Angel Martinez

Books

Offbeat Crimes: Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters (2016), The Pill Bugs of Time (2016), Skim Blood and Savage Verse (2017), Feral Dust Bunnies (2017), Jackalopes and Woofen-Poofs (2017), All the World’s an Undead Stage (2018)

Brandywine Investigations: Open for Business (2016), Family Matters (2018)

Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists (2017)


Offbeat Crimes


Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters (2016)

Kyle Monroe has been a cop at the 77th precinct for several months, when he is assigned a new partner: the extremely stoic and handsome Vikash Soren. He wants to dislike Vikash, but instead falls for him–which is a terrible idea, since they’re partners.

This is a M/M fantasy romance police procedural.

Got all that?

This is also a very silly story in a very silly world.

That said, it was a fun and enjoyable silly.

Lieutenant Dunfee is the anti-priestess of an elder god. As I understand it, she has to perform certain rituals to keep the god from manifesting, which would be A Very Bad Thing.”

The interesting thing was that the characters were serious about their work, but didn’t take themselves seriously. Which is good, because one of the characters is a Leather Jacket.

Between them, in the chair a suspect would take while he was being booked, was a leather jacket. Not odd if the jacket had behaved normally and stayed draped over a chair arm like a good, proper jacket, but this one was sitting up with the buckled strap on one sleeve cuffed to the chair arm.

It isn’t clear whether the strange paranormal happenings have always occurred in the world, or if they are recent, but everyone accepts that weird things happen, and that the 77th is full of weird cops.

“Greg hears the unhappiness of waterfowl.”

“Don’t even know what to say to that.”

“Most people don’t.” Kyle held up his hands. “Don’t get me wrong. He’s a good cop.”

There is boinking here, but it’s also a fascinating world, and I quite liked the characters. The only negative was that they story ended rather abruptly. Mostly I’d forgotten it’s a novella, but it was only a couple of bucks, so it was fine.

Publisher: Pride Publishing
Rating: 7/10

The Pill Bugs of Time (2016)

This is the second half of Kyle and Vikash’s story, told from Vikash’s POV.

Why are these two characters fun? Because they are ridiculously geeky–and proud of it.

“Should get an Odo bucket,” Vikash murmured.

“A what?”

Kyle chuckled into his coffee. “Seriously, Carr? You never watched Deep Space Nine?

But it’s not all geekiness and boinking. I do like the other characters, even if they appear only briefly.

“All right, people.” Lieutenant Dunfee shook her head. “I have two officers on medical, one close to collapse and the rest of you look like crap.”

“Well, thank you for that.” Carrington sniffed in offense from his corner.

“If we try to solve this tonight, we’re asking for disaster. Everyone get the hell out of my building. We’ll start again in the morning.” She pointed toward the shadowed back wall. “Except Loveless, who wants to be a smartass.

HOWEVER.

If this story wasn’t the conclusion of the first book, I would NOT have read it.

Because I DESPISE time travel stories.

I’m not kidding.

I really REALLY hate time travel stories, and about the only thing that made this tolerable is that they characters traveled in their minds. Mostly.

But I did like the conclusion of Kyle & Vikash’s story.
Publisher: Pride Publishing

Skim Blood and Savage Verse (2017)

I’m glad the series didn’t start here, because I wouldn’t have read any of the other books.

Carrington Loveless is the senior member of the 77th precinct–part of a group of paranormal police officers seen as broken by the “regular” paranormal law enforcement. And their office is odd. None of the officers have normal (or even useful) talents, and there are several unofficial members, including and animated leather jacket and a creature that might be an alien caterpillar.

Carrington himself is a vampire who can actually (carefully) go out in the sun, and who can’t drink whole blood. He is also attracted to exactly the wrong type of men, regularly getting his heart broken.

What was that for?”

“For being an idiot. God. I thought we were gonna have to get a mop for all the drool.”

Carrington stared wistfully at the storefront as they pulled away. “He was nice to look at.”

“Damn it, Carr! Did you hear him? How many I’s and me’s can one guy fit into a conversation? Freaking walking ego on a stick. And that store? It was everything you hate in a bookstore.”

The problem here is that I like Carrington’s partner, Amanda, far more than I like the vampire. He’s annoying.

