Monday, December 11, 2017

Have Yourself A Bookish Little Christmas...


It's time for another Blog Hop! This one is holiday themed, and today's topic is:

What is one book you'd like to find in your stocking this Christmas?
 
Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

I have a very long list of books on my Christmas list this year! Not the least of which is a copy of The Princess Bride by William Goldman (for the second time, actually, since I apparently loaned the copy I owned to someone several years ago, never got it back, and the person who I thought I loaned it to turned out to be incorrect… so I don’t know where it is, so I need it replaced!) but also I would love to get physical copies of the books I don’t have by authors in my network: What We’ve Unlearned: The “Classic Literature Goes Punk” Anthology, Errant Tides by K. M. Vanderbilt, Grave Dealings by R. R. Virdi (I have the ebook, but I’d really like the print copy to go with my copies of the other two!), The Tannis Project by Daryl J. Ball, and Murder in Absentia by Assaph Mehr, to name a few!


Jo Linsdell

There are so many books I’d like to get this year it’s hard to pick just one. I’m going to go with Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. I got a copy of After You a while back. It was super cheap and so I grabbed it, but I want to read them in order. I also want to read them both before I watch the film. With Still Me (the third book) due for release in  January 2018, I really need to get Me Before You.


Belinda Bekkers

My wishlist is too long. I would love to receive a copy of The Gin Closet by Leslie Jamison. I really enjoyed The Empathy Exams and would love to read more of her work. I would also love to receive Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur.




Angela Guidolin

I’d love to find the latest David Icke’s book Everything You Need To Know But Have Never Been Told. His previous books have helped me to make sense of what’s going on in the world because they connect apparently disconnected issues until a bigger picture emerges. Unfortunately, many of the things that David Icke wrote about that were dubbed crazy at the time have come to pass (like the wars against Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan…), proven correct (like when he accused the then Prime Minister Ted Heath of being a paedophile) or are now seriously considered even by mainstream scientists (like the theory of the holographic universe).


Laurie Lucking

I’d love to get The Red Dragon Girl by Lea Doue, which released on November 1st. Lea Doue has just the mix of fantasy, fairy tales, and romance that I adore, and the cover is so gorgeous!!






Skye Hegyes

The list of books I want to read is nearly a mile long, and I’ve begun to seriously appreciate my Kindle app on my phone for that reason. That said, the book I’d like to see under my tree (because it wouldn’t fit in my stocking) the most this year would have to be the Harry Potter Complete Book Series Special Edition Boxed Set by J.K. Rowling because when you line up the spines of the covers, they create an image of Hogwarts, and I think that’s one of the best things in the world.


How about you? What's one book YOU'D love to receive in your stocking? Let us know in the comments! And here's the full schedule of posts for this week, so you know where the hop has been, and where it's going next! 

10th: Belinda Bekkers www.BelindaBekkers.com
Topic: A book you love so much, you want everyone to find it under their Christmas tree this year so they can read it too.

11th: Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com
Topic: A book cover that has a wonderfully Christmas feel to it.

13th: Casia Schreyer www.casiaschreyer.wordpress.com 
Topic: A fictional character you’d like to spend Christmas with.

14th: Laurie Lucking www.landsuncharted.com
Topic: A fictional character you’d like to kiss under the mistletoe.

15th: Angela Guidolin www.angelaguidolin author.co.uk 
Topic: A fictional creature to replace Rudolph and meet on the roof.

16th: Skye Hegyes www.skyehegyes.com 
Topic: 5 fictional characters you’d invite to your New Year’s Eve party.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Serial Saturday: "The Suggestion Box, Vol. 4: A to Z Challenge" Letter W


The List:
-Whitaker, George; Wether, Windy
-Wrexham, Welshpool, Worcester, Wales
-Week, Wednesday, while
-weapon, whiskers, whisper, worn, WRAITHS, windstorm, wind, window, waves, withstand, warble, worry, wall, whistle, wife, waif, watermelon, whiff, word, weapon, wise

The Result:

"Whitaker's Weapon"
 
The wheeling whitejays around his window were the only signs Whitaker had of the heavy winds outside. The towers of Cardiff were designed to withstand hurricanes and tidal waves—what was a little windstorm going to do?

