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Saturday, February 23, 2013


Author:  Jeri Smith-Ready
Plot Type:  UF
Ratings:  V5; S4; H3 
Publisher and Titles:  Pocket
          Wicked Game (5/2008)
          Bad to the Bone (5/2009)
          Bring on the Night (7/2010)
          "Let It Bleed" (e-novella, 2012)
          Lust for Life (11/2012) (FINAL)

    TIE-IN SHORT STORIES (To read the first four stories, click on the pink-link titles below.)
         "Crossroads" (Monroe's story)
         "Rave On" (Spencer's story)
         "When the Music's Over" (Jim's story)
         "Last Request" (Shane's story)
         "Thief" in Eternal: Love Stories with Bite (11/2010)

          INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES          
     This series began back in 2008 and has been dormant since 2010. Now, the author has written an e-novella and a final book to tie things up for good:  "Let It Bleed" and Lust for Life. I read the first four books at the time they were publishedlong before I started this blogso I don't have individual reviews on hand (or in my memory). Therefore, I'm breaking a personal rule by including the author's web-site summaries for the first four books. The reviews of "Let It Bleed" and Lust for Life, though, are mine.

     When former con-artist Ciara (pronounced KEERA-ah) Griffin gets a marketing job at a failing radio station in small-town Sherwood, Maryland, she soon learns that the station’s DJs are all vampires, so she turns the station into “WVMP—the Lifeblood of Rock ’n’ Roll,” and the vampires are an instant success with the listeners. Each vampire plays only the music that was popular during the decade preceding his or her death, and each book includes a play list of the songs that are intricately woven into the plot. The sudden reappearance of Ciara’s double-dealing father and a paramilitary group called the International Agency for the Control and Management of Undead Corporeal Entities (aka the Control), which governs many aspects of the vampires’ lives, complicate the lives of Ciara and the vampires.

     Vampires in this world have the traditional sun-sensitivity, super-strength and speed, and reliance on human blood. When one of these vampires dieseither from decapitation or a stake through the heartits body inverts through the wound and disappears, leaving just the clothing behind. In this mythology, when a human is turned into a vampire, he or she is stuck mentally in the time period in which the turn takes place. At WVMP, this means that each DJ specializes in the music that was popular during the decade prior to his or her death. In an inventive twist, the vamps at WVMP are members of the "27 club," the term used to refer to the long list of legendary musicians who died at that young age. matter how long ago they were turned, all of the DJs appear to be in their late twenties. 

     Ciara’s love interest is the DJ, Shane McAllister, a 1990s grunge rocker. As the series moves along, Ciara and her friends battle evil in several forms, including a powerful and violent vampire who wants to keep vampires out of the public eye and a group of fanatics who want all vampires dead. 

     Humor is both situational and conversational and includes the consequences of an odd vampiric trait of obsessive-compulsive behavior (e.g., alphabetizing a CD collection, compulsively counting things). 

          BOOK 1:  Wicked Game          
     Recovering con-artist Ciara Griffin is trying to live the straight life, even if it means finding a (shudder!) real job. She takes an internship at a local radio station, whose late-night time-warp format features 1940s blues, 60s psychedelia, 80s Goth, and more, all with an uncannily authentic flair. Ciara soon discovers how the DJs maintain their cred: they’re vampires, stuck forever in the eras in which they were turned.

     Ciara’s first instinct, as always, is to cut and run. But communications giant Skywave wants to buy WMMP and turn it into just another hit-playing clone. Without the station—and the link it provides to their original Life Times—the vampires would “fade,” becoming little more than mindless ghosts of the past. Suddenly a routine corporate takeover becomes a matter of life and un-death.

     To boost ratings and save the lives of her strange new friends, Ciara re-brands the station as “WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock ’n’ Roll.” In the ultimate con, she hides the DJs’ vampire nature in plain sight, disguising the bloody truth as a marketing gimmick. WVMP becomes the hottest thing around—next to Ciara’s complicated affair with grunge vamp Shane McAllister. But the “gimmick” enrages a posse of ancient and powerful vampires who aren’t so eager to be brought into the light. Soon the stakes are higher—and the perils graver—than any con game Ciara has ever played. Click HERE to read chapter one of Wicked Game.

          BOOK 2:  Bad to the Bone          
     Ciara Griffin is now WVMP's station manager, and it's her job to manage an on-air staff of off-the-wall DJs—including her new boyfriend Shane McAllister—who really sink their teeth into the music of their ‘Life Time” (the era in which they became vampires). Ciara must keep the undead rocking, the ratings rolling, and the fan base alive—without missing a beat.

     For Halloween, WVMP is throwing a bash sure to raise the dead. They’ve got cool tunes, hot costumes, killer cocktails—what could go wrong? Well, for starters, a religious firebrand ranting against the evils of the occult preempts the station’s midnight broadcast. Then, when Ciara tracks down the illegal transmission, the broadcast tower is guarded by what appears to be…a canine vampire? And behind it all is a group of self-righteous radicals who think vampires suck (and are willing to stake their lives on it).

