Flesh for the Zombies (short story) by Anthony Renfro

Reading has been a tad slow these days and I’m kind of feeling like I’m cheating on this Goodreads challenge because I’ve been reading a lot of short stories and comics/graphic novels but I guess this does work because its really been a whole new adventure. However, the world is much better in smaller doses especially when I finally got around to checking out Anthony Renfro’s new short story Flesh for the Zombies. For those who don’t know, Anthony is one of us bloggers and he is also a writer. You can find him at Haiku, Poetry and Occasional Hullabaloo and his newer blog, One Writer Ranting. Over the years, Anthony has been great and its always great to get a free copy of his book because I do love his writing a lot. Flesh for the Zombies continues with the story of Mike Beem which is a pretty cool character that has been around for a few short stories already.

Flesh for the Zombies
by: Anthony Renfro

flesh for the zombies

When Mike Beem’s community is savagely attacked, he must exact revenge on those who wronged him. He must put aside all the good he has ever accomplished in order to become someone else. A man without a moral compass. A man without right or wrong. A man who is a cold blooded killer. Will he get his justice or will he die trying? The answers lie within the pages of this short story. – Goodreads

What started with A Zombie Christmas turned into A Zombie Christmas 2 and now we have Flesh for the Zombies which follows a very cool bad-ass with quite a soft heart who makes the best out of a sudden zombie apocalypse. Mike Beem is a great character created by Anthony Renfro for these stories and despite these only being short stories, the events Mike Beem goes through and the way he talks and his actions truly allows the readers to see who he is. With Flesh for the Zombies, the story dives a little deeper as the community he built is not destroyed by a group of people who has taken the zombie apocalypse and gone the different direction of how he chose by making things a living hell and when they choose to destroy his community that he’s built with positivity and create a safe(r) haven for what is going on outside, it turns a side of Mike Beem and makes not only us but the character itself question the limits of his actions especially in the face of hard choices. Its not to say that in the face of a zombie apocalypse there won’t be hard choices even before but the tone of Flesh of the Zombies has matured quite a bit from when we first saw Mike Beem and his desire to bring Christmas from the survivors of his neighborhood. To me, that shows improvement and character depth all of which makes me happy to see that the author has chosen this new path. For those who have read A Zombie Christmas, we already know that the author likes to take a different approach to this zombie apocalypse business and its quite creative. The most impressive part for Flesh for the Zombies is it takes it down a very different path with very intriguing results making this a very fulfilling short story.

Overall, Flesh for the Zombies takes a turn down a deeper and darker path for an impressive character that gives it some character depth. Packed with vivid description and some hard choices for the protagonist to make, this short story is a page turner and one that stands together well with the Mike Beem stories from before, A Zombie Christmas 1 & 2 but also should stand well enough by itself as it is self-contained.

Links to buy the short story (if you are interested)

Friends with Partial Benefits (Friends with Benefits #1) by Luke Young

It does feel like forever since I’ve written a book review. Maybe not, the last one was A Good Marriage, I believe. (It’s been really busy…) Either way, I figured after some awesome reading, I’d go for some contemporary book that has been just sitting around in my Kindle for a long time. I have to admit that the reason I’ve been straying away from this one for so long is because the cover kind of makes me laugh a little. While there has been a lot of these sexy novels in my readings in the past year (not erotica because I can’t quite categorize this one in there), there has been some surprises. Some quite pleasant surprises, in fact. So, I really go into these with an open mind and hope to just finish this with a light and fun time. Expect to see some more of this alternating between genres just to keep things interesting for myself.

Let’s check out this first book and I’ll tell you if I’ll consider continuing on with this series!

