Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2

Welcome back readers! It’s nearly St. Valentine’s Day, and you know what that means! No, not zombies this time…well, ok zombies, but only a few… It means Romance! Pink and red decorations, creepy teddy bears, and candy that tastes like plastic abound! Oh, also love. Love probably abounds too. And the Friday Fiction Feature is not to be left in the dust, we’ve got stories of timeless love and romance against all odds (and some physics). It is Friday the 13th after all…
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The Professor’s Daughter  by Joann Sfar & Emmanuel Guibert

The Professor's DaughterOur first romance is one for the ages. Literally. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I at least have often wondered about this “one person for everyone” thing; what if that one person is in the South Sandwich Islands while I’m trapped up here in Minnesota? What if the deity in charge of romance mucked up and my one true love got born 30 years too late? Well, The Professor’s Daughter suffered from this very crossing of the stars, but wasn’t about to let a little thing like thousands of years and ancient embalming techniques stand in her way!

Three thousand years may seperate them, still… they love each other.
19th-century London. She is the lovely daughter of renowned Egyptologist Porfessor Bowell, he the dashing mummy Imhotep IV, owned by the professor and awake for the first time in thirty centuries. They stroll through London arm-in-arm and find their way into an abiding love, but everything seems to be getting in the way of it.
Murder, adventure, mystery kidnapping, Queen Victoria tossed into the Thames–what more could you ask for?

Death of a Valentine (Hamish Macbeth #26) by M.C. Beaton 

Death of a Valentine (Hamish Macbeth, #26)Sadly not all love can go as smoothly as the professor’s daughter’s, for some, like the unfortunate Sergeant Macbeth, tend to see death as an impediment to romance, even when it is not his own.  But, alas, for some the Death of a Valentine will always spoil a good date, if not because the valentine is your own, then at least by keeping you too busy to tend to your own lovely lad/lass. (So I suppose the romantic tip here is to stay away from corpses, at least until you’re married. Sound advice.)

Amazing news has spread across the Scottish countryside. The most famous of highland bachelors, police sergeant Hamish Macbeth, will be married at last. Everyone in the village of Lochdubh adores Josie McSween, Macbeth’s newest constable and blushing bride-to-be.
While locals think Josie is quite a catch, Hamish has a case of prenuptial jitters. After all, if it weren’t for the recent murder of a beautiful woman in a neighbouring village, there wouldn’t be a wedding at all. For it was a mysterious Valentine’s Day package–delivered to the victim before her death–that initially drew Hamish and Josie together on the investigation. As they work side by side, Hamish and Josie soon discover that the woman’s list of admirers was endless, confirming Hamish’s suspicion that love can be blind, deaf . . . and deadly.

My Zombie Valentine (Dark Ones #4.5 (Bring Out Your Dead)) by Katie MacAlister, Angie Fox, Lisa Cach, & Mari Mancusi 

My Zombie ValentineWe bring you next a selection of lovers so devoted, so connected to each other (or at least bits of each other), that Macbeth’s advice to avoid corpses is just the mantra of a quitter. For some devoted sweethearts to whom the underrated cry “Bring out your dead!” sounds like an invitation to speed-dating night pick up My Zombie Valentine and see some love that really never ends!

Four women who are about to dig up the truth!
Tired of boyfriends who drain you dry? Sick of guys who stay out all night howling at the moon? You can do better. Some men want you not only for your body, but your brains. Especially your brains.
It’s true! There are men out there who care–early-rising, down-to-earth, indefatigable men who’ll follow you for miles. They’ll take the time to surprise you, over and over. One sniff of that perfume, and you’ll have to use a shotgun to fight them off. And then, once you get together, all they want is to share a nice meal. And another. And another.
Romeo and Juliet, eat your hearts out.
“Bring Out Your Dead” by Katie MacAlister
“Gentlemen Prefer Voodoo” by Angie Fox
“Zombiewood Confidential” by Marianne Mancusi
“Every Part of You” by Lisa Cach

