Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review of Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Supernatural Mystery/Thriller
Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot; Original edition (July 26, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0857661159
ISBN-13: 978-0857661159

Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Stan Markowski is a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit.

Like the rest of America, Scranton's got an uneasy 'live and let unlive' relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that's when they call Markowski. He carries a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.
My Review
Hard Spell, the first book in Justin Gustainis’s Occult Crimes Unit Investigation (Markowski) series, was absolutely amazing, one of the best books I have read in years. Since I usually read paranormal romance novels, I was not sure if I would be able to really sink my teeth into this one, but I am glad that I was wrong. I was totally hooked after reading only a few pages!

Hard Spell begins with an intriguing, alternate history of the existence of supernatural creatures, or “supes” as they are called by the citizens of Scranton, PA. Not only are their identities no longer concealed from the human population, but they also have the same civil rights and must follow the same set of laws as humans do (in addition to other regulations dealing with magic, infecting humans, and so on), and this is where the Scranton PD’s Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit comes into play. This special unit of officers was created to solve crimes, crimes which have been both committed by and against “supes”, and Detective Sergeant Stan Markowski, with his dark personality, quick wit, and dry sense of humor, is the perfect man for the job.

Although he hates vampires, Markowski gets the job done at any cost, even if the victim is a vampire. Throughout the beginning of the book, the reasons behind his hatred of vampires as well as his passion for the job are unknown but as the story moves forward, Stan’s own secrets jump out at you when you least expect them to, revealing some very intense emotions and motives underneath his hard exterior.

While Markowski is the dark, determined force on the “supe squad”, his partner, Karl Renfer, brings a youthful, light-hearted aspect to the story. The two are the perfect pair - the combination of experience and the rookie, cryptic and clear, dark and hearty - molded into one odd, yet effective partnership which will leave you scowling and laughing at the same time. Early on, the duo find themselves in the middle of a fast-paced, gruesome murder investigation full of twists and turns which leads to a shocking yet entertaining ride for the reader. Each turn of the page left me craving more of these occult detectives - I couldn’t get enough!

I also enjoyed the variation of characters in the novel - human detectives who protected both the human and “supe” populations, a SWAT team (Sacred Weapons & Tactics Unit) compiled of humans, supes, and one ferocious hell-hound named Daisy, goblins high on Meth, white witches who aid the “Supe Squad” when called upon, witches practicing forbidden black magic, an old, creepy vampire-sorcerer named Vollman, an evil supernatural perpetrator on a mission fueled by vengeance, and many, many more creatures that go “bump” in the night. It seems that so many unique characters within one story would be overwhelming, but Gustainis has a brilliant way of weaving each of them into the plot so that the story flows along while still keeping you on the “edge of your seat”.

Gustainis has done a brilliant job of creating an array of unique characters as well as a dark, urban setting full of mystery combined with compelling dialogue, dark humor, and just enough blood and guts. Hard Spell was the perfect blend of reality and fantasy, and Gustainis’s style of writing fuses the known and the occult into one perfectly generated atmosphere where paranormal creatures and humans coincide. This book is now at the top of my “favorites” list, and I recommend that anyone who enjoys reading urban fantasy, mystery, or crime novels, should buy a copy and start reading today.

My Rating

Friday, July 22, 2011

Interview with Justin Gustainis & Hard Spell Book Trailer

Embrace Your Oddities is delighted to welcome author Justin Gustainis to the blog. Mr. Gustainis is the author of Hard Spell, the first book in his new occult crime series which will be released on July 26th. The third book in his Morris & Chastain series, Sympathy for the Devil, will also be released on July 26th. How exciting! Don't miss Hard Spell's book trailer following the interview!