The secure line warbled. Whitaker opened the connection and took a deep whiff. His mind filled with data in that single breath, and he immediately set about filtering through it, exporting all irrelevant information to his comp unit to review at a later time.
So much of it was extraneous data, but the concentration was definitely much less than it might have been, if he did not already have several layers of filters attached to the line before it ever reached him. What little news he could detect worried him deeply.

The WRAITHS in Wrexham had failed; whispers on the Street had indicated that Drake’s identified Faces had been reporting to a certain building near the Wall in that sector. Forthwith, he had dispatched a team to that area, instructing them to wait and watch for any activity before orchestrating a sting. A week passed, without so much as a whistle to show for it.
In Welshpool, the WRAITHS stationed there faced the opposite problem: the area was awash with Street-level activity. It seemed as though every moment a WRAITH spared to pursue a suspicion allowed multiple others to slip away when their backs were turned. They were spread too thin, worn out, and Whitaker was no closer to unmasking the identity of the wily Drake Ross, the mysterious entity who emerged shortly after Whitaker became Chief of Security for all of Wales—and the source of the most trouble for the Welsh Representative Assembly Information Tech Hit Squad ever since.

Whitaker waved the scent stream away. He hated the smell of failure. He turned his attention on something more pleasant: his wife, vacationing in Worcester. “Windy?” he called over his shoulder. The small, spherical bot blinked to life on her coaster-sized charger and wandered over to hover just above his shoulder.
“Take a message to my wife,” he instructed.
Windy gave a small hum as she prepared to record the message.

“Dearest Maeve,” Whitaker dictated, “I hope the weather is clear enough for you in Worcester. It’s positively wretched over here. I miss you a lot, and I have good news, at least. My darling, I have reason to believe that I am closer than ever before to wringing the necks of the worthless wights who plague the Streets with their open wallets and subversive swamping. All the rumor-milling and the conspiracy-grinding will come to an end very soon, and the citizens of Wales will be able to breathe easy without the stench of lies and scandal cluttering up the air. You see, my darling, I have a secret weapon the likes of which the world has never seen. I cannot say much about it, for your sake, darling, but I will tell you this: the Cat has new Whiskers, and she’ll catch the mice just the way she ought. I am counting the days until I see you again. All my love, George”

>>>>>

Far below, even farther down than the Streets of Cardiff, a wispy young girl charged into a tiny room with barely slits for windows. A small family had just sat down to supper.
“Where’s Drake?” she gasped breathlessly.
The older of the two young men sitting at the table gave her a wry glance. “Usual spot,” he muttered.
The waif darted out the door before anyone could utter another sound. She wended her way down the winding alleys, headed for the welcoming sight of Hub 22. Wether, the bouncer out front, saw her coming and rolled his eyes. Had it only been last Wednesday that he tried to throw her out on her arse for coming to see Drake? Here they were, a week later, and Wether just shifted his bulk a few inches to let her slip inside, and continued to watch the milling Street walkers.

She picked out the back of his head immediately, based on his unwashed, perpetually-disheveled hair. He sat at the bar, nursing a pint and muttering soundlessly at the barmaid, Marta. The young redhead sidled up and plunked onto the stool next to him.

Drake caught sight of her and choked on his words.
“Bea!” He spluttered, catching himself before mentioning her whole name.
Marta grinned, her bouncy brown curls spilling over her shoulders like a cascading waterfall. “And who might this be?” She winked at the girl. “Ya never struck me as a family man, Ross.”
“She ain’t family,” Drake snarled. “This here’s Bea, I’m just showin’ ‘er the ropes.”
Marta rolled her brilliant-blue eyes. “Whatever,” she muttered. “As we were saying—“
“Drake,” Bea interjected. “It’s important! It’s about the cat!”
Drake held up a finger to Marta and turned to the girl at his side. “What?” He grunted.
Bea pulled out her wallet and sent the letter to his receptacle wirelessly. The less said out loud, the better. “Found it while I was combing. Looks like we aren’t the only ones using the metaphor.”
Drake displayed no change in his demeanor as he drained his beer and stood up from the barstool. Bea hopped down beside him. Marta could see the worry on his face, though, and she had known him long enough to understand exactly what prompted such a reaction.
“Duty calls,” he told her with a shrug.
Marta nodded. “Another time,” she replied.