I like the fact that he’s different. I like the mystery and the threat of attack books. I just don’t like Carrington.

“Manda… I’m sorry.”

Amanda stopped in mid-stride on her way out of the room and pinned him with her best glare. “Don’t start. If it’s about your mom, you’re not her keeper and you can’t make her like me. If it’s about getting me to come today, I had some great food. If it’s about not being the world’s best vamp and being a sucky partner again, shut it. Not doing this with you today.”

There is something interesting I noted.

“Mr. Graham, we’re from the 77th. The paranormal crimes unit.”

“Erasmus, please.” He led them back to a desk and produced enough chairs for everyone to sit. “I do hear about your unit sometimes. My mom’s wife’s cousin is your department commander.”

“Oh, thank freaking jam on toast,” Amanda said. “Explaining us first takes longer than the interview sometimes.”

Some of the characters don’t curse–or don’t regularly curse. For a book that has explicit boinking, that amuses me greatly, even if it IS logical, lots of people don’t curse.

But as I said, I just don’t care for Carrington, so that made the book far less enjoyable than it might have been otherwise.

Publisher: Pride Publishing
Rating: 6.5/10

Feral Dust Bunnies (2017)

I’m glad I purchased this book with the previous, because otherwise I might have ended the series there and that would have been a shame, because this story was great.

Alex Wolf is an officer in Precinct #77. Like the others, he’s strange. Weird. When he was little, he was cursed and changed from a wolf into a human. He eventually learned to talk, was adopted by two scientists who raised him and loved him as if he was their own, and (mostly) fits into human society. But he’s definitely odd, and often has problems.

He hated handshakes. They were just weird. But he’d long ago been dissuaded from sniffing other humans or nudging them with his nose.

She quite obviously put a lot of work into creating a character who has to work to fit into human society, and it’s adorable and marvelous.

(O)nce he got to the grocer’s, the sheer number of bins of apples confused him and he forgot which ones Mom had said. Mrs. Hui had to rescue him from apple purgatory, though he did remember the milk on his own. Twenty-five years as a human and sometimes simple human things still weren’t that simple for him.

I also like that his mother–although a scientist–obviously loves and accepts him as he is.

“Are you all right, sweetheart?” Mom stopped on her way past his room with a new book in hand.

“I can’t remember how to human,” Wolf said with a frustrated snarl.

“Oh? You’re still using your words. That’s good. What part of humaning is causing the problem?”

I also really liked Wolf’s partner, Krisk, who is a giant, intelligent, lizard. Since lizards lack vocal cords, Krisk communicates through gestures and texting.

And like Wolf, he is clearly not human, although he does try.

Dinner.

“Yeah, I’m almost done here.” Wolf stared at the message again, then realized he wasn’t sure what Krisk meant. He texted back—

You mean your place? Mom’s expecting me home.

Adopted matriarch is welcome. The dinner hour thrice following this one.

Got it. You know she doesn’t eat mealworms, right?

One is aware.

Okay.

Again, she did a very good job showing that Krisk wasn’t human. Like Wolf, his thought processes and ways of expression were not bog standard human, which makes both of them fascinating.

And I haven’t even talked about the story yet. The 77th is called in whenever someone thinks a problem is being caused by a supernatural agent or entity. So they get a lot of calls that are immediately referred to animal control.

Two such calls seem on the surface to be lost or feral dogs, but desiccated animal remains quickly point otherwise.

Which is how Wolf ends up with a kitten.

Probably the most adorable kitten in all of kitten-hood.

Kitten was crying, of course, and latched on to Mom’s jeans where she’d managed to claw halfway up one calf while Mom tried to finish dinner. The moment she heard Wolf’s voice, though, she let go and flumped in a kitten pile on the kitchen floor before she scrambled to her feet and baby-wobbled to him, still crying as if someone were pulling her tail off.

And Wolf quickly adopts her as part of his pack. Which means that he is suddenly seeing a lot more of Jason Shen, the Animal Control officer.

Although they aren’t especially offensive, I don’t like the covers of this series, and this one is particularly egregious, because it is definitely not Alex, who is described as very hirsute (unsurprisingly) nor is it Jason, who is Asian and described as having a little pot belly.

