Saturday, May 17, 2014

Book Review: The Shambling Guide to New York City

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty


After moving to new York City from Raleigh, out-of-work publishing editor Zoe stumbles upon a job offering that's right in her field. Despite being repeatedly warned by the employees of the company that she won't fit in with them, she takes on the job, only to find out that her new coworkers are members of the Coterie. The books they're wanting to put out are geared towards others like themselves. Travel books, which are right up Zoe's alley.

The problem? Her new coworkers and the Coterie in general are anything but human. She's suddenly working with vampires, sprites, zombies, and an incubus who seems to take a particular interest in her. Can Zoe keep her job and still survive among these people who seem to prefer feeding on humans like her? Or will the job consume her and the city itself?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Zoe Norris is a human returning to her hometown in disgrace, wishing to get a new job in publishing. After many strikeouts, she finds the perfect-sounding job, only it happens to be at a publishing company that writes travel books for monsters.
Oh yeah, and monsters are real, too.


Well, other than the fact that TSGTNYC (because screw you, writing out that long title) is set in the modern day (it's in 2015, actually, but close enough) this book is perfectly set in the now. If you've read and enjoyed Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, and you like other urban fantasies along that vein, Shambling Guide (okay, that abbreviation is better) is a good one to add to your reading list. In a now where vampires, zombies, and fairies and all that crap are as popular as pink sprinkles at an 8-year-old's princess-themed birthday party, Lafferty does a great job setting herself apart. She follows the "rules" of traditional monster lore but adds her own twist to them that makes them stand apart. Just for example, formaldehyde makes zombies revert to the standard apocalypse-causing zombie mentality. Otherwise, many of them tend to control themselves well and can interact with others perfectly. This was all just very well done.


I've listened to some of Lafferty's other work (reviews of other works to come later) and I can say one thing for her: she's very easy to read. Although... I didn't actually read Shambling Guide. I picked up the podcast, which is no longer available- sorry! It was read by Lafferty herself in a very straighforward way. Just a read of the book, without the voices and sound effects some others do. It served the book well. But as one who has both read and listened to multiple works of Lafferty's, I have to say this one is the winner. She's been growing to this, and what a blossom! her writing is clear, and she is very good at creating real dialogue that doesn't sound overly formalized like some writers (myself included) do. So bravo on this one, Mur!

My Thoughts

I will be honest, I hated waiting for the podcast to finish. I'm the type that prefers to listen to an audiobook in its entirity as quickly as possible, so I wait for them to actually be finished, with all episodes posted, before I listen to the first words. The last episode of Shambling Guide posted on November 16. I started listening November 18, when I had a chance to do some long-term listening. It was worth the wait. Yeah, I know I could have bought the book, but right now, I'm in the middle of a few others I'm physically reading, and I had no other audio books I was listening to at the time. Eventually, I'm sure I will buy a copy of it. For now, though, it was all podcast version.

As far as the book itself is concerned, this is a good read or listen or whatever method you use to get it into your brain. Zoe is a strong heroine who is extremely realistic. She's a person in odd circumstances who fails, succeeds, fails, and fails more. She's not some superpowered person who knows exactly what to do in every situation and never falters or gets hurt. She suffers. But she's never alone in all this. She may not have all the answers, but she definitely uses the resources at her disposal. The world works perfectly within the confines of the real and the secret twists of the Coterie that Lafferty has built for it.

And I've got to say, the end-of-chapter excerpts from the travel book itself are a great little cherry on top. It's not often that an audiobook can make me react aloud (since I listen to these at work and don't want to disturb coworkers) but there were several times I couldn't help but burst out with a laugh before I got that crap under control. Very well done.

Would I Recommend This Book? Yeah, I would. Definitely. TSGTNYC puts a whole new spin on the whole supernatural monsters trope, and it was a very fun ride. Lafferty definitely deserved the Campbell for this one. 4.5 shambling stars out of 5.