Friends with Partial Benefits
by: Luke Young

Friends with Partial Benefits

Jillian Grayson is a disillusioned divorcée and best-selling romance novelist who suddenly can’t write a chapter without her hunky male heartthrob suffering ED, an STD, or even worse. Brian Nash is a tennis-obsessed college senior who’s unlucky in love and the roommate and best friend of Jillian’s son, Rob. When Rob brings Brian home for Spring Break, and Brian meets the surprisingly young and tennis passionate Jillian, their shared interest quickly develops into an intense mutual attraction. After nearly giving in to their feelings, they hatch a plan, while under the influence (of something more than just the perfect Miami night), to be Friends With Partial Benefits, complete with rules to define the boundaries. Will the lonely pair continue with this distinctive relationship, actually explore their desires, or discover all of it is a really bad idea? – Goodreads

Friends With Partial Benefits is really not a bad way to start a series. In fact, it redeems itself quite well in finding the balance between being sexy (not erotic) and romantic. Sure, its a little hard to relate because of the age of the character and just how daring she is but a part of books, just like movies, are appealing because they lead us to a experience something exciting and differently from our own reality. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are criticisms. A few of them that drew me away from the immersion however, for the fact that finds a good balance and keeps the style pretty easy to read, if you like this genre, its not a bad read especially since its a legit length for a debut and its free which I always think is a nice and smart way to get audience.

Contemporary romances are so hard to find nowadays where our sex and manhoods are not mentioned. Don’t blame me. That is what these books like to refer to these body parts so just using the lingo to also prevent a ton of odd search terms.  However, what I am getting at is that, while attraction and emphasis on mesmerizing over “manhoods and sexes” seem quite key to having greater attraction, making it seem pretty creepy, there is a nice way of making it about building on that relationship and not hopping on for a ride right away. (Did I just write that? What have I become?) While Friends with Partial Benefits does have its attractive young guy and lovely best friend’s mom, there is still an effort to focus on the development of these relationships despite still adding in the rather fun/funny and to me, a little far-fetched circumstances. However, I do believe far-fetched ideas are acceptable because it is an imaginary story so you can let these fantastical courage happen even if its a little ridiculous. These characters are fun so that is a huge plus.My main issue with this one is really in a bit of clunky writing. The writing style sometimes feels like it doesn’t flow well into the next scene. Especially as it takes on the views of two characters (or maybe three).

I’ve commented in previous reviews of similar genres about these things but I feel that this book is also commendable as a free debut because it is a full size book that sets up the stage for the further sequels and its free to legitimately see if you like the characters to invest into the series. Its characters are pretty fleshed out and even if you don’t continue the series, its not an open ended conclusion but a point in time that can be continued with other life events for these characters. A side note that I have been appreciative of in the past year particularly. Being self-contained is very important and really showing that respecting the reader makes this one even more appealing to myself. Along with the fact that it wasn’t just a thousand sex scenes stringed together. There is an actual story building up in this one as crazy as a lot of the character decisions were.

Friends With Partial Benefits has its issues but it also does have some fun characters and scenes. There is a nice development and foundation built for these characters despite some clunky dialogue and flow problems in the writing. The passionate scenes are done well and seeks to be seductive but never into the full on sexual area. Finding that middle is hard but this one definitely is on the right track. It will be interesting to see where this goes although I have this odd feeling of watching a soap opera at times or potential for it, so for now, I’m putting this one on hold but in consideration to continue on. If this is a genre you enjoy, you might like it.

Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Sigil Dragon by Tim Symonds

***Thanks very much to the author for reaching out to me to review his newest novel!***

Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Sigil Dragon
By: Tim Symonds

sherlock holmes and the nine-sigil dragon

It’s the year 1906. Rumours abound that a deadly plot is hatching – not in the fog-ridden back-alleys of London’s Limehouse district or the sinister Devon moors of the Hound of the Baskervilles but in faraway Peking. Holmes’s task – discover whether such a plot exists and if so, foil it. But are the assassins targeting the young and progressive Ch’ing Emperor or his imperious aunt, the fearsome Empress Dowager Cixi? The murder of either could spark a civil war. The fate of China and the interests of Britain’s vast Empire in the Orient could be at stake. Holmes and Watson take up the mission with their customary confidence – until they find they are no longer in the familiar landscapes of Edwardian England. Instead, they tumble into the Alice In Wonderland world of the Forbidden City. – Goodreads

Sherlock Holmes is everywhere now. He has been reinterpreted for the big screen and in television, modernized to the 21st century and even so much time after still capturing the hearts of a lot of readers. It is suffice to say that Arthur Conan Doyle created a beyond iconic character and investigative team with Sherlock and Dr.Watson. I feel that I need to justify that I have ONLY read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and none of the other stories. I just never got around to it. Especially when it also happens to be the first book review I did here and needs revision so much. To say that I know the Sherlock Holmes character well via literature is a huge stretch but I feel that most of Holmes books are rather case by case so lets just jump right in.

