Thursday, February 23, 2012

REVIEW: Zombies Don't Cry by Rusty Fischer

Zombies Don't Cry Zombies Don't Cry by Rusty Fischer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review

Lightning strikes Maddie Swift and turns the high school student into a zombie in the novel Zombies Don't Cry. Told in 1st PoV from Maddie's side, ZDC is about Maddie coming to term with her new state of life — or unlife, rather — and the danger that accompanies it. To be honest, Maddie would have faced the danger anyway because she was the next target for the villains. The story conveniently made her a zombie before anything too bad could happen to her, which I didn’t mind but some readers might. The 70,000 words story is a zombie story with zombie eating brains, but it was never gory — Twilight was more gory. ZDC was about as violent as your typical YA, but less so than The Hunger Games.

The story’s subtitle, “A Living Dead Love Story,” is a misnomer because there was no love story. There was a love interest or two. There was a dance event. And that was it. There were no dating, no couple dancing, the scenes Maddie had with her first love interest barely counted as flirting and was mostly teenage awkwardness. If anything, the romance, what little there was, made the story worse. ZDC was a routine zombie story of the ‘save the town’ trope when suddenly the story remembered it was supposed to be a love story near the end. It forced a character to become Maddie’s second love interest and slapped down an unwanted, unnecessary love triangle.

The Characters

+++ Maddie, the main character

I like her voice; I like her quick deduction of her new zombie state; I like how she did not hesitate to buy and eat brains. Whatever the situation, she adapt without drama. When people got bitten, friends turned to enemies, and bodies started dropping, Maddie did not once raise her hands and drop into hysteria. She tackled the problem straight on with any weapons she got her hands on.

With that said, there were moments when I thought she was blase about death and emotionally distant. In chapter one, she was never concerned with the fact that three of her classmates died in one semester barely half over. She used the excuse that she was a coroner’s daughter, but it was not very convincing to me. This a girl who regularly visit cemetery to do rubbing on fresh headstones. Maddie and her humor was way morbid before she ever became a zombie. I do not understand why it was a surprise to everyone and to herself when she disguised her zombie-self in Goth clothes. It was a surprise to me that she was not already dressed in Goth clothes, zombie or no zombie.

+++ Hazel, the best friend

I did not like her one bit. I thought she was pushy and manipulative.
As usual, this is all about Hazel.
Not that I mind all that much. In the 11 years since we’ve been best friends, ever since she walked up to me in my backyard one summer day and said, “I’m your new neighbor; we’re going to be best friends. Any questions?” it’s always been about Hazel.
Hazel the Girl Scout.
Hazel the wannabe fashion designer.
Hazel the head of Cheer.
Hazel the class secretary.
Hazel the insidious friend who use wallflower Maddie for a lackey and to make herself look better in comparison. I felt disbelief when Hazel got mad when Maddie did not immediately confess everything to Hazel, took that as a lie of omission, and almost broke up their friendship for that one “lie.” Hazel never once gave Maddie the benefit of doubt, and that sometime there are things too dangerous or too hurtful to openly share with friends.

I’m also pretty sure there were things Hazel never shared with Maddie and lies she told to Maddie. But one thing is for sure, Hazel was not a good friend to Maddie. Chloe the first zombie acquaintance Maddie made was a better friend than Hazel ever was in the story. I’m glad what happened to Hazel happened.

+++ Stamp, the first love interest

ZDC never let me know the reasons for why Stamp liked Maddie. All Stamp said was that Maddie was unlike any other girl he ever met, but never specific how. I like Maddie but I didn’t see what Stamp like about Maddie. They hardly knew each other beside Stamp being a jock and Maddie looking like a bookworm. They had nothing in common except for art class but only because Stamp was forced to take it.

+++ Dane, the second love interest

He’s a zombie. He dress in hoods. He’s always accompanied by Chloe that people assume Chloe is his girlfriend. He has a slight crush on Maddie that he nor Maddie never acted upon until that ridiculous last chapter and the epilogue.