My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon by P.N. Elrod, Marjorie M. Liu, Katie MacAlister, Lilith Saintcrow, Ronda Thompson, Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, & Caitlin Kittredge

My Big Fat Supernatural HoneymoonThere is a trend in romance tales which I imagine must be obnoxious to the happily married/partnered/living-together-and-please-stop-asking-when-we’re-getting-married-or-we-never-will-just-to-spite-you. It seems like all the best stories (practically all the stories actually) are about finding new love or getting engaged. There is a terrible dearth of actual happy couples who have been together for more than two years. (Unless you count the protagonists’ parents, and no they don’t count because I’ve seen those movies, and the parents never count). Fortunately we have My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon to at least fill in the next step in the romance genre. Picking up where the romance novels end, these stories will get us all the way through the wedding and at least to the following day! (Hey, it’s progress).

Nine popular fantasy and paranormal romance authors celebrate marital bliss supernatural style in a collection of honeymoon tales populated by demons, vampires, shape-shifters, magic-users, and other unusual characters.
What newly married couple doesn’t dream of a romantic retreat where they can escape the world for a while — but what happens when supernatural forces intrude on their wedded bliss?
Nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors answer that question in this all-star collection of supernatural stories. Can a vampire-hunter enjoy her honeymoon after learning that her new hubby is a werewolf? How can newlyweds focus on their wedding night when their honeymoon suite is haunted by feuding ghosts? And what’s a wizard to do when a gruesome monster kidnaps the bride on her way home from the wedding? With so much otherworldly mayhem awaiting our newlyweds, will they ever get around to the honeymoon itself? Find out in…My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon.

Harlequin Valentine by Neil Gaiman & John Bolton

Harlequin ValentineOf course, some of you will not be completely impressed by my lineup of romance for (and across) the ages. Some of you prefer more boring traditional romance stories. Well, I have just the thing. One of the oldest romance stories we have, and the namesake for an entire industry of trashy romance; Harlequin! Because I also know my audience won’t want me to just push them towards an old story they may have heard time and time again, I’ve swapped out the original for a version updated by one of our favorite authors here on the Fiction Reboot.

In this modern retelling of a classic commedia dell’ arte legend of tomfoolery and hopeless, fawning love, creators Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and John Bolton (Manbat: Batman) update the relation of Harlequin and Columbine. A buffoon burdened with a brimming heart, Harlequin chases his sensible, oblivious Columbine around the streets of a city, having given his heart freely. Consumed with love, the impulsive clown sees his heart dragged about town, with a charming surprise to bend the tale in a modern direction. Gaiman’s writing is poetic and as loopy as the subject matter. Bolton’s art, a combination of digitally enhanced photo-realism and dynamic painting provides sensational depth with bright characters over fittingly muted backgrounds. Those who have spent Valentine’s Day alone know that the cold February holiday can be hard to swallow. Gaiman and Bolton want you to know that all it takes is a steak knife, a fork, and a bottle of quality ketchup.Contains an additional 8-page backup feature written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by John Bolton on the history of commedia dell’ arte!

Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne

Breathers: A Zombie's LamentThis last book aside, I doubt that many of you actually clicked on my Valentine’s edition hoping for some straightforward boy-meets-girl-meets-unnecsarry-problem-solves-problem-gets-happy-ending novels. So to get us firmly back on track, and in true Friday Fiction Feature spirit, we’re ending on zombies with Breathersa tale of love, loss (of life), and class action law suits. (and for those of you who–like me–thought the movie with a living person dating a zombie was just ucky, don’t worry, everyone’s undead here. Nothing ucky about it).

