Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Etopia Press
Date of Publication: Sept 25 2015
Number of pages: 268
Word Count: 55305
The dead should stay dead…
Jack Norris has just lost his best friend—who also happened to be his band’s drummer—to a drunk driving accident. As he struggles to deal with the band’s uncertain future and his own personal demons, those issues soon become unimportant. His dead friend has come back. And he’s not showing any signs of going away. Questioning his own sanity, Jack finds his life spiraling out of control. But when a new acquaintance not only hooks him up with a drummer, but promises to help get rid of his ghostly stalker, Jack’s life does a one-eighty.
Drew MacLellan, the new drummer, is more than just a new set of sticks—he’s the brother of the insanely hot Jen MacLellan, who’s definitely not Jack’s biggest fan. Jen is nothing like the women Jack’s dated in the past, but the more he gets to know her, the deeper he falls. The only problem is she’s got a boyfriend. Caught between his growing attraction and the desire to do the right thing, Jack does everything he can to keep his distance. But the more he sees of her, the more he realizes he can’t. He’s determined to win Jen’s heart, if only he can figure out how to help his dead friend rest in peace…permanently.
It’s almost a week after we get back from New York when I wake sometime in the middle of the night with this awful, skin-crawling feeling that someone is watching me. Did I have a dream? If it was a dream, I don’t remember what happened, only that I can’t shake the bad vibe it left behind.
I sit and rub my hands over my face. I’m about to get up and go to the bathroom when a chill brushes over my skin.
“Whoa, stop right there, bro. You’re naked, right? I ain’t gotta see that shit.”
I nearly fall out of bed at the sound of his voice. “Jesus…fuck!”
Eben is sitting on my bureau, watching me. One of his eye sockets is crushed in, and the side of his face looks like bloody hamburger. Bits of skull stick up through his hair. I guess I haven’t woken up yet after all. He leans forward and his scalp flops over.
“What, you’re not happy to see me?”
“I need to wake up.” I rub at my eyes.
“Who says you’re dreamin’?” Eben drops to his feet. Sort of. He’s actually hovering a few inches over the floor.
“Who says I’m not?”
He laughs. “Right? Now for the love of all fuck, please tell me that clown who was pawin’ all over my drums today ain’t in the band.”
“Not if I can help it.” I say it more to myself than to him. “So, uh…what are you doing here?”
He sinks onto the end of my bed with a sigh. The temperature drops in steady increments. “I don’t know, man. I don’t remember much from that night. This dude, he found me standin’ at the side of the road, and he was like Eben Francis? And I was like ‘Yeah. That’s me…except, how come I’m over there…and over here at the same time?’ And he was like, buddy, you’re dead.” Eben shakes his head in slow motion. Blood rolls down his face and hangs from his chin before it drops onto my blanket. “Bro, that’s some fucked up shit.”
“Yeah.” Not nearly as fucked up as having a dead dude sitting on your bed. I force a laugh, because it’s Eben. The live version would’ve wanted me to mean it, but Dead-Dream-Eben doesn’t seem to notice.
A Bookaholic’s Fix Review:
I had the pleasure of reading one of Strange’s stories in the Love Least Expected Anthology last year so when the review option for this one came through my inbox, I just had to sign up.
So this one features a punk rocker on the rise to fame, a dead best friend, and the girl that’s off limits. Honestly, I would have read that without knowing anything about the author’s previous work. The story is told in first person perspective from Jack’s POV and it is written in present tense. Now this usually is problematic for me but I have to give the author credit, it was amazingly well done. Jack’s voice is strong and it never seems to slip; I knew throughout the story everything was his–thoughts, perceptions, feelings, etc. And as for the tense–it was so well done that I didn’t even notice. I never got that ‘off’ vibe that clues me in to this particular style. I actually noticed it when I went back through the text to make sure I had my details right.
When I sat down to review, I went back and looked at the other story I’d written a review for and noticed something similar about the characterization in the books. The main characters start off a little weak for my taste but once again, Strange makes it work.
At first, I hated Jack. There, I said it. He came off as whiny, self-centered, self-absorbed, self-destructive… His whole poor-pitiful-me routine made me want to kick his ass up between his ears. Now, I admit my opinions are tainted a bit because: 1) I am the oldest child so I don’t relate to the baby of the family mentality and 2) By my early twenties, I was already married with children so the concept of being young and doing normal stupid-kid-stuff is kinda lost on me. I really related more to Jen because taking on too much responsibility has always been my gig. Anyway. As the story progressed, I began to understand that Jack’s familial strains weren’t just his imagination or a matter of faulty perception, and I began to feel sympathetic to his plight. I guess he grew on me the same way he grew on Jen.
I did like the other characters tremendously. Like I said, I get the older sibling mentality so I actually liked Ashton even if he was a bit of an ass. I loved PJ and Ethan because everyone needs weird friends. Drew was the typical little brother–having 2 of my own, I know they tend to be both wonderful one moment and a PITA the next. Then there were the depictions of family relationships. I loved the way she captured different family dynamics through the descriptions and personalities of the various parents (and the interactions with their children) present in the story. Strange managed to create an entire community of separate and interconnected people which gave the characters and the story a tremendous amount of credibility.
The Paranormal elements were great. Ghosts, talking with the dead, crossing over–these were handled wonderfully. I did like the more gruesome factor the haunting had. It reminded me a lot of R.M. Gilmore’s Dylan Hart books. The author took a different approach and instead of doing the cliched type of ghost story, she created something raw and gritty. I love the paranormal genre but it is super popular right now and sometimes is in danger of becoming homogenized. Stories like this provide novelty and keep the genre fresh and alive.
This is definitely a 5-star read. I can’t wait to read the other books in the series and I fully intend to stalk–um, I mean follow–this author to discover what other amazing stories she concocts.
Nessie is a Massachusetts native and mother of two who has dabbled in everything from abstract painting to freelance sports reporting. She also loves a good story, whether it’s reading or writing one. The first two novels in her Living Dead World series–Living Dead Girl and Reaper Madness–were published in 2014.
$25 Amazon Gift Card
1 set Ebook copies of Living Dead Girl, Reaper Madness, Confessions of a Punk Rocker and Valentine’s Heat I