And that’s about it. Dane lacked character development. Moreover, the only reason I believe he liked Maddie is because she was the only other zombie girl beside Chloe and Chloe was like a sister to Dane.

The Plot-holes

There were a few. I didn't find them annoying, I found them a disappointment. They made the last third of ZDC "meh."

1) Why was it so important and urgent for Maddie to meet the Elders, take an oath, and be formally inducted into zombie society? I got the impression there were harsh, maybe fatal consequences for not registering yourself as a new zombie. But how would a new zombie knows there were other zombies, let alone a society of them, let alone a zombie law that said you got to self-register? An Elder said, “Ignorance is no excuse.” Hell yes it is, especially for a society that survives on secrecy and whose security is through obscurity. Paradox much?

2) How come Dane and Chloe never reported villains Bones and Dahlia to the Sentinels, the zombie police? Why was there even a truce between Zerkers (the bad zombies) and zombies when all zombies have to take an oath to destroy the Zerkers? All the bad things at the end of the story could have been easily avoided if someone just took the time to report it to the zombie authority. Yet no one ever did.

3) When the dust cleared, why did the good guys have to runaway and hide from the zombie authority? It can’t just be because of the good guys’ failure to report the Zerkers or that the aftermath of the Zerkers battle might reveal zombies to the public. The ending made little sense.

In Conclusion

I enjoyed ZDC all the way till part 3 where the plot started to unravel. Then ZDC ended with an epilogue that smacked me silly with its deformed romance and sucker-punched me with a drama llama. Quite a shame because I truly enjoyed ZDC as a drama-free, routine zombie, popcorn action story.

I rate the ZDC two-stars for it was okay. I would recommend this novel for someone who wants a light zombie story.


If you like the humor and popcorn action part of ZDC, try Drink, Slay, Love.

If you like a horror-less zombie story with a mystery that's adult fiction, try My Life As a White Trash Zombie (White Trash Zombie, #1).

If you want some horror and drama in a YA, try Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1).

If you just want horror in YA, try Being Human.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

REVIEW: The Perfect Pumpkin Pie by Aaron Michaels

The Perfect Pumpkin PieThe Perfect Pumpkin Pie by Aaron Michaels
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Slight Spoilers

Leo the geek must overcome his insecurity if he is to find love with Judson the hunk in the novelette The Perfect Pumpkin Pie. Told in 3rd PoV from Leo’s side, the 14,000-ish words story begins with Denny criticizing his girlfriend Gloria on how to bake a pumpkin pie. Unsurprisingly, she later dumped baking ingredients on Denny and then stormed out, leaving Denny on his own to make a pumpkin pie. Enlisting his roommate’s help, Denny sent Leo to the grocery store... during Thanksgiving week. Yikes.
“I’m in pumpkin hell,” he muttered
You got that right, Leo.

Lo and Behold, a white knight on a horse in the form of Judson the assistant manager came to save Leo the dude in the distress. *swoon*

The Characters

+++ Denny

I liked Gloria despite her short appearance in the story, but I didn’t like Denny. Denny is “an anal, obsessive-compulsive perfectionist” who has “difficulties with the whole concept of sarcasm.” Now there’s a roommate from hell if I ever saw one. I also thought Denny was manipulative for “enlisting” Leo’s help by giving Leo two choices, one bad and one worse so that Leo would pick the bad one as Denny planned. I did not know why Leo couldn’t just say no to both and overall no to Denny.

I was not entirely convinced with Leo’s reason for why he put up with Denny, that reason being Denny accepting Leo for who Leo is. I thought Leo was the more accepting person for putting up with Denny's flaws.

Moreover, there was a big inconsistency with Denny's character. He found nutmeg to be a poison, but he didn't have a problem with canned pumpkin unless they're dented, however miniscule. Don't canned food have that toxic thing called BPA? And not to mention the preservatives.