Once they were in the clear, waiting in an alley with no one nearby, Drake ordered, “All right, Bianca—tell me everything.”
She nodded. “Okay; yesterday I got wind of a new filter widget that allows the user to track certain mentions, actually changing the scent of that particular strain of aether, to make it easier to find. Since cat is a search term I’ve heard you use a lot, I put it on there. That’s how I found the letter; he’s just sent it this morning—this could be the break we’ve been looking for!”
Drake crossed his arms over his chest and squinted at the young girl suspiciously. “New widget, huh? Send it over.”
Bianca pulled out her wallet and opened the settings; culling the data file for the widget, she waved the wallet up toward Drake’s receptacle. Meanwhile, the burly hacker decided to use this moment to review the ground rules. “And what have I told you about new tech?”
“Already vetted!” Bianca retorted. “Hey, I can be careful! There’s no way this can be tracked, I made sure.”
Drake felt an extra boost in his aether-sensitive sinuses as the widget activated, complete with the settings Bianca had already applied; to change them, he would have to return to the Bunker and load it onto his comp unit. The usual stench of the Street “either” (aether soured by misinformation and outright lies that permeated the lower levels) now carried a hint of another scent, one that made Drake’s lips curl.
“Did you… Is that—“
“Watermelon?” Bianca supplied, as Drake fought the urge to barf. “Yeah, I gave it that scent; now anytime somebody mentions the search term in the right context, we’ll smell it.”
Drake pinched his lips and wrinkled his nose. “Ya couldn’t bloody pick something a little more subtle, could ya?”
Bianca frowned. “Hey, I like watermelon!”
Drake shook his head. “Awwright, so what context parameters have you set?”
Bianca nodded. “Since we didn’t want just any mention of a cat, I paired it with the other word mentioned in the letter—weapon.”
“Cat, weapon,” Drake nodded. “Seems wise.” He clapped her on the shoulder. “Let’s head back to the bunker and you can show me how to program this thing.” 
>>>>>

 Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of something that will probably end up FAR in the future--"The Red Dragon of Wales", a cyberpunk adventure planned as part of a series called The Britannica Cycle. So far, this one is the only one that I've actually started, mostly because I had a bunch of world-building ideas from the outset, so I had to take them for a "test run." To read other excerpts I've written, you can find this title on The Shelf.

Also in the A-to-Z Challenge Series: ( * Continuations of Suggestion Box installments)

-Letter A* ]     [-Letter K* ]          [-Letter T*
-Letter B* ]     [-Letter L* ]          [-Letter U
-Letter C   ]     [-Letter M  ]         [-Letter V
-Letter D   ]     [-Letter N* ]         [-Letter W
-Letter E   ]     [-Letter O   ]         [-Letter X
-Letter F   ]     [-Letter P   ]         [-Letter Y
-Letter G  ]     [-Letter Q* ]         [-Letter Z 
-Letter H  ]     [-Letter R
-Letter I* ]     [-Letter S*

 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Serial Saturday: "The Suggestion Box, Vol. 4: A to Z Challenge" Letter V

The List:
-Vanessa
-Valentine's Day
-Vestibule, veranda, New Vada
-Vest, voluminous, vagrant, villain, victory, vaudeville, velvet, violet, Victorian, vintage, version, various, vacillation, vindicate, vehicle, voice, vehemently, vitriol, volatile, vampire, vicious, valedictorian

The Result:
 
"The Valentine’s Day Vigil"

As Tricia entered the Valley wing, she gave vent to a small sigh. The main floor of The Vestibule, Peres’ exclusive boutique, verily crawled with android attendants. Various stations around the store held everything necessary for every stage of the beautifying process.