Tim Symonds has written a few of these Sherlock Holmes follow-up novels building his own cases. I have not read them but I do feel it incredibly coincidental that he happens to set me up with this one which is set in China back in the Empress Dowager days. Perfect setting and great use of historic characters. Empress Dowager and the emperor at the time along with her renowned and powerful eunuch and all these colorful characters in history makes for a great story. The mysteries in the Forbidden Palace however for myself was not so well concealed because I did grow up with a lot of this Chinese history material and I had suspected the who quite early in the story.

Sherlock Holmes and the Nine Sigil Dragon however does have a great writing. The more classical English is always fun to read. It is a change in pace (especially for myself) and there are much less frequently used words which may require a dictionary to grasp but the context is always on track. The writing captures what I remember Sherlock and Dr. Watson’s dynamic together. However, the pacing leaves a little to be desired. A strong start is always tricky and yet while I did enjoy the story when it picked up a few chapters in, the trip to China at the start felt a little slow. It might be the process of getting used to reading the most sophisticated writing (which is a high probability).

Going back to the characters, I feel that the need to show the interest in English and how they did speak it broken or not was a little unnecessary. The characters themselves goes without saying that we can assume who they are. Perhaps because I do speak Chinese that it became bothersome to have to read the same words in their romanized Mandarin form while also reading it with the English term. It felt a little like a Chinese lesson. However, it does come into context. Little nitpicks on my part. Also, this world is complicated. The Forbidden City and the ranks and their characters and the traditions and formalities are all depicted quite well. My suggestion to those that plan on reading this: make use of the glossary in the back because it will has a great purpose even to deeper understand what certain things mean.

In fact, even for myself, growing up outside of China, there are little details that I wasn’t aware of or just sometimes slips my mind. In those moments, when the mystery and the investigation starts going more in depth. The pieces start falling together. I always love the deciphering the case and what happens because that is when the details really come together perfectly and the author has done a great job in doing so. The mystery is fun. It uses and respects a lot of the history and the nature of these characters and the complexities behind the walls of Forbidden City and the politics of the entire situation.

Overall, Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Sigil Dragon is a good read. It dives into Chinese history and enters into the Forbidden City, bringing to life some of the iconic historic people that actually was a big deal. The mystery itself is feasible and the writing is done very well. While, the beginning could have been paced better and there were small things in the charaterization that left a little to be desired, the story works well once it picks up and offers a great mystery to solve.

Fighting Grief (Knockout #1) by Kellie Perkins

The first book of the year usually is what I had to put down during the holidays and didn’t get a chance to wrap up until the last few days. I have some lovely books sent to me lately which I need to read next but before those this one needs to be wrapped up and I had the perfect opportunity to finish it when I was waiting for a software to download and install. Fighting Grief is a first book in a trilogy and while it costs $1.XX on Amazon right now, I did get it when it was a free book back in 2014 or something.

Let’s check it out!

Fighting Grief (Knockout #1)
by: Kellie Perkins

Fighting Grief

Keeva O’Brien has lost all desire to work for a dream that was never really hers. Keeva’s brother, Luke, was the one who wanted her to go to college, the one who wanted her to be something more than he or their parents. Luke raised her, gave up everything to be there for Keeva after their parents died. But when Luke died, Keeva could no longer see the point.  When new bartender, Nash Pierce, begins working at the same restaurant where Keeva works, she has no interest in his charm. All she wants is to forget her grief, to forget that everything that had made her world make sense died in an instant when her brother was killed while fighting for an underground MMA club. Nash is willing to help her do that. – Goodreads

Am I glad that I didn’t read the synopsis on Goodreads before I started this book? If you were to shrink this book into 3 paragraphs, that is generally the version you’d use because its not a synopsis. It highlights almost everything you need to decipher the ending which was obvious from the moment Nash enters the picture, by the way. I’m getting ahead of myself now.

