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Urban Fantasy Review: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues (White Trash Zombie/ Angel Crawford #2) by Diana Rowland

Synopsis

Angel Crawford is finally starting to get used to life as a brain-eating zombie. Let’s face it, more brains can only improve your life, right? Still, like in real life, Angel’s old problems are returning to haunt her. Her felony record keeps complicating her prospects, more zombie hunters are popping up in her neighbourhood, and she’s beginning to wonder if her hunky cop-boyfriend, Marcus, is actually involved with the zombie mafia. Yeah, you read it right—the zombie mafia. They are influential, rich and they want to monopolize the future market for artificial brains ;).

Throw in a secret lab and a lot of conspiracy, and Angel’s going to need all of her brainpower—and maybe a brain smoothie or two as well—in order to get through it without falling apart. Will her relationship with Marcus survive as well? Will he start to appreciate Angel for who she really is?


What I liked:

Let me start with the cover, painted by Dan Dos Santos (follow this link if you want to see it properly), one of my favourite cover artists. This one is special. Even if I hadn’t heard anything about this book, this cover would have made me pick it immediately. It is the perfect mix of bad-ass and vulnerable in a completely unexpected scene (are there any other covers that feature a depressed punk-chick on a toilet in a grubby bathroom? Look at her shoes for heaven’s sake!). Dan Dos Santos won a silver medal fromSpectrum medals for his cover art for Diana Rowland’s My Life as a White Trash Zombie. This one is as good if not better.

What about the book itself? It is a sequel and as such I didn’t expect a lot of fireworks. I was wrong. How nice it is to be wrong from time to time! What I liked the best? Characters development of the main heroine – it was simply unique.

Firstly she develops a believable and quite moving relationship with her father. They got mad at each other every now and then but it is obvious they were trying to change and improve, appreciating all the time that they are still family.It addted the humane depth to Angel’s character – I was so pleased she wasn’t made another orphan girl, so conveniently deprived of any parents or siblings, left to rely on friends and boyfriends!

Speaking about boyfriends…Marcus Ivanov, the zombie cop was behaving in an outrageous manner and finally Angel started questioning where they stand. Let me just say she was perfectly right! I really enjoy the fact that somebody dared to show in an UF novel that the real relationship is about something more than just fancying a handsome boy or girl or going to bed and having good sex! Angel really scored a lot of points breaking up temporarily with Marcus (not saying more, it is already a bit spoilerish) and asserting herself when faced with his posh family and acquaintance.She may be an uneducated chick but she is sure as hell clever and should be in the CSI department instead of being the skullcracker of the morgue.

Now a bit about the baddies. Ed Quinn the zombie serial killer appears again and secret zombie factions make this book full of both a great action adventure and a great character development story because no, Ed is not a straightforward baddie and not every zombie is good either. For example one Pietro Ivanov a badass zombie mobster. I found him quite fascinating but he is a shadowy character. He is very eager to invest in a new research to find the protein zombies’s parasite need to survive to create new “fake brains” to control the numbers of brains in his zombie faction.

Overall I liked Rowland’s innovative take on zombies and her explanation why brains keep them from rotting, give them superhuman abilities, and a longer life. Further on, the creation process of a new zombie was rather..ehem…bloody interesting. The mothering aspect and the population control was a very clever addition and certainly nothing I expected or predicted so full points for world building.

What I didn’t like 

The mystery seemed to be a little over the top but it was still a fun ride. I would be even more happy with this one if more baddies were so nicely three-dimensional as poor Ed; unfortunately it was not the case. There were also some threads unfinished and some themes I would really like to know more about and now I have to wait for another installment.

Final verdict:

 
It is perhaps not a perfect novel but it remains a well-told story following the trials and tribulations of a young woman trying to get a grip on her life. Plus zombies. Normally I don’t like them in my fantasy but for Angel and her likes I am more than willing to make an exception.

What’s more I am happy to tell you that Mrs. Rowland’s writing technique is improving dramatically, especially if you compare it to some of her earlier “…of a demon” novels. I am most definitely eager to read the next book in the series!

BTW my review of the first part can be found here.