“Good morning, Tricia! Welcome to The Vestibule,” cried a vivacious blond-haired Android with a voluminous perm and a wide, toothy smile. “My name is Sondra, I’ll be getting you ready for your hot date with President Parisian!”
The pretty young recruit gave a slight smile as Sondra projected a life-size digital version of herself in the air before her.
“First things first!” she declared, “We’ll decide the look you want, and each vendor will receive the instructions for their specific part. All you have to do is visit the various stylists and you’ll come out looking exactly the way you should!” Sondra smiled. “Before we get started, do you have a style programming card?”
Tricia obediently slid the small wafer-drive out of her wallet. Xavier had arranged for its delivery a month ago, and she had to wait until now to find out what would be on it. He hadn’t said much about it, but the gossip among the escorts informed her that he had always been very particular about the outfits his assistants wore, and whatever he had chosen for Valentine’s Day would be spectacular indeed.
Sondra slipped the card into a socket over her hip, and the “base model” of Tricia briefly flickered out of existence. When the image returned, Tricia half expected it to be something scant, like the frilly vaudeville-style outfits favored by other escort clients. Instead, the model remained the same, except a bright, flashing message displayed in front of it: “NO PREPROGRAM DETECTED; PLEASE SELECT A CATEGORY FROM THE MENU TO BEGIN.”

“Well!” Sondra sighed, “What else could one expect for the Valedictorian of all the Escort Recruits!”
Tricia felt all sensation drain from her over-pinned head to her stilting stilettos. Xavier Parisian, the man who demanded perfection in absolutely every area, was letting her choose the outfit tonight! What did it mean? She wasn’t used to such favor; she knew the rumors flying from between vicious lips: how she had secretly seduced him, how she pretended not to have money, but she was rich enough to pay off absolutely everyone involved with the competition to ensure her spot at the front, or how she might even be blackmailing Mr. Parisian with some scandal from his past to influence his favor. She heard them all, and yet she set them aside as easily as they came into her hearing, concentrating on maintaining her virtue wherever she could.
Tricia selected the “DRESS” category, and scrolled down through the “Vintage” styles until she found the one she wanted.
“Wonderful!” Sondra gushed, “May I suggest a few hairstyles to go along with the dress you have selected?”
[...]

Tricia sat in the vehicle, trying to relax amid the mounds of velvet and hoopskirts. A vague, unsettled feeling nagged at the back of her psyche. She closed her eyes and concentrated on taking slow, measured breaths, bringing to mind all the self-affirmation techniques OPHELIA had taught her: “Visualize your best self; state your goal directly and clearly; vaunt your strongest qualities to the forefront, as these will propel you toward your goals…”
“YOU HAVE ARRIVED,” the deep bass voice of the self-driving vehicle announced. The door hissed open on hidden hydraulics, and Tricia spied the location Xavier had picked for their dinner: The New Vada Lounge, also known among the escorts as “Vada-Voom” because of its exclusivity, which in turn made it a prime location for a high-profile evening.

President Xavier himself stood upon the veranda, wearing a tuxedo with a vest the same color as Tricia’s dress: a deep, regal violet. His blue eyes looked deeper than ever as he descended the steps to meet her. Tricia blushed under his stare, and curtseyed before him.
“Victorian!” He cried, gazing over the spreading skirts and the round, off-shoulder sleeves. His touch lingered along her bare shoulder, headed toward the delicate crystal riviere around her neck. He murmured softly, “I like it. Nobody’s worn that for centuries.”
I know, Tricia thought to herself. That’s why I chose it for this occasion.
Xavier nodded his approval. “I knew you would choose wisely; that’s why I let you. Out of all the other girls, Tricia, you have this air about you--I wish I knew what it was!”
How much easier it would be if she could tell him! But no; she remained silent for now. She could speak when the time was right.
He led her around the corner to a separate dining area with tall windows, a single table, and a wide dance floor. Tricia felt her scalp prickle under the sleek updo studded with tiny amethysts when she saw the figure standing anxiously at attention near the door: Herman Haggerty, the Vice President of the whole Peres Corporation. He appeared vastly less confident today than he had before, but she didn’t see any cause to assume that his vendetta had lost any momentum. The investigations and the trials were still well underway. This would be her last chance to save whatever innocent souls she could before the axe fell.