+++ Leo

Low self-esteem characters generally do not endear me, but Leo was an exception. There was one moment when Leo’s insecurity grated my nerve, but it was one moment of annoyance in total for the story. I truly thought he was “cute” as Judson as aptly complimented him. Leo was not a pushover as I initially thought when he refused Denny in favor for his second-appointed date with Judson. I read with amusement as Leo nervously waited for Judson to come to Leo’s place for their third-appointed date.

+++ Judson

Judson was hot, and it wasn’t just because he was physically attractive. He was hot because he helped Leo, not once but twice even after Leo stood Judson up for their first-appointed date. More than being nice, he was hot for being forgiving. He was also hot because he was tired of one-night stands and being treated as such and now prefer a serious relationship. A guy who’s not afraid but wants commitment? Hot!

But wait, it doesn’t stop there. He cook and he look forward to meeting Leo’s family and friends. Better put a ring on that finger, Leo!

The Sexual Content

The sex content included long scenes of kissing and a short scene of mutual masturbation. There would have been shagging had someone not forgot the condoms. Dang it, Leo!

The Big Misunderstanding Trope

I didn’t like it and I thought the story could have been written without it while still keeping Leo’s low self-esteem personality and Judson’s forgiving nature intact. So when Leo showed up for his first-appointed date with Judson, he saw Judson with another hot guy. Wracked with insecurities, Leo left before Judson could see Leo. This was the moment of annoyance when Leo’s low self-esteem grated my nerve. For all Leo knows, the guy Judson was with could have been Judson’s brother!

And guess what? He was Judson’s brother. Ugh.

Fortunately, the story was quick-paced and soon Leo had to face Judson again where Judson quickly cleared up the matter. My annoyance was soon replaced with my hunger for ice cream; Leo and Judson had ice cream for their second-appointed, technically first date. With each passing appearance of Judson, I came to love him more.


In Denny’s attempt to cook The Perfect Pumpkin Pie, he unexpectedly led Leo to Leo’s perfect man. I concede; Denny was not all that bad. I rate The Perfect Pumpkin Pie 3 stars for I liked it. The story was most assuredly a yummy read.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

REVIEW: Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander

Shattered Glass (Shattered Glass, #1) Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Slight Spoilers

The first book in a mm-romance contemporary mystery series, Shattered Glass tells the love story of Austin Glass and Peter Cotton. You read right, there’s a character named Peter Cotton. The story begins with Detective Austin Glass being distracted by a diner waiter wearing bunny slippers. Guess who’s wearing them? Cue bunny humor, sexuality confusion, and dick jokes. Oh, there’s also the mob.

Told in 1st PoV from Austin’s side, SG contained a meaty plot. Too meaty for my liking. Usually, I like quick-paced story, but this one had my head spinning. There was a large cast of characters, too many for me to keep track. For example, at one point I forgot about Dave after the story introduced him as Austin’s estranged childhood friend. When the story re-introduced him as a Person of Interest, I went “OMG, who is this Dave person they keep talking about?” I knew the story mentioned him before, but I didn’t remember clearly. My memory of Dave was eroded by introduction of new character after new character, especially when the mob part of the story came into play. Only when I finished the story did I finally remember Dave as Austin’s childhood friend.

I also had a difficult time keeping track of the mystery. For the first half of the story, the mystery was about drug-busting. Then it morphed into human trafficking. Then it became a mob story. I love mob story, but dang, SG had too much stuff going on. Add on the twists and turns and the story became convoluted.

Now, I love complexity in a story. The Harry Potter series (4-stars imo) does it well. The Rifter series by Ginn Hale (2-stars imo) does it well. But SG? Not really. Disclaimer: I didn’t bother re-reading the story or any of its particular passages such as Peter’s mob family flashback that confused me for better understanding. The story wasn’t that captivating enough for me to do so.

FYI, this is not a GFY story. This is an OFY story.

Shattered Glass, Battered Balls

I liked Austin's immature humor, but I didn’t like him much as a person. Definitely not in the beginning. I didn’t like it when Austin kissed Peter because Austin was currently engaged. That’s cheating. I put myself in Angelica’s place. If my fiancĂ© suddenly decided he might be straight or bi and he kissed a woman for proof? Oh Hell Fucking No. Somebody’s balls are in for some stomping. Later on the story revealed Austin to be a serial cheater. What?