Meet Andy Warner, a recently deceased everyman and newly minted zombie. Resented by his parents, abandoned by his friends, and reviled by a society that no longer considers him human, Andy is having a bit of trouble adjusting to his new existence. But all that changes when he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting and finds kindred souls in Rita, an impossibly sexy recent suicide with a taste for the formaldehyde in cosmetic products, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car-crash victim with an exposed brain and a penchant for Renaissance pornography. When the group meets a rogue zombie who teaches them the joys of human flesh, things start to get messy, and Andy embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will take him from his casket to the SPCA to a media-driven class-action lawsuit on behalf of the rights of zombies everywhere.
Darkly funny, surprisingly touching, and gory enough to satisfy even the most discerning reader, Breathers is a romantic zombie comedy (rom-zom-com, for short) that will leave you laughing, squirming, and clamoring for more.

*P.S. rom-zom-com might be my new favorite appellation.

 

So from all of…me here at the Friday Fiction Feature, happy Valentine’s Day!
(And singles, please stop calling it Singles Awareness Day…that’s just sad. Literally SAD. That’s what it spells! You should celebrate this day of plastic candy too, just please, please come up with a new name!)

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Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2Hello & welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature! Tabatha here again to bring you the pulse-pounding stories of…oh wait…poor choice of words. With stories of mystery & adventure that will really get your blood pumpin…drat. Gotta try again. We’ve got some eye-popping…oh bugger! Forget it. No more hyperbole! (I’m going to alienate our differently-alive writers!). This week’s stories are all tales from the pulse-challenged. Stories from beyond the grave from all manner of chatty corpses. And so, with no more ado (or life-ist slogans!) I bring you books from the beyond the grave!

If You’re Reading This, I’m Already Dead by Andrew Nicoll

If You're Reading This, I'm Already DeadFirst we’ll start with the more conventional method of writing from the great beyond (that’s right, we’ve gotten so far down this rabbit hole we’re working on making ghosts conventional); simply writing it all down in the great right-here first. From the well-known first line If You’re Reading This I’m Already Dead, our ghostly narrator unfolds the story of an acrobat’s journey from the caravan to the palace & finally the grave. Now if only we can figure out how to follow in only the first two of those footsteps…

‘I want people to know how Otto Witte, acrobat of Hamburg, became the crowned king of Albania.’ Otto Witte is an old man. The Allies are raining bombs on his city and, having narrowly escaped death, he has come home to his little caravan to drink what remains of his coffee (dust) and wait for the inevitable. Convinced that he will not see the sunrise, he decides to write the story of his life for the poor soul who finds what’s left of him come the morning. And it’s quite a story. Years earlier, when he was in either Buda or Pest, working at the circus, a dear friend brought him the newspaper. Inside was an article about how Albania was looking for a particular Turkish prince, because the country was in need of a new king. This Turkish prince is the image of Otto…A plan is formed; adventure, disaster, love and sheer, unabashed hope await.

Hard Day’s Knight by  John G. Hartness

Hard Day's Knight (Black Knight Chronicles, #1)Not everyone is content to simply communicate from beyond the grave; some stubborn buggers insist on actually taking part in the whole mortal coil even after they’ve successfully shuffled away. The protagonist duo of Hard Day’s Knight is a pair who passed away & then decided to pass on the usual long-capes-bigamous-maiden-seducing lifestyle deathstyle in favor of an entirely cape-free uniform & the night shift. Let’s just hope no stubborn suspects refuse to let them over the threshold with their search warrants.

Children are missing.
The police are stumped.
Halloween is coming, with an ancient evil on the horizon.
The vampires are the good guys.
This is not your ordinary fall weekend in Charlotte, NC. Vampire private detectives Jimmy Black and Greg Knightwood have been hired to keep a young client from being cursed for all eternity, but end up in a bigger mess than they ever imagined.
Suddenly trapped in the middle of a serial kidnapping case, Jimmy and Greg uncover a plot to bring forth an ancient evil into the world, and enlist the help of a police detective, a priest, a witch, a fallen angel, and strip club proprietor to save the world. This unlikely band of heroes battles zombies, witches, neuroses and sunburn while cracking jokes and looking for the perfect bag of O-negative.

