next in the series. Neil Hellegers did a fine job with the narration.