Fighting Grief isn’t a bad novel aside from its painfully obvious situation of who Nash is and what happens to Keeva. In fact, it does itself justice by focusing on the romance and the healing and expanding on getting to somewhat understand the characters a little, while even trickling in with some conversations with supporting characters. All those aspects of Fighting Grief is good. I’d even say that the writing is fun and quick to read while still remembering to never dive into the erotica area and just dabble on the surface of a romance and the connection that Keeva and Nash have for each other. I do think that the writing can be polished a little more but this is the first book I’ve read of Kellie Perkins so I’m sure there is room for much improvement and probably has in the later books.

However, Fighting Grief is a very generic story about tragic loss and the ending is painfully obvious as I mentioned before. In fact, the only reason I did keep reading it unfortunately was to prove myself right or let the book prove me wrong. Plus, I’m not one to start a book and not at least give it a chance to redeem itself. There is merit here and I can see the appeal for some people but for me, it felt a little too obvious. There are coincidences and then there are “coincidences” if you know what I mean. Plus, there are moments when I didn’t really like our main character Keeva. I get that she is grieving but she seems incredibly immature for someone who has been thrown into unfortunate situation since she was young.

Overall, I feel like I already have a general idea where the next two books in the trilogy might go if it is as predictable as this one. While I do wonder how it will all play out, it isn’t quite enough for me to pick up the second book. However, if you want a quick romance read, this might fit the bill.

Never Kiss a Bad Boy by Nora Flite

Remember in the haul post yesterday when I said that I had to get a book because its original trilogy format was changed to just one book and I had to make that purchase, this is said book. It was originally called For the Thrill but now its just called Never Kiss the Bad Boy. If this was the first title I had seen, I would have passed over it but oh well, it is what it is. I don’t like feeling like I didn’t finish a book so it just had to be done.

Let’s check it out!

Never Kiss a Bad Boy
by: Nora Flite

Never Kiss a Bad Boy

Could you fall in love with a killer? How about two?When hiring a hitman, it’s important to remember two rules.
One: Pay in cash.  And two: Don’t sleep with him. –Goodreads

 I’ve reviewed a few erotica novels here this past year. Its definitely a whole different ball park. Before this year, the only erotica I had read was Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and I think it was before I wrote book reviews here. Suffice to say that erotica is a tricky genre to appreciate. I feel that everyone has a different idea of what they are looking for when they read adult fiction. If you have read some of my previous reviews, I haven’t been particularly happy with them because most of the time, the female character is somewhat unfairly portrayed, making it lack somewhat of the realistic feeling of what I’d like to see. As I mentioned before, I started Never Kiss a Bad Boy when I was reading For The Thrill which is the first book of the trilogy it was before it was put together into one book. While I appreciate the move, I actually had more fun reading For the Thrill in itself than finishing up the entire book. The story took somewhat of a predictable turn by the end but to be fair, I did really enjoy the characters and the fact that it used all three main characters to narrate different chapters so there was a good grasp of who these people were and gave them time to charm the reader and like them even in the most odd way of having this three way relationship. The only complaint I did have with this one is that the incredibly well constructed and extremely steamy sex scenes overpowered the story beneath of finding a killer and seeking revenge which with a better balance would have made this book have much more substance. Don’t get me wrong though. I love steamy sex scenes that don’t make me cringe because they are so fun to read and this one has a ton of them. I just also was intrigued by the story behind it that could have been built a little more if it was for a sex scene every other chapter.

With that said, I need to talk about our characters. The “bad boy” here are actually “bad boys” because it features two ex-hit men who just finished their last job: the calm and calculated Jacob and very social butterfly Kite. Together they make a great team. In fact, they even have a blood brother bond which leads into their last job attracting the attention of Marina who was tracking down the man they killed to find the lead of who murdered her family when she was a little girl. Because of that, she went on a hunt for these hit men to help her. They agree after some manipulation but to their surprise, they start falling for each other. Marina is a tough girl and very focused. Her life is restricted and lonesome (much like Jacob and Kite) because she is haunted by her past and wants to have the revenge in order to hopefully let it go even if it means that she’ll die. She’s extreme that way, but as we learn more about her, you can’t really blame her. Somehow, Marina, Jacob and Kite form a connection. Well, its hard to resist to hot men but Jacob and Kite are portrayed as something more, whether its their mysterious personality or their story, it pulls them all closer together and because of the blood brother bond, Jacob and Kite finally decide that they only way they can be with Marina is having her together and of course she agrees and from there, the story keeps going. Expect lots of threesome steamy sex scenes in this one. The fun part of this book though is that the characters do act a little different from what we’d expect and that gives them a fun element and something to think about because each of them are changing because of meeting the other, whether its Jacob or Kite changing because of Marina or Marina changing because of them. There’s always a question whether there is a bigger hidden agenda that might twist the story around.