This is actually not a throw-away detail, since Alex has some food issues. Not an eating disorder, but because he spent time hungry as a wolf cub, he has issues. All of which comes back around to how awesome his mother is. She is delightful.

I hv her. Srry.

You took her to WORK?

“Damn it.”

I have all her stuff. It’s OK, Mom. She has peeps watching her.

Mom typed for a long time, then finally sent—

They better not be peeps. Marshmallow chicks should not watch kittens.

For the second time in fifteen minutes, Wolf sagged in relief. If Mom was making bad jokes, she wasn’t so mad anymore.

It’s that “Mom typed for a long time” bit that I really like there. Obviously she’s spent learning to be patient with Alex, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get mad and upset. I imagine her typing–taking a deep breath and deleting–then starting over. She’s not magically patient, which I really like. (Especially since Alex doesn’t easily pick up the human cues of exasperation and frustration, things from his POV tend to ignore them.)

And I still haven’t talked about Jason being complex and interesting. Which he is.

The point being, I really really enjoyed this story. The world building is fun and the characters were extremely well done, feeling alien while still being comprehensible.

Yay!

Publisher: Pride Publishing
Rating: 8.5/10

Jackalopes and Woofen-Poofs (2017)

Alex and the rest of the 77th are dealing with the fall out from the last book, when Kash destroyed the magical working that was creating the attack dust bunnies.

Jason’s work is fine, but his family remains a big problem.

Paul took five uncomfortable seconds to pounce. “You have to stop all this, you know. You’re really making Mom and Dad miserable.”

“Stop all what?” Jason pushed walnuts around his plate, his hackles already rising. He knew exactly what Paul meant, but why make it easy?

“This being gay thing. Bad enough that you’d remind them of it sometimes. Now you have to shove it in their faces with a… a boyfriend? A white boyfriend. Christ, Jason. I just can’t.”

Jason shrugged. “No one’s ever asked you to hide who you are.”

“Of course not. I’m not—” Paul broke off with a wave of his hand. He didn’t need to say abnormal to make his point. “You need to finally grow up. Get a real job. Find a nice girl to start a family with.”

But it’s okay, because there’s a kitten to make things better.

Audacity started on her bacon as soon as Mom set the plate in front of her. She was meticulously polite, only putting one paw on the table and taking a piece at a time. Jason had frowned at encouraging a cat to eat at the table but Mom had said her granddaughter could have something with the grownups if she behaved. So Audacity did.

I’ll be honest, I typically despise it when people refer to their pets as their children, but here, it actually works for me. Regardless of his shape, Alex still thinks of himself as a wolf, so Audacity would become part of his pack–his family–so his mother accepting Audacity as the only grandchild she’s likely to have is endearing and sweet, since it’s a reflection of how she accepts Alex.

Alex and Jason do have issues to work out. Jason’s family doesn’t accept Alex, and Alex struggles with social interactions and understanding what people say (and don’t say). But they are also both willing to work at their relationship, which I very much like.

Jason had discovered after trial and error that Alex refused to leave a kitchen without cleaning up first. Helping was easier on both of them than trying to convince him to leave it until later.

Yes, he’d go to the wedding because Kyle and Kash were good people and a great couple and he was trying to get over his judgmental self about weddings as heteronormative distractions from real issues. They wanted the outward commitment and legal terms of marriage and they had that right.

And yeah, we get Kyle and Kash’s wedding, which is just as lovely as you’d expect.

While this wasn’t going to be a traditional wedding for either side of the family, Jason suspected they were trying to fuse all the important parts.

No, truly, adorable.

Over at Krisk’s table, the coats didn’t eat, though, they seemed to be acting out a story using silverware, while Krisk cut up leafy greens and placed them on a bread plate for Tim. There may have been some guests looking askance at their table, but none of the non-humans paid attention. Besides, how cute was a fuzzy purple ovoid who managed to keep his top hat on while he devoured his tiny salad?

As with the previous story, I very much enjoy how alien Alex and Kirsk are. I think she does an excellent job creating characters who are humanoid, but truly not human.

I very much like this book as much as the previous.