For now, Xavier led her to the table. “I thought we’d have something to eat first,” he said, “and then a bit of dancing before dessert. I hear you’re quite the vivacious little pixie when there’s music playing, my dear little Trixie!”
[...]
Tricia maintained her silence through the whole meal. Inside, she wailed at the top of her voice, begging God for mercy and forgiveness, asking Him for the words to speak before this volatile man. It seemed only a few moments had passed before the sweet lilt of the violins drew her from her musings. Xavier stood and took her hand, leading the way as they meandered out to the dance floor. Even Herman joined them, as he had enlisted the services of one of Tricia’s fellow escorts, by the name of Heather. They swept around the space as the hidden music played at a measured pace.
Xavier leaned in close, his voice traveling right into her ear as his breath tickled her neck.
“So why don’t you tell me what this is about, eh, Trixie? Three months, three dates, just like you wanted, right? Now will you tell me what is bothering you? That promotion is still yours for the taking. Tell me you want it!”
Tricia still held her lips closed. It wasn’t time--why wasn’t it time?

Xavier stopped dancing. The music ceased as soon as he did.
“Tricia.” His voice was low, with a dangerous edge to it. “You cannot violate the one place in the vicinity where I can truly be myself—and simply not say why. What was so important? Tell me.”

She looked into his eyes.
Now; ah, now she had his attention.
Carefully, she leaned forward and whispered in his ear, “Vindicate me.”

He stepped back from her, but did not release her hand. “What?”
She licked her lips and plunged ahead. “I’ve just received a court summons to appear on trial for acts I did not commit, based on the testimonies of people I do not know, supposedly under the orders of supervisors I never worked for—“
“Stop!” Xavier raised his hand with a frown. “When did this happen? Recently? Are you sure it is not some kind of misunderstanding?”
Tricia held her ground. “Oh, I assure you, my accuser stands upon a mountain of blackmail, fraud, slander, and deceit that he has built for himself. There is no vacillation of malicious intent on his part.”
Xavier’s face flushed to a bright vermillion as his anger flared. “Does your accuser not know that accusing you is equivalent to disparaging me, because I chose you, Tricia Carson?”
By now even Herman stood rooted to the spot, staring in abject horror at the scene unfolding before him.

“There is something else, Xavier,” she went on, licking her lips and sending up a quick prayer. “My name isn’t Tricia Carson. It’s Vanessa; Vanessa Decker. I used a cover identity to fit in with this culture better, because I was vulnerable as the daughter of a former Integra employee.”

Silence engulfed them like a vacuum at the declaration. Vanessa (my, but it felt good to use her own name again!) heard a strangled choke from behind her, and knew that victory over the villain was not far off.
She reached into the pocket of her skirt and pulled out a portable video projector.
“If you don’t believe me,” she said, “I have proof.” She opened the display and activated the clip, a news blurb that had already aired on screens and surfaces all around the corporate city. There, they saw the long file of employees in prison-issued jumpsuits, fed one at a time through the doors to the courtroom, where they faced the vitriol of people conditioned to despise Integra and everything it stood for, since not a one of them actually knew anything about the company. The vigilant reporter went on to inform the audience that the one responsible was none other than recently-promoted Vice President Of Human Resources, Herman Haggerty, a man vehemently opposed to what he called “dead weight in the company.” It was his vigorous efforts, said she, that resulted in the suspension and accusation of hundreds of Peres employees, all in the name of President Parisian. The reporter affirmed that all Integra employees and their families were affected by this vendetta, as they were all slated for imprisonment in an administrative prison facility in Florence, Colorado.

Vanessa looked up from the visceral footage when she heard the door close. Xavier headed down the verdant garden path—did he believe her? Would he act and save these people for her sake? Or were her efforts in vain?

“Madam!” Whimpered a voice behind her.
Vanessa turned as Herman slumped to his knees on the vinyl wood flooring. He clasped his quivering hands.
“Please forgive me! Don’t let him be too harsh on me! I—I had no idea you were one of them! I would never have been so broad in my verbiage if I had known—“

She couldn’t even look at his face anymore. Her father was awaiting his turn to be sentenced to one of the most violent and hellish prisons in the country. She turned away without a word, to hide her tears.