It was not the first time this happened. Angelica was not the first fiancé Austin had and cheated on, she was his second. Not to mention all the girlfriends he cheated on. Yup, he cheated on every single one of them.

I had to put the book down. I felt an unusual type of anger, not the red steaming kind I am used to but the cold silent kind. I think I was so cold-angry I didn’t even read a book for a few days... OMFG, I know! As I tried to recapture the magic of reading by reading other books, SG was gaining positive reviews. Some of it by my friends. After 1-2 weeks, I decided to give SG another try. I had to anyway since I dislike leaving a bought ebook unread because it seem wasteful and the general action of DNFing a book because I’m too stubborn, possibly OCD.

SG managed to redeem Austin in my eyes through many ways. Austin accepted his newfound sexuality without much fuss and prolongment. He risked his career and life for Peter, which my logical side thought was stupid even though my emotional side went “awww.” He took a chance on love — awww, though instant love which I also think is stupid. Though not as quick as I would like, Austin confessed to Angelica and broke up the engagement.

But the biggest game changer? Jesse, Austin’s childhood gay friend that committed suicide. Left an emotional scar so bad, Austin was completely blind to himself being a closet case. Austin’s family, of course, was no help — stereotypical rich people full of hate and contempt. Dude is messed up.

Even though I still dislike Austin for being a “cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater” because no matter how messed up a person is it does not give them the right to mess other people’s lives, I came to empathize Austin. Dude was right, he does have the “bro effect.” I went from not liking Austin to sorta liking him, which was a big deal for me.

Other Characters

All the characters had depth, though some more than others. No one was perfect, everyone had flaws. Some got traits that made them easily likable in spite of their flaws. For example, Peter. I actually had no problem with his hot-cold approach to Austin.

The only thing that bothered me was the villains revealed at the end. I still have no idea why those villains did what they did. Was it greed the fueled their criminal actions? At a lost for their motives... I believe the villains, the ones at the end and not in the beginning, had the weakest character development, especially that one villain who betrayed Austin. Why the betrayal, when did the dude became crooked? =S

Oh, Cai was kinda annoying. I was too impatient with his manner of speaking, most likely why I didn’t understand what he said most of the time.

Angelica turned out not to be a bitch of an ex like so many other mm-romance that tries to make it okay for the protagonist to pursue their same-sex interest without guilt. Sure, she had an affair with Austin’s father. But hey, Austin knew about it. IIRC, some of the reasons why Austin eventually dated her after she broke up with Austin’s father was because he wanted to console her and piss off his father.

One of my favorite characters was the Albanian mother. She was crazy, she was caring, and she cock-blocked Austin. LOL.

An Unnecessary Subplot

SG had too much going on, the worst offending subplot was the bed-ridden, bitchy Mrs. Glass. From start to near end, I got the impression that Austin’s mother was dead. Austin as a messed up characters bitched about how his father was an asshole. Asshole father this, asshole father that. Later on asshole grandfather this. And then back to asshole father this and that. I agree, Austin’s father and grandfather were assholes. However, not one word about his mother was mentioned...

Till near the end, specifically right before the Epilogue. Mrs. Glass wasn’t dead. Though she was close to it, she was still alive. And bitchy. She dropped a bombshell or two (or was it three?) of family secrets, as if Austin’s family wasn’t drama-filled already. Ugh. One of them secrets was a hidden six-years old brother of Austin. Okay, I get that the story wanted a HEA for the couple but goodness was that forced. From what I gather, Austin is going to adopt his brother and live with Peter and Peter’s foster brothers as one big happy family.

Okay then...

Another Irritant

I didn’t like how at the end of the story the couple “settled the monogamy argument.” I scratched my head at that. Half out of annoyance, half not getting what it means. But somehow, I just feel... offended. The promiscuous gay guy stereotype is starting to get on my nerve in mm-romance. Ugh. Maybe, I’m just being stupidly hyper-sensitive here. IDK...