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim (Sandman Slim, #1)Mr. Witte & the police vampires were our more conventional dead men- content to have a normal lifespan as Turkish royalty & die normally, or at least come back in one of the approved fashions (vampire or zombie), but some people just have to be different. Like the protagonist of Sandman Slim, who couldn’t even stay put and get tortured like everyone else in Hell- he has to go and escape. (Of course what’s really impressive about Mr. Stark is that he is even able to have adventures after he runs away- I’d have thought he’d spend the rest of his unnatural un-life in various religious buildings yelling “Sanctuary!”).

Life sucks, and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.
Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.
Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

Dead Mann Walking (Hessius Mann #1) by Stefan Petrucha

Dead Mann Walking (Hessius Mann #1)Following in the shuffling footsteps of his predecessors, the eponymous Dead Mann Walking takes an entirely different approach to the afterlife, namely “What the ^&*#! Who did that!?” Brought back to life(ish) against his will, this hero bravely decides to take the unexpected change in his (shambling) stride and gets back into the swing of life(ish). Unfortunately that’s easier said than done. It’s hard enough getting a job with a prison record, but just try explaining that your criminal record was expunged when you were executed. Determined to move on, Mann goes into business for himself as a private eye. At least he’s got good camouflage for stakeouts: shuffling around in the dark is practically an obligation for the undead.

After Hessius Mann was convicted of his wife’s murder, suppressed evidence came to light and the verdict was overturned-too bad he was already executed. But thanks to the miracles of modern science Hessius was brought back to life. Sort of.
Now that he’s joined the ranks of Fort Hammer’s pulse-challenged population, Hessius attempts to make a “living” as a private investigator. But when a missing persons case leads to a few zombies cut to pieces, Hessius starts thinking that someone’s giving him the run-around-and it’s not like he’s in any condition to make a quick getaway…

Many Bloody Returns: Tales of Birthdays with Bite by Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Toni L.P. Kelner and more

Many Bloody Returns: Tales of Birthdays with BiteAnd for our final selection today I am going to completely ignore the theme we’ve been building, and wish myself a happy birthday (this weekend) with Many Bloody Returns

From cakes to stakes, a celebration of everyone’s favorite bloodsucking subculture by a baker’s dozen of favorite authors. Each of these thirteen original stories offers a fresh and unique take on what birthdays mean to the undead. From Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse attending a birthday party for Dracula to Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden battling bloodsucking party crashers, these suspenseful, surprising, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous stories will ensure paranormal fans will never think of vampires or birthdays quite the same again.

Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2Hello out there and welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature. Tabatha is back, and ready to take you on a tour through one of my favorite genres: noir. By now you should know that we at the FFF think half the fun is in mucking around with the genres & themes we highlight, and accordingly this week’s noir selections all feature the generic PI’s, dangerous cities, and dark underbellies as the structure for stories about magic, kangaroos with automatic weapons, and ballroom dancing. Hopefully you all find these novels as intriguing as I do, and will join me on our jaunt through the worlds of crime, danger, and chevaux fatales. 

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet, #3)We’ll begin with a true-to-type noir with L.A. ConfidentialThis book, third in the LA Quartet series, has also inspired one of my favorite movies. The book shows the seedy underside of Hollywood as it explores the city’s crime, its dirty cops, and the would-be-starlets whose dreams did not quite pan out. This modern look back at noir stays true to  the genre, delving deeper into the mystery without the classic noir’s limitations.

Christmas 1951, Los Angeles: a city where the police are as corrupt as the criminals. Six prisoners are beaten senseless in their cells by cops crazed on alcohol. For the three LAPD detectives involved, it will expose the guilty secrets on which they have built their corrupt and violent careers. The novel takes these cops on a sprawling epic of brutal violence and the murderous seedy side of Hollywood. One of the best (and longest) crime novels ever written, it is the heart of Ellroy’s four-novel masterpiece, the LA Quartet, and an example of crime writing at its most powerful.

Gun, with Occasional Music by Johnathan Lethem

Gun, With Occasional MusicOur next entry has just made it onto my must-read list out of sheer curiosity. While maintaining the dark, brooding, crime-riddled noir sense, Gun, with Occasional Music plunges into Science Fiction and drug fantasy along the way to noir without pausing to look around. Lethem has integrated sentient animals as citizens in his city, apparently establishing their person-hood by showing the alacrity which which they have adopted violence and weapons into their new civilization. If only to see how an angry kangaroo is able to wield a gun (I should think it’s legs were weapon enough), I encourage you to join me in this unusual vision of the future. (Also I hear there’s a mystery involved).

Gumshoe Conrad Metcalf has problems-there’s a rabbit in his waiting room and a trigger-happy kangaroo on his tail. Near-future Oakland is a brave new world where evolved animals are members of society, the police monitor citizens by their karma levels, and mind-numbing drugs such as Forgettol and Acceptol are all the rage.
Metcalf has been shadowing Celeste, the wife of an affluent doctor. Perhaps he’s falling a little in love with her at the same time. When the doctor turns up dead, our amiable investigator finds himself caught in a crossfire between the boys from the Inquisitor’s Office and gangsters who operate out of the back room of a bar called the Fickle Muse.
Mixing elements of sci-fi, noir, and mystery, this clever first novel from the author of Motherless Brooklyn is a wry, funny, and satiric look at all that the future may hold.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)In another stunning example of noir’s versatility (who says it has to be just 1940’s private eye’s?) Storm Front is indeed the tale of a private investigator trying to unravel a complicated mystery in a dark city (but that’s mostly because the investigator keeps sleeping all afternoon and only gets to work at night). But Harry Dresden is more than the average investigator, he is (with a nod to Pat Novak) a wizard for hire. Shockingly this is not a very popular job, and Dresden works on the most confusing (and physics-defying) mysteries the big city has to offer, going up against powerful mythic beings (who can get a bit cranky after a few millenia locked in a lead box), other wizards, and (worst of all) the normal people who don’t believe him and keep poking their noses (and vital bits) into dangerous magic. With witty lines and excellent writing Butcher’s series takes the noir into a new realm (literally) and shows us a world where magic is not exactly going to save the day, and that there are much worse things for a brooding private-eye to face down than a gun.

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.
Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.
There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.
Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Queenpin by Megan Abbott

QueenpinOur fourth selection continues the trend of groundbreaking changes. So far we have seen noir altered by talking animals and magic, but now Queenpin gives the genre something even stranger: women. In charge. More than the femmes fatales or victims, Megan Abbott’s novel shows us women who can take charge and outdo any boring old Kingpin. Let’s see what kind of money and mayhem you get when the ladies take over the criminal empire. (And don’t anyone dare say it’ll be a “fashionable” empire. I can hear you thinking it.)

A young woman hired to keep the books at a down-at-the-heels nightclub is taken under the wing of the infamous Gloria Denton, a mob luminary who reigned during the Golden Era of Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano. Notoriously cunning and ruthless, Gloria shows her eager young protege the ropes, ushering her into a glittering demimonde of late-night casinos, racetracks, betting parlors, inside heists, and big, big money. Suddenly, the world is at her feet;as long as she doesn’t take any chances, like falling for the wrong guy. As the roulette wheel turns, both mentor and protege scramble to stay one step ahead of their bosses and each other.

They Shoot Horses Don’t They? by Horace McCoy

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?Our final selection for the day is a true mystery. I present to you an enigma wrapped in a “What the heck?!” I say this for the very simple reason that while I am very intrigued by They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? I also have no idea what to make of it. The title alone would grant it inclusion here (our more regular readers know a title that makes me laugh often merits inclusion as the final entry) but it is the description of dancing with a dark underside (apparently somehow linked with equestrian violence) that  launches this noir into the realm of the truly mysterious. I do hope you enjoy this last entry (and tell me what it’s all about!).

The marathon dance craze flourished during the 1930s, but the underside was a competition and violence unknown to most ballrooms–a dark side that Horace McCoy’s classic American novel powerfully captures. “Were it not in its physical details so carefully documented, it would be lurid beyond itself.”–Nation