“No, wait! Please!”
A tug on her skirt stopped her, and she turned around.
Herman had his vile grasp on her hem, and he stood, keeping a hold on it. “Please don’t—“
“Let go of me!” Vanessa cried, trying to pull away, but he had caught her off balance, and she didn’t have the traction to gain momentum. Her heel slipped on the smooth vinyl, and she toppled to her knees amid a cushion of velvet.

Immediately, the door burst open and Xavier rushed in, tuxedo disheveled and eyes full of fire. He made straight for Herman, his hands closing around the man’s neck as he shoved him back against the windows.
“YOU DARE!” He roared. “YOU DARE TOUCH THIS GIRL I HAVE CHOSEN, AFTER THREATENING HER LIFE AND BESMIRCHING MY NAME FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR OWN EGO?”
Herman struggled and strained for breath, but Xavier’s grip was too strong.
“Men like you are nothing but vicious, insatiable vampires,” growled the President. “Sucking dry those around them in a vain attempt at slaking your own desires, but never finding the satisfaction.” His grip released slightly, but only enough for the traitor to take one thin gasp. “It’s you who are the dead weight in my company, taking funds, time, and energy and wasting it on yourselves.” Xavier shoved Herman down to the floor again, signaling his guards forward as the villain lay retching for breath.
“Call up the embassy in Thailand and arrange for transport,” Xavier grunted. “I hear they have a prison vicious enough to hold this viper.”
Herman let out a strangled whimper; he knew from his extensive research (or rather, the research he had Heather do) exactly where he was headed.

Once the guards departed, Xavier summoned another android.
“Tell me, is there a prison transport caravan headed for Colorado?” He asked.
“There is, Sir,” she replied.
“Cancel it immediately,” he declared. “No one from Peres Corp is headed that way. As for the trials...” he pressed his lips in thought. “Let the Legal Department know that as of this moment, they have all been reassigned to the defendants’ cases. Also, if they would like to retain their current employment and maintain their impeccable reputation, they had better win.”
The android blinked her eyes. “Understood, Sir.”

Vanessa felt all the tension in her body evaporate. They were saved! Xavier turned and helped her to her feet.
“Well, I would say that this night has been the most productive Valentine’s evening I have had in a long time!” He declared. “I feel like this deserves some kind of victory celebration.” He smiled at her, his vibrant eyes twinkling. “And it looks like the office of Vice President Of Human Resources has an unexpected vacancy. You wouldn’t happen to know anyone you could recommend, hey, Tri—I mean, Vanessa?”
She returned his smile and slipped her hands behind his neck as he placed his about her waist. “I do know a man who would make a venerable Vice President.”
They swayed together as the violins resumed their music.
>>>>>>>>>>

This story is a scene from an as-yet-unfinished project, based on the story of Esther, called "Focal Point." It is planned as part of a series called "The ReBible" series, adaptations of Biblical accounts, written in a modern storytelling style as either historical fiction or sci-fi cyberpunk (such as this one.) Click the hyperlinked text, or choose "The ReBible Series" from the menu bar across the top of this blog to read more excerpts from this and other books in the series.



Also in the A-to-Z Challenge Series: ( * Continuations of Suggestion Box installments)

-Letter A* ]     [-Letter K* ]          [-Letter T*
-Letter B* ]     [-Letter L* ]          [-Letter U
-Letter C   ]     [-Letter M
-Letter D   ]     [-Letter N*
-Letter E   ]     [-Letter O
-Letter F   ]     [-Letter P
-Letter G  ]     [-Letter Q*
-Letter H  ]     [-Letter R
-Letter I* ]     [-Letter S*

 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Reader's Review: "Grave Dealings" by R. R. Virdi


Synopsis from Amazon:

Don't make deals with the paranormal. They're better at it than you, and they never play fair.


Paranormal investigator and soul without a body, Vincent Graves, did just that—a deal made in desperation. Now it's coming back to bite him in the middle of a case.
He has 57 hours to investigate a string of deaths involving people who've made some devilish bargains. Too bad devils don't deal in good faith. It'd be easy enough, if he didn't have to deal with things such as:
  • Being hunted through the streets of Queens by a dark elf with a motorcycle fetish.
  • Ending up the target of a supernatural hit.
  • An old acquaintance dragging him to a paranormal ball where he could end up on the menu.
  • And having one of his closest guarded secrets brought to light...