     Now Ciara must protect the station while struggling with her own murky relationship issues, her best friend’s unlikely romance with a fledgling vampire, and the nature of her mysterious anti-holy powers. Click HERE to read chapter one of Bad to the Bone.

          BOOK 3:  Bring on the Night          
     Ciara seems to finally have it all. A steady job at WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock 'n' Roll. A loving relationship with the idiosyncratic but eternally hot DJ Shane McAllister. A vampire dog named Dexter (120-pound Great Dane/Lab mix) who never needs shots or a pooper-scooper. And after nine years, it looks as if she might actually finish her bachelor's degree!

     But fate has other plans for Ciara. First she must fulfill her Faustian bargain with the Control, the paranormal paramilitary agency that does its best to keep vampires in line. Turns out the Control wants her for something other than her (nonexistent) ability to kick undead ass. Her anti-holy blood, perhaps?

     Ciara's suspicions are confirmed when she's assigned to a special-ops division known as the Immanence Corps, run by the the Control's oldest vampire and filled with humans who claim to have special powers. To a confirmed skeptic like Ciara, it sounds like a freak fest. But when a mysterious, fatal virus spreads through Sherwood—and corpses begin to rise from their graves—Ciara will not only get a crash course in zombie-killing, but will be forced to put her faith, and her life itself, in the hands of magic. Click HERE to read chapters one and two of Bring on the Night.

          E-Novella: “Let It Bleed”          
     This novella begins three weeks after Ciara was turned into a vampire after dying from a mutant chicken pox virus during the zombie plague. As she settles into her life as a fledgling vampire, she must deal with her need for a human blood donor and her increasing obsession with word games. Ciara explains, "A few years after being turned, most vampires develop an obsessive-compulsive behavior. As the world changes so fast around us, we need something to help us feel like we're in control..For me it's words: rearranging them, dissecting their meaning, correcting others on their usage." Another change in her life is that her blood is no longer "anti-holy." Before Ciara died and was reborn as a vampire, her blood would cure a vampire's holy-water burns (which generally result in permanent scarring), but that is no longer true.

     In addition to her adjustment to vampire life, Ciara must also work through the awkwardness that has developed in her relationship with her best (human) friend, Lori, who is having trouble dealing with Ciara's fangy, blood-loving condition. Just as Ciara is ready to walk down the aisle as Lori's maid of honor, hippie DJ Jim, whose behavior has become increasingly erratic, calls a Code Black, forcing all the vamps to immediately leave the wedding. When they arrive at Jim's bloody crime scene, they discover that he has murdered a human couple, supposedly in self defense. To Ciara's amazement and horror, she discovers that the dead couple shares her true last name: O'Riley. Are they relatives? Were they looking for her? If so, how did they find her?
     Soon thereafter, as Ciara and her WVMP friends are enjoying Shane's first live concert, her long-lost Irish Traveller cousins turn up—one of whom (Cass) is the daughter of the murdered couple. Cass is searching for her parents, and Ciara has to figure out a way to tell her the bad news. As events play out, Ciara gets new information about her unholy blood, but then Jim goes completely wacko, with horrific results for both Ciara and Cass. Near the end, Ciara and Monroe (her maker) finally achieve a relatively comfortable relationship.

     The events in this novella are referenced in Lust for Life, which begins six months after this story ends, so you'll probably want to read this one first. Click HERE to go to links on the author's web site for a free download of "Let It Bleed." 

          BOOK 5: Lust for Life (FINAL)          
     Ciara and Shane are enjoying their life together as a vampire couple, even though Ciara still won't let Shane bite her. As the book opens, they are planning their wedding, which is about a month away. When they get a call from Deirdre, the last of Jim's progeny (and Shane's former lover/donor), they try to help her out, but run into trouble when Jim appears at her door, having escaped from the Control. In the melee that follows, Shane kills Jim, causing a series of serious consequences, not the least of which is that Shane must appear before a Control tribunal to be held accountable for his actions.

     As the WVMP team struggles to deal with Jim's death, a posse of his vengeful "children" come to town determined to assassinate Shane, Ciara, and Monroe (who was the one who restrained Jim back in the novella by jabbing wooden pencil "stakes" into his heart). As the plot plays out, Ciara and her friends are forced into a defensive posture as they try to protect themselves from a horde of grief-crazed hippie vampires. Will Shane and Ciara live long enough to make it to their wedding? 

     Smith-Ready chooses a woo-woo ending for this final book in the series, one that is totally unpredictable and way, way out there in the land of absurdity. I can't say that it's a completely satisfying ending, but it does tie up the loose ends and provide the characters with a way forward (just in case the author wants to come back to their story at a later date). All in all, this has been a strong series with well-developed lead characters and a quirky and appealing supporting cast (including Dexter, the vampire dog). Click HERE to read chapter one of Lust for Life.

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