Publisher: Pride Publishing
Rating: 8.5/10

All the World’s an Undead Stage (2018) 

The conclusion to the Offbeat Crimes series (or at least the story arc of who has been targeting Precinct 77) concludes with us going back to Carrington and Erasmus, who are happy enough together, although neither has said the “L” word yet.

“Did you skip lunch again?” Carrington had on his frown of disapproval. Too bad it was an adorable frown that Erasmus had trouble taking seriously.

But we get HEAs for everyone here, including Vance and Amanda–and perhaps even Audacity.

Do you like your new uniform?”

Mew. Miii-iiw. Audacity pedaled with all four paws until LJ set her down. She turned in an obvious modeling pose to show Carrington one side of the vest with POLICE stenciled in white block letters, then turned to display the other side with CADET FAMILIAR. If that wasn’t Jason’s idea, Carrington would eat his police hat and Amanda’s.

Yes, that is disgustingly adorable, but since Audacity seems to have been enhanced by the various magic’s she’s been around (and she IS a kitten) I’m weirdly ok with it.

There are still lots of geeky undertones here, which are a delight.

Probably just another fox, but let’s be thorough. Oh, and if it is a fox, tell the nice civilians that sometimes a red fox is just a red fox and to stop watching so much anime.”

“What’s he talking about?” Vance murmured to his partner.

Sadly, there are zombies here, but they aren’t brains devouring zombies, so that’s less awful.

“We decided to call it a zorpse,” Kyle called out.

“Pardon?”

“Well, Dr. Moreau refused to call it a zombie and animated corpse is just too much of a mouthful—”

“Hence zorpse,” Kash finished from beside Kyle.

They’re still gross-the shambling, play-reciting, rotting, undead. But they’re not trying to eat everyone’s brains.

He turned to his husband. “What’s the collective noun for zombies?”

“Why would I know that?” Kash turned his gaze ceilingward. “Why would anyone know that?”

“I’ll take horror genre collective nouns for a hundred, please,” Jeff said with a poorly concealed snicker. “I think horde works.”

Pecca raised a hand, waving it wildly. “Oh! Shambles! I like shambles for a group of zombies. This is fun. Is this how investigations usually work?”

“Ah, perhaps not so much in other departments.”

I figured out the bad guy pretty early on, along with the other surprise reveals, but I was ok with that, because they weren’t something that would be obvious to unexpecting characters (I, the omniscient fantasy reader am good and picking up hints dropped by the author, whereas the characters have a lot more information to sort out.)

I also was impressed by the conflict between Carr and Ras. Not that I especially wanted there to be a conflict, but the situation was such that said conflict was likely to happen, and I like how it was sorted out. So even though Carr is my least favorite character, he didn’t especially annoy me here.

In short, it was a fun and enjoyable series with HEAs for everyone, but lots of fun and unexpected twists.

Publisher: Pride Publishing
Rating: 8/10


Brandywine Investigations


Open for Business (2016)

Mythological beings.
M/M romance.
Murder and mystery.

That noise?

Those were a bunch of my buttons being pushed all at the same time.

This is three separate stories.

Canines, Crosshairs & Corpses, No Enemy But Time, and Dragons, Diamonds & Discord.

Canines, Crosshairs & Corpses

Hades (that Hades) doesn’t know what do with himself.

(Orpheus) kept skimming even as he spoke, turning pages faster and faster. “Guys, this is bad.”

“How bad?”

“Epically bad.” Orpheus dropped the divorce papers on the table, shaking his fingers out as if the words had singed him. “(Persephone)’s kicking him out, too. Keeping the palace and the dog.”

So Hades and Charon set up house and he decides to become a PI. And the first case he decides to take is to determine who has been murdering homeless men.

which is how he meets Ti.

Neither one of these dudes even smirked, like Tiberius was as normal a name as Mark or Tom and pairing it with Snyder wasn’t at all absurd, like he was the Roman Emperor of potato chips.

Ti is a homeless alcoholic, but he’s also a witness to the latest murder, so Hades decides to sober him up and see what he knows.

I really like Ti. He’s a street person, but he doesn’t make excuses for himself–he has just tried to stay safe, which is difficult to do on the streets.

We get mythology and the underworlds here, which if you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I remain fascinated by comparative theology and the rituals of death and dying.