Overall, Never Kiss a Bad Boy has a lot of great moments and a pretty nice story and well-built characters. The sex scenes are fun and steamy, but never cringe-worthy (which is actually quite rare) because it builds on the character’s chemistry. While the erotica is done well, the story that drew these characters together gets lost in the romantic story which is a shame because it would have been nice to see a little more of it and explore a little more of what Marina could have achieved in this mix. For what it is, Never Kiss a Bad Boy is pretty good.

A Vampire at Christmas (Short Story) by Anthony Renfro

Its Christmas Eve! Perhaps you’re taking a break from all those Christmas classics you’re watching or spending time with a ton of family, or maybe just hanging out a little before whatever you need to do today. As you read this, I’ll probably be baking up a storm for the annual family gathering at night. However, I can’t leave you all without something fun.

Today I’d like to promote a little for my fellow blogger Anthony over at Poetry, Books, Movies and Music and his short story based during the holidays, A Vampire at Christmas. You can find my review HERE.

A Vampire At Christmas
by Anthony Renfro

A vampire at christmas

Synopsis

A short story about a Vampire who uses his riches and immortal skills to bring joy to those in need during the Christmas Season.

Excerpt

A naked, artificial, green Christmas tree (replaced every season) stood in one corner of this tomb; and there were no ornaments on this tree, no garland of any kind. The coffin he slept in was decorated with thick silver tinsel, and it draped and wrapped itself around this orifice of death like a shiny snake. Talan dared not play Christmas music because he was afraid of drawing attention to himself. People might discover his hiding place if they heard music playing up from somewhere deep in the Earth, no matter how far into the woods he made his lair. The tree and the decorated coffin were more than enough to keep him in a Christmas mood.

Where to find it

US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KRCCTU0?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00KRCCTU0?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
AU: http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B00KRCCTU0?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
CA: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00KRCCTU0?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

The Lot (Short Story) by Anthony Renfro

Still looking for some Christmas themed short stories?

Fellow blogger Anthony Renfro from Poetry, Books, Movies and Music has a collection of them for the holidays. I already talked and reviewed A Zombie Christmas and its sequel, A Zombie Christmas 2 the last two weeks. You can find them HERE and HERE respectively. Now its time for another one!

Let’s check it out!

The Lot
by: Anthony Renfro

The Lot

Synopsis

This short story is about a Christmas Tree lot that has evil intentions.

Excerpt

The Christmas tree lot stood cold and silent beside the two lane road now covered in 6 inches of snow. Gavin Douglas was hunkered down inside the small building attached to The Lot. He stood 6 foot 5, tall and lanky, a once healthy thirty-year-old man who now looked like he had spent the last two months inside a sweat box. He was emaciated and weak looking, ribs showing through his skin. His face hung droopy and long, teeth rotting away, some had fallen out. His once thick hair now hung thin, patchy, and lifeless across his skull. His clothes were dirty and disheveled, unclean like the rest of his body. He hadn’t been able to eat, sleep, shower, or do anything normal since the pine trees had arrived in October, because he felt like it was his job and duty to protect his town, a town he loved more than his own life.

My Review

Its hard to pinpoint what The Lot reminds me of. For one, its a bit like Little Shop of Horrors in some ways but then blends in something else in the end and makes you wonder. What I liked the most in The Lot is the vivid descriptions. It truly felt like I could picture the scene in front of me and watching the events unfold between Gavin and Ernie and the police at the Christmas tree lot. Its hard to not spoil The Lot but its a quick and fun read.

Where to get it 

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01JMX67U2#nav-subnav
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01JMX67U2
AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01JMX67U2
CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01JMX67U2