 Books in series
My Life as a White Trash Zombie
Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues

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Urban Fantasy Review: My Life as A White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

Synopsis:

Angel Crawford’s life has never been nice and easy. In fact, metaphorically speaking, she was born with a big L for a loser emblazoned in the middle of her forehead. Her mother was mentally ill and died in her childhood; her father, after an accident on an oil rig, was rendered crippled, became an alcoholic and started to beat and humiliate his daughter. Angel dropped out of school at 16 and after that she seemed to be on a steep slippery slope to a totally wasted life – drugs, alcohol, a petty criminal boyfriend and finally a jail sentence for fencing. One night everything changes, though – Angel argues with her boyfriend and picks up another guy in a bar to spite him. As usual with her, the choice couldn’t have been worse. After getting drunk and drugged Angel leaves the bar with that guy and almost dies in a car crash. Almost, because somebody decided to give her another chance and turned her into a zombie (no, I don’t consider it a spoiler taking into account the title of the novel. Go sue me ;)).


The book opens with Angel waking up in the hospital after the accident. She was brought in as a suspected overdose and rape victim – policemen found her lying naked on the side of a road. Her scattered memories and the mysterious package left for her at the hospital hint at something entirely different than just a nasty date and an accident, though. Angel is given an anonymous message, telling her that a new job awaits her; she must keep it for a month or she goes back to jail (she is still on a parole). Next to the message there are some containers with strange coffee-flavoured stuff – she is supposed to drink it once a day.

Angel is directed to a local morgue and becomes a van driver and a morgue tech, helping with autopsies and such. I know, a rather grim choice of a job for a young woman but somehow Angel doesn’t mind. After a very short period of time she becomes even fond of her job as it provides her, apart from a decent wage, with a substance necessary for her survival and normal functioning (guess what). Of course the reasons why she has been turned into a zombie and who her mysterious saviour is are revealed only at the end of the book. In fact the majority of the novel is about how being turned into a zombie is one of the best things that has ever happened to her – otherwise she might have never had the strength to change the odds and do something positive with her life. Oh, and don’t forget a bit of mystery – a serial killer starts murdering people around, cutting their heads off. Angel suspects a fellow zombie has gone rogue and finding the perpetrator asap is in her best interest (braaaaiiiiiiiiiinss are becoming scarce).

What I liked:
I must admit it: I am not a fan of zombies (smelly, messy, disgusting, psychologically simplistic creatures they are) so I was a bit skeptical about this premise at first. The title was provocative, though and the Dan Dos Santos’ cover art sold me on giving this one a chance, especially as I’ve read so many enthusiastic reviews on other blogs. I’m glad I did. Here are the reasons why:

· This book is filled with surprisingly complex characters and really decent story lines.

· Reading about Angel’s prior decline and present rise, while stumbling through her revelations on becoming a zombie was a hoot. As a main female lead she is naïve enough to be realistic, prickly enough to make you laugh more than once and sympathetic enough to make you forget about her little zombie problem and root for her. She is a heroine you can connect to easily even though she could be one after your brain.

· I loved the supporting cast (now it is clear Ms Rowland has worked with the police force) and even, surprise, surprise, the little love story at the end. It was very nice indeed.

· The narration was quick and clean, the mystery full of surprising twists – overall it was a very pleasant, entertaining read. Rowland puts new twists on old ideas in a very clever way in this one and she never grosses out her readers.

· Finally, don’t mistake this book for a fluffy pink romance with some local zombie colouring. Although it features a white-trashy redneck heroine with a pill addiction, it has surprisingly deep moments. After all it deals with the problem of finding a better way of life when you are an underdog and nobody provides you with any clues.

What I didn’t like:

· It was too short. I would gladly read a sequel. Even with a pink cover. Pretty please.

Final verdict:

A very nice surprise and a great summer read – Ms Rowland’s zombies definitely exceeded my expectations. I recommend this book even for those who are, like me, not exactly zombie fans. I liked it far better than the previous novel of the same author,Mark of the Demon, reviewed by me not so long ago.