For more information on the author, visit

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Book Review: Shaman Healer Heretic

Shaman Healer Heretic by M. Terry Green


Shaman Healer Heretic is an exploration into the mystical, the mythological, and the technological. Yes, the technological can intermingle with the mystical; souls and gadgetry do mix. The clash between the scientific and the spiritual come to a head in this book, provoked by the appearance of a mythological being that thrusts the hidden world of the techno-shamans into the open.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Even for a techno-shaman, a kachina in the bedroom isn’t exactly part of the drill. When Olivia Lawson wakes to find one towering over her, she panics. A Hopi god visiting the real world isn’t just wrong–it’s impossible.
Or is it?
Soon Olivia learns that the kachina is the least of her worries. As she struggles to save her clients, clashes with other shamans, and fends off the attacks of real-world vigilantes, Olivia finds herself in the destructive path of a malevolent ancient force intent on leaving the spiritual realm to conquer this one.
Left with few options, Olivia is forced to defy centuries of shaman prohibitions. As she and her allies risk everything in their bid for survival, Olivia ultimately learns that the rules are there for a reason and that breaking them has a terrible cost.


In this high-tech Internet age, the battle of spiritual versus scientific comes as a particular issue. So many believe it has to be one way or the other. Shaman Healer Heretic blends the two sides of this coin together in the profession of techno-shaman, using the hard engineering of technology to create goggles that allow these mystics to access the spirit realm, home of souls and even gods.


I did not read Shaman Healer Heretic. I listened to it via As a result, I experienced less of the written-word aspect of the execution of this novel. Instead, the writing style was balanced by the author's vocal performance of her work, as Green did the narration. Her writing style itself was very straight-forward, understandable without being overly simplistic. Her vocal performance is engaging with slight differences in the voices of characters, most notably between female and male characters, of course. Still, even with the small supporting cast that gathers toward the end of the story, the combination of her vocal characterization and the clear writing style made it possible to tell exactly who was speaking in conversations, even while listening to the recordings while distracted by other tasks. Missing a few words here or there did not hinder my enjoyment or comprehension of events.

My thoughts

I was enthralled by Shaman Healer Heretic. That being said, I think I may have been more in love with the idea of techno-shamans than with the book itself. That is not to say the book was bad. Far from it. The plot was compelling, the characters lovable and relatable, and the setting believable. I am unsure if my slight dissatisfaction comes from the book not being longer and fuller, for being a touch simplified, or if I had built expectations that were too high from reading the back cover description. Perhaps I am only seeing the possibilities of the modern world sub-culture Green has created in introducing the techno-shamans. While I very much enjoyed this book, I was not blown away by it. I did not experience any dizzying highs or devastating lows in listening. I did find myself guessing at what was to come, to have myself proven partially correct.

The plot was very well wrapped-up, leaving the characters and world open to development. True to the philosophy I take in writing, elements were not thrown in frivolously. A detail that may seem unimportant or overlookable early on comes back for a major reason as the plot reaches its climax. I haven't yet decided if I will pursue the series further. I do feel like I have been enriched by reading Shaman Healer Heretic (or rather, by listening to it) but I feel like it was a meal served with too small a portion.

Would I recommend this book? 

Shaman Healer Heretic was a good read, but sadly, it was fairly forgettable once I was finished with it. It’s not one of those books I’d end up thinking of fondly a few weeks later or that left me pondering about after it was over. I give Shaman Healer Heretic a lightning-calling 3 out of 5 stars.

For more information about the author, visit

News Update

Hey, readers, I've got a serious backlog of book reviews, and I'd like to take some of the summer to focus more on some editing and larger projects rather than trying to whip out a short story and writing article. So for the summer, meaning May through at least August and maybe into September, I'm going to be exclusively posting book reviews. I've been reading and listening to some great stuff, and I've even got a potential surprise with my book reviews in the future. I hope some of my reviews give you some new material to read yourselves.

Potentially, this hiatus from posting short stories and articles will give me a chance to build a little bit of a backlog of both articles, or maybe even to line up some guest posts. I'm also hoping to take some time to get my podcast off the ground.

Thanks for reading!