The domains ruled by Osiris and Yama, by Ereshkigal and Tuoni— Heaven, Valhalla, all of these places are where human souls go until they’re ready for the next stage of existence. Eventually, regardless of whether the soul has been punished or blessed, when they’re ready, every soul vanishes from its chosen resting place and moves on.”

Besides that, I liked that Hades didn’t miraculously cure Ti of his alcoholism and the effects of living on the streets. Yes, he calls in his extended family members, who help Ti through the worst of the withdrawl, but the rest requires work from Ti–and it’s not easy for him. (I also have a thing for broken people and they work they do to fix themselves.)

This was my favorite story of the book.

Hades was still trying to fathom the mind capable of such idiocy. Benny’s parents had ordered him to leave the house because he had been caught kissing another young man. How this could bring a family shame, he couldn’t understand and how you could simply harden your heart and abandon your own child was something he would never understand.

No Enemy But Time

The second story seems to be a continuation of a previous story, with Hades’ son Zack (Zagreus) and the fallen angel Michael as the main characters.

This story is really dark and difficult.

Terrible things happen to both characters, and although things are better at the end of the story, things are in no way really truly resolved.

Love wasn’t the answer to everything. That was a hard lesson to learn. But it was more than enough for sitting in the sun, pulling weeds. It was more than enough to start the seeds of two new, stronger hearts growing again beside the butterfly garden.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good story about having to make difficult choices. But it was a hard story.

Dragons, Diamonds & Discord

The third story is about Hermes and Fafnir (clash of mythologies here as well, which I find awesome).

We see more of Michael and Zack’s story, which we very much needed after the close of the previous story, but we also see Hermes finding his true love, who happens to be the mythical dragon Fafnir, who is also something of a resurrection being (having been killed more than once).

“F. B. Dreki. What’s the ‘B’?”

Fafnir growled as the doors opened on his condo, but it was a soft rumble, not a threatening one. It might have been a laugh. “Brenna.”

“Really?” Hermes knew his Old Norse and nearly laughed, too. “Fafnir Burning Dragon?”

“Firedrake, I think would be a better translation, don’t you?”

There’s a bit in this story that I loved, where there is a meeting (as in a business meeting) of a bunch of chaos gods.

“So these are all chaos gods?” Fafnir asked when he’d gotten his fire under control.

“More or less,” Hermes answered. “Eris does discord, which is a kind of chaos. Kisin is a god of death, but he’s one of destruction and plague. Pikuolis, likewise, though he tends toward darkness, torture, rage, those sorts of things. Apesh the turtle is a god of evil. Amatsu Mikaboshi is an ancient being of stars and night, so yes, born of chaos. The goat headed person Michael described is probably Aka Manah, who is a lord of deceit and evil intent. Pretty chaos-driven. The being that resembled a cow is most likely Gaueko, who simply hates everyone. And Set, of course, is Set, the Lord of Chaos himself.”

I’ll be honest, I thought the solution to dealing with the chaos gods in the end was a little too easy. And I’m not quite sure how they covered up the battle in the museum, but it was fun.

Publisher: Mischief Corner Books, LLC;
Rating: 7.5/10

Family Matters (2018) 

This is three stories set in the same world as the previous book, Open for Business: Books, Bulls, & Bacchanals, Midwinter Dancing, Pack Up the Moon

Books, Bulls, & Bacchanals is Dionysus’ story. After an evening spent with his family, Dio decides he needs to find something to help him control his rages. So on the recommendation of several family members, he heads to the Eternal Library–a place he’s never been, since there is not drinking, dancing, or dalliance there. (At least not regularly.)

He takes with him his follower Meggie and his faun George, and discovers not a book with a solution, but Leander, the Minotaur librarian.

First, so much of this story is just plain delightful.

As long as George wore human clothes and a hat, they assumed he had deformed feet, which apparently made them so universally uncomfortable that they pretended the cloth-covered hooves weren’t there.

The library assistants? Are red pandas. How adorable is that? Just as adorable as you’d think.

And Dio squees abut eReaders.

“It’s kind of a minicomputer. But the best part is I can get books on here. Books without killing trees. I am so all about that. The not hurting trees. It’s the most wonderful thing. Ever. Whatever I want. Anytime.