 Books in series
My Life as a White Trash Zombie
Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues

Urban Fantasy Review: ‘Mark of the Demon’ (Kara Gillian 01) by Diana Rowland

Synopsis:

Kara Gillian a recently promoted homicide detective, in her free time summons demons. Her job gives her a sense of belonging, her hobby – an adrenaline rush sufficiently thrilling to make her forget some dark experiences from the past, like a rape at the age of eleven or a period of drug abuse or the premature death of her parents. Well, who said that demons are safer than drugs, though? Certainly not Kara.
In her small Louisiana town called Beaulac strange murders have happened and the perpetrator, known only as the Symbol Man, has never been caught. Now it seems he or she returned to previous activities and soon enough horribly mutilated bodies with a strange symbol on them are found in different places. Kara, although a newbie detective, is given this case because she happens to be a resident expert. It is a blessing and a curse – she is given a chance to prove her value but she might lose her job if she fails to do so – every help is very welcome, even some occult knowledge about arcane procedures and runes.

Kara decides to summon a minor demon to help her with that difficult investigation but something goes wrong and a definitely more powerful being goes out of her portal – a demon Lord called Rhyzkhal. He is scorchingly hot (platinium blonde mane of hair, crystal blue eyes, muscled body, not unlike poor Rhaegar Tangaryen if you get the drift) a bit angry but instantly smitten by Kara. Our heroine of course knows that demons are highly mercenary beings, never giving anything for free but…will Rhyzkhal help her investigate? What will he ask in return? Or maybe there will be more useful help provided by a handsome FBI agent Ryan Kristoff, delegated to assist the local police?

Titilating factor:

Two sex scenes between the demonic Lord and Kara, hot and rather descriptive – pure lust, nothing more. I suppose that the in the next installment we will be shown Kara dealing with a demonic STD. ;p

What I liked:

Kara was a bit different that the rest of kick-ass heroines, usually inhabiting such books. She had darker side, a lot of flaws and she had her doubts – plenty of them.

Kara’s story is told in the first person, and is often vividly described. Apparently the author has worked in a morgue, so the autopsy scenes seem very unsparing and true to life but it added some grit which suited me just fine. Overall I suppose the author must have some law enforcement experience because the crime scene, forensic, and medical details in the book are spot-on.

The criminal mystery was good enough, despite the paranormal touch – I didn’t guess the perpetrator to the very end and when the identity was revealed, it was done with a proper psychological background.

Finally the book was rather readable – although not exactly short. I finished it in two evenings.

What I didn’t like:

Demons shouldn’t ever be boring or mundane like us, weak-kneed mortals, and here, unofrtunately, they were. Rhyzkhal was portrayed as such a typical male – he saw a nice mortal summoner female and here we go, a sex scene is inevitable. Then he goes away, undoubtedly to brag to his demon friends about the new conquest, and returns to have some more…you could insert a werewolf here or a vampire or even a normal hot human and the result would be the same…really too predictable and a bit crass.

The police narrative I found a little bit unreal, especially when it concerns out heroine. Kara is just a detective, one from many others, but she behaves as if she worked on her own, operating in a very free-wheeling manner, keeping her own hours, rarely checking in at work, doing paperwork, or coordinating with her serial-killer-taskforce. Where is reality here?

We never get a clear picture of why summoners call demons other than that they can but I suppose it might be explained in other parts of the series. Oh, and there is a loophole concerning Rhyzkhal but it also might be somehow patched in other books so I will let it pass this time…

Finally the romantic thread…you do know that more often than not I have problems with romance? Well this book isn’t different. A short tryst of Kara and Rhyzkhal was purely carnal so to speak, not involving any higher emotions apart from raw lust but I didn’t feel any great chemistry between Kara and the FBI agent she was partnered with for the case either. Ryan Kristoff behaves very boyishly, then he apologizes like a sweet little child and then…nothing changes. Truly frustrating. I like paranormal novels where romance takes a backseat, but it still needs to pack a punch from time to time. Demanding, aren’t I?

Final verdict:

It certainly wasn’t very bad but it wasn’t very good either…I recommend it but mostly to the real hard core fans of the genre. The storyline and characters have some great potential – the idea of a police officer who can summon demons to help her solve murders is quite original- that’s why I am willing to see where Rowland takes them next. Two and half stars.

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