Genre:  Adult, Paranormal, Mystery
Series: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation (Stan Markowski), Book 1
Fantasy Element: Vampires, Witches, Goblins, Sorcerers, Deamons
Order Online: Amazon.com

Embrace Your Oddities:  Describe your feelings about the upcoming release of Hard Spell & Sympathy for the Devil, and tell us a little about the novels/series.
Justin Gustainis: I’m tremendously excited about June 26th, because that’s the date two of my books are being released (by different publishers).  Hard Spell is the first in a new series set in an “alternate universe” Scranton, PA.  It’s a world where supernatural creatures exist, and everybody knows it.  “Supes” (as they’re called) are citizens – which means they have to obey the law, like everybody else.  If they don’t, Detective Sgt. Stan Markowski of the Occult Crimes Investigation Unit is the one who gets the call.

The other book is Sympathy for the Devil, third in the “Morris/Chastain Investigations” series.  Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, “white” witch Libby Chastain, learn that one of the leading contenders for the Presidency is secretly possessed by a demon.  If he is elected, all Hell will break loose – literally.  Quincey and Libby want to stop him, but in the way are the brave and dedicated agents of the U.S. Secret Service – and all the powers of Hell, itself.
EYO: What sets your new series (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation, Markowski) apart from your Morris & Chastain series?
JG: Apart from the point of view (Morris/Chastain are third person; Markowski is first person) is the way the supernatural is perceived. As already mentioned, supernatural creatures are out in the open in the Markowski books; in the Morris/Chastain series there’s what the RPG people call a “masquerade” going on – the supernatural is hidden from all but a few humans who have the ability to ferret it out.
EYO: What drew you into the paranormal genres?
Justin Headshot.jpgJG: Most of what I write might be called “occult detective” stories, and I write those because that’s what I like to read. I’ve always wondered what Sherlock Holmes would have done if the Sussex vampire had turned out to be real.
EYO: As a male author in a largely female genre, do you enjoy being the “minority”? Are there any benefits, or does it make your job more difficult?
JG: Well, one benefit is that I get to sit with some pretty hot chicks when I’m on panels at conventions.  

I don’t know if being male helps or hurts my sales. You could argue it either way: that being male helps me stand out from the crowd of (largely) female writers, or that readers expect urban fantasy protagonists to be female, and don’t like to read UF books with male heroes. But I have no data, so I just go on doing what I do. In the words of a famous spinach-eating sailor, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I am.”
EYO: Are experiences in your novels based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
JG: Quincey Morris, of course, comes from Dracula – my guy is the great-great grandson of the man who died in the shadow of Castle Dracula while helping to end the evil Count’s existence. Libby Chastain’s first name, and some aspects of her character, are based on an old friend of mine. Markowski’s last name is the same as a guy I went to high school with.

EYO: Which of your characters was the most fun to create?

JG: I’d say Stan Markowski. He’s the first character I’ve written who speaks in his own voice (i.e., first-person narration) rather than some omniscient storyteller’s. Apparently Stan has a really dirty mouth, too.

EYO: Which of your characters would you most/least like to invite to dinner, and why?

JG: In Sympathy for the Devil there’s a female demon named Ashley who’s sent to Earth on a mission I can’t reveal here. I think she’d be a fun dinner companion. Least favorite would be her boss, Astaroth – one of the most powerful demons in Hell, and a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

EYO: If there was a film based on any of your novels, who would you cast as some of the main characters?

JG: I think Edward Norton would be a great Quincey Morris. Catherine Keener should play Libby Chastain. Twenty years ago, Roy Schneider would have been perfect as Markowski, but now he’s too old – in fact, he’s so old, he’s dead. Al Pacino is a little too old, but he could probably pull off the role of Markowski.

EYO: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

JG: I am running a huge contest in connection with Sympathy for the Devil. First prize is a $50 Amazon gift card, and I’ll name a character after you in the next Morris/Chastain book. This isn’t one of those contests where all you have to do is leave a comment to enter – there’s more involved. Details are on my web site,http://justingustainis.com

Favorite author? Kim Newman

Favorite book? Anno Dracula, by Kim Newman

Favorite song? “Sarah,” by Jefferson Starship

Favorite college/professional sports team? The Vermont Lake Monsters (duh!)

Favorite place to vacation? New York City

Favorite food? Pizza

Favorite movie