There is murder here. And mystery. But it is a lot of Leander and Dio navigating their needs and anxieties and worries, and it’s one of the lovey things about this series, that beings who are seemingly incompatible on the face of it can work out their differences–and it is work and compromise, which I very much appreciate.

After all, Dio is the god of debauchery. It’s not like he’d be an easy person to have a relationship with.

Midwinter Dancing is a short story, telling how Ing met Artemis, and they both learned to dance.

Ing’s grandmother is possible the best part of this story.

Pack Up the Moon is the third and final story. Charon ends up helping Azeban, the raccoon god (and a trickster).

Az is very much a loner and a trickster, and his only friend the crow Kau, but he is content with his lot–except that SHE has been trying to find him, and he is running out of places to hide.

First, Charon is delightful.

Charon raised a hand and shouted, “Stay!” Ti froze and Nike skidded to a stop on the front hallway tiles. “Good girl,” Charon called to her. He patted Ti’s shoulder on the way past. “Good human.”

Second, Az has a very strong voice, which I enjoyed.

“I’ve enjoyed reading fiction ever since humans began writing their stories down.”

“See, that kinda made me sad. When they started doing that.” Azeban sat on his haunches like a proper raccoon, gesturing at the shelves. “All these stories are stuck. They can’t change. When humans used to tell each other stories, stuff changed all the time. It was exciting to hear what they’d do with a story. Now they write it down, and that’s it. That’s the story.”

Also, Az gets called a trash panda more than once (and he kind of deserves it).

I was a little worried about this story because it is clearly Charon’s tale, and Charon pretty much says in the first book that he’s an Ace. But these are M/M (or F/F) erotic romances, so I was rather concerned.

Yes, there naked body parts, but this story, like the first, is very much about negotiation and coming to terms with differences in a relationship, and I did think it worked.

Plus, we get a meeting of the Trickster gods.

Coyote faded out to leave his grin behind for a few seconds.

I did find it difficult at one point to accept that Az would take the actions he did, even under duress. But he IS a trickster god, and Kau truly is his only true friend (at least at the start of the story) so he probably would let the world burn for Kau.

He needed to say something, but words had become alien birds that wouldn’t sit still in his head.

There are so delightful things in this story, and pretty much everyone makes an appearance, so it was a lovely wrap-up to the series.

It is LGBT erotica, so be aware of that going in, but it’s also delightful and sweet and lovely.

Publisher: Mischief Corner Books, LLC
Rating: 8.5/10

Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists (2017)

Taro has to make a confession to his family–and he’s afraid they’re going to freak out.

He’s won the biggest power ball in history, and is going to keep it a secret from everyone but them. He is also, after buying his parents a vacation home and setting up accounts for his siblings and nieces and nephews, going to buy houses around the world and try to become a travel writer.

But somewhere along the way he seems to have picked up a ghost–a ghost who insists that the house must be clean. So when he heads back to New York, he ends up hiring a ghost hunter.

I really really REALLY like Taro.

Power-save introvert, that’s what Luka called him. He was “on” when he had to be, turned “off” the moment people left him in peace, and occasionally suffered shorts and power outages during which he couldn’t interact successfully with people at all.

I also loved Taro’s family. The writing hits that perfect balance of unconditional love but still capable of being annoying.

Taro wasn’t sure what he expected from a ghost hunter, but it wasn’t Jack.

“Phillip’s an accountant. Or a snooty trust-fund baby. Why are you named after a root vegetable?”

Taro needed three tries to find his voice. “I’m not.”

“Taro? Big purple edible root. What poi’s made of?”

“Oh. No.” Taro finally had the presence of mind to shut the door. “I mean, yes to taro being a plant, but it’s short for Lautaro. My name, not the vegetable. And I was an accountant.”

Though I might secretly BE Jack.

There was a thunder rumble overhead as a wheeled chair rolled across the floor, followed by the unholy trample of Jack rushing down the stairs in such a way that Taro wasn’t sure if he was running or falling.

So to sum up, Taro is lovely, the mystery is fun, and I just all-around enjoyed the story, as Taro and Jack navigated Taro needs.

I really REALLY like everything I’ve read by Angel Martinez so far.

Publisher: Mischief Corner Books, LLC
Rating: 8/10