The Love Factor

The sexual content was minimal, imo, but it was still explicit. Blowjob scenes interspersed throughout the story. It was kinda hot, but I preferred the cuddling scenes.

SG was not a heavy romance because there were other things going on too like that drug-busting turned human trafficking turned mob story thing. It could have easily turned into a “I love you, I love you not” thing throughout the entire story, but I didn’t think so. Sure, the romance ran hot and cold that some readers might find it potentially exasperating, but I was always confident that the couple would pull through.

The Formatting

It didn’t affect my rating of the story but I feel it needs to be mentioned. The formatting was kinda shabby. I bought the ebook at Smashwords, and downloaded the epub format. The line-height was too small, the sentences too close to each other, making the story pretty unreadable. Fortunately, I know a bit about epub-formatting and tweaked the unwanted 100% line-height to 130% line-height on the CSS stylesheet.

Spacing between paragraphs in the same scene, I had to tweak that too. For some odd reasons, 1/4 to 1/3 of an epub page had empty spaces. It was like the paragraphs were unable to flow from one page to the next. I deleted the page-break property on the CSS stylesheet, and it did fix the spacing issue to a large extend. Not completely, but to a large extend.

FYI, the mobi version is only available at Amazon. If you buy the ebook at Smashwords and want a mobi format, better open up Calibre for conversion.

To re-iterate: the formatting was kinda shabby but it wasn’t that bad and did not affect my rating of the story.

I also noticed an editing mistake.

[Fbi agents, US Marshalls and a detective vouching for the boy and taking him into his home is enough to convince me that he isn’t a flight risk.] in Chapter 13. Bolding is my own. "Fbi" should be "FBI," "Marshalls" as "Marshals," and the sentence needs a comma after "Marshalls."


I rate SG two-stars for it was okay. I might continue the series; the next book will be a low priority read.

I recommend SG for anyone who likes the Life Lessons series by Kaje Harper. For anyone who likes SG, I recommend the Life Lessons series by Kaje Harper.

It just so happened after I finished SG, I started another mob story — Wild Thing by Josh Bazell, a mainstream non-mm-romance mystery book. Sarah Palin as a character introduced in the last 1/3 of the book threw me for a loop. O_O I totally did not see that coming. The book shared many things in common with SG such as a flawed protagonist, but I liked the execution in Wild Thing better, including its breaking-the-reader-dimension footnotes.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

REVIEW: Come & Play: Video Games by Juniper Gray

Come  & Play: Video Games Come & Play: Video Games by Juniper Gray
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Come and Play: Video Game is a sweet short story that begins with two college students playing a shooting video game. Soon, Matt brings up the sex topic, creating an awkward but sexually tensed moment. Rafe is bi, Matt is straight... or so Matt thinks. Told in 3rd PoV from Matt's side, the 3800-ish words story takes place over a month and focuses on Matt trying to come to term about his sexuality and feelings toward Rafe.


There are two video game scenes in total, one at the start and one at the end. Even though the video game was of a shooter genre and I'm only familiar with the RPG genre, I understood the lingo perfectly. Plus, the story transitioned smoothly from the action in the video game to the action in the living room where the young men are gaming. Never once in the story did I feel lost or didn't know the setting.

Readers not attracted by the video game part of the story need not to worry. The story could have easily began with Matt and Rafe watching TV or playing a sport together. The story is not about the hobby, but about two guys sexually experimenting and possibly finding love.

Sexual Content

The sexual content includes two groin groping scenes, a blowjob, and a kiss. The story mostly relies on sexual tension for its heat element. If you're going to read this, do it for the romance and not for the sex.

Short Story Too Short?

The ending was, at the very least, a HFN. I generally dislike short stories because I frequently find them lacking. This short story was no different. I thought the ending was too short for my liking. I would have prefer it Matt and Rafe did the deed and the story ended with them cuddling in bed. I did not care a wit for the fade in black sex scene and the promise of tru wuv for an ending. Therefore, I rate the story 2-stars for it was okay.

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