    Not great for a tight clock, because if he doesn't get to the bottom of this case in time, Vincent and company might just lose their souls.

    Dirty deals are never done dirt cheap. And the supernatural always collect—big!
  • >>>>>>>

    My Review:

    Hang on to your feels!

    I have been an ardent fan of Virdi’s writing since the first Grave Report book. The first two books, I would say, were a constant roller-coaster of thrills and wild romps through monsters and lore, with plenty of opportunity for sarcastic clap-backs and goofy nerd references that had me giggling in between intense scenes of comical peril.

    This one was different. GRAVE DEALINGS is a bit darker, more somber and serious in tone, and so much in-depth character development and introspection that I found myself taking it in far more slowly than the other two books. Vince receives the longest time limit of all his cases so far, and yet he spends a good long time in the Neravene with Lyshae, which skews the proportion of time for him, so even though he had supposedly so much extra time, he really wasn’t able to use it much on the case itself before it was gone.

    Something else Virdi does in this book that makes it distinct from the other two is that we really get a sense of a long game. It’s no longer about Vince living from case to case; things happen that broaden the story arc to encompass more than just Vince and his strange “life”; there are political machinations happening that will affect Vince not just in this particular adventure, but sometime in an installment to come.

    Basically, if you make it through Book Three, you are a True Fan—and you are locked in for the long haul.

    Oh, and by the way, (minor spoiler), Vince’s new host isn’t a random recluse with very little social life like Norman; it isn’t someone under close watch in a protected environment like Charles.

    The body he’s taken on (or put into, as it were) was someone very close to none other than Camilla Ortiz. So there is that extremely sensitive dimension he has to deal with, along with the strange case of the friends around his host experiencing extraordinary fortune in their business endeavors, while certain people connected to them suddenly drop dead. 

    This monster he chases is particularly diabolical, and the peril he faces is more intense and threatens more than just the life of his erstwhile host—Vince’s very survival is threatened.

    The thing that I love most about this book is that it serves as irrefutable proof that Virdi unequivocally has what it takes to avoid the muddle of a long series that takes on a formula. He has managed to create three very distinct adventures. Just when you think you are comfortable enough to start predicting how things are going to turn out, Virdi throws in another plot twist, another threat that completely thwarts what we think ought to happen, yet setting up a whole new way of resolving the conflict.

    Yet again, Virdi pulls off the seeming impossible, and for that, GRAVE DEALINGS earns a *****5 STAR***** rating, and just in case I have been too reticent, I would also like to append an Upstream Writer Certified ABSOLUTELY RECOMMENDED. This book was absolutely stellar through and through, I love the way GRAVE DEALINGS functions in the longer arc, and I am definitely looking forward to many, MANY more adventures in store as the series unfolds!  

    Further Reading: (Intense/Urban Fantasy/Paranormal/Supernatural)
    The Untamed Series--Madeline Dyer
           -Untamed
           -Fragmented
    The Chronicles of Lorrek--Kelly Blanchard
            -Someday I'll Be Redeemed
            -I Still Have A Soul
            -I'm Still Alive 
    The Fair Folk Chronicles--Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
            -Foul is Fair
            -Street Fair
            -A Fair Fight 
    The Therian Way--Kimberly Rogers
           -Leopard's Heart
           -Wolf's Path
           -Tiger's Shadow
    Talented Series--Amy Hopkins
         -Dream Stalker
         -Barrow Fiend 
    The Books of Winter--R. R. Virdi
           -Dangerous Ways 
    The Cadeau Series--Connie Olvera
           -Who Can You Trust? 
    Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
         -Escape From Neverland
         -Dance Into The Wyrd
    Tales of the Fallen--Katika Schneider
           -Devotion  
    Judah Black Series--E. A. Copen
           -Guilty By Association 
    Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden--James Osiris Baldwin
            -Burn Artist 
            -Blood Hound