Book Reviews: Defriended by Ruth Baron and Purgatory Key by Darrell James

Ruth Baron
Point Horror, May 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-42357-1
Trade Paperback

Meeting new people is hard.  Today’s world of Facebook, blogs and YouTube makes it easier, but new challenges are presented.  There is a lack of certainty with an online relationship.  Common questions arise.  Is the person I’m talking to really this cool?  Is the person being honest?  Is this a ghost?  Okay, the last one, maybe not so common.

Jason’s love of indie rock, The Mountain Goats in particular, was not something he expected to share with a high-school girl.  When he discovered Lacey’s profile on-line, he felt compelled to contact her.  They both had the same quote from Mountain Goats’ Fault Lines on their homepage.

Eventually, Lacey responds to Jason and the two grow close quickly.  After months of chatting, e-mailing and Instant-Messaging, Jason was ready for a face-to-face meeting.  He was surprised and disappointed with Lacey’s evasive responses.  He turns to Google where he is stunned to find Lacey’s obituary.  She was killed in an accident months before she first contacted him.  Although shattered, Jason resolves to find out who he has been talking to, and why.

Thus begins a wonderful potpourri of mystery, ghost-story, cruel-hoax, with a little bit of forbidden love.   Not only did this completely captivate this reader, it kept me guessing and second-guessing.  Ms. Baron does an amazing job in introducing the characters with just enough information to make the reader say “hmmm”.  While this book may be intended for Middle Grade readers; it is, quite simply, a fabulous, classic mystery that any reader would enjoy.  I will be on the look-out for more from Ruth Baron.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2013.


Purgatory KeyPurgatory Key
A Del Shannon Novel
Darrell James
Midnight Ink, August 2013
ISBN 978-0-7387-2371-6
Trade Paperback

From the mountains of Arizona to the bayous of Louisiana, Darrel James gives another suspense filled novel featuring Del Shannon. This time around she’s up against kidnappers and her own personal demons because, this time, it connects with her past. And when a former lover enters the picture…well, you knows sparks are going to sizzle.

Investigator Del Shannon is assigned to find two kidnapped teenagers. In Tuscon, Shannon makes contact with one of the kidnappers and negotiates a money drop. However, the drop goes bad and Shannon has scant leads. ATF Agent Frank Falconet is assigned to trace a major league felon presumed to be dead. The man’s brother’s image was picked up on surveillance in Tuscon. When Shannon and Falconet meet up, they realize their two cases are connected and it’s off to the bayous of Louisiana. While they also try to sort out their previous romantic relationship, the teenagers must contend with killers and tiger…and the possibility of treasure nearby.

I’ve read a previous Shannon novel and wasn’t disappointed. James delivers a well written novel and though some of the scenes are predictable, there is an excellent balance between character substance and action. This is another fine addition to the series with the stage set for more to come.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, July 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

Book Review: Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

Eat, Brains, LoveEat, Brains, Love
Jeff Hart
HarperTeen, October 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-220034-1
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

The good news: Jake’s dream girl, Amanda Blake, finally knows his name.

The bad news: it’s because they both contracted a mysterious zombie virus and devoured the brains of half their senior class. Now Jake and Amanda are on the run from Cass, a teen psychic sent by the government’s top-secret Necrotic Control Division to track them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends and set off in search of a cure for the zombie virus, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own—one that will lead all three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

Not sure if you’d like a zombie novel? Afraid it’ll just be gruesome with none of the touches you love, like romance, mystery, government conspiracies, maybe even a little humor? Fear not, dear reader, here’s a zombie novel anyone can love.

Jake is a stoner and a bit of a geek but he also has a mouth on him so when Chazz, resident tough guy jock, picks on him, he has a comeback. That’s not necessarily a good idea since Chazz is about twice his size, or so it seems, but the hottest girl in school, Amanda, saves his bacon with a few words to her belligerent boyfriend. So begins what is destined to become a beautiful relationship…right after Jake and Amanda suddenly turn into eating machines with their fellow classmates as the main entree.

In the meantime, Cass, a teenaged psychic, has been drafted into the Necrotic Control Division and is tasked with helping track down zombies before the general public can learn that they exist but it turns out this particular case is going to cause problems for Cass and her colleagues in ways you might not expect. As soon as the NCD gets called into the school massacre, they start with damage control, making witnesses forget what they’ve seen and creating a story about a mass shooting, but Amanda and Jake are now on the run and Cass has to lead the NCD in finding them.

What follows is a glorious road trip replete with a deepening conspiracy, a clash of musical tastes, development of a new kind of weapon, budding romance, a power-hungry megalomaniac,  sartorial splendor, jealousy, a rush to get to Iowa where there might be a cure for this highly disgusting disease (which just may be the STD that would make folks think twice about unprotected sex), a sort of reversal of roles—imagine zombies afraid of the living for a change—and, yes, a whole lot of gruesome. I mean, come on, how can you have a zombie novel without gruesome?

Jeff Hart has come up with a fabulous expose of THE REAL TRUTH about zombies and everybody should put Eat, Brains, Love on their required reading lists. After all, you never know whether your next-door neighbor or the cashier at the local convenience store might be a little bit , er, different and you’ll want to be prepared. Meanwhile, I can hardly stand the wait for the next book in this “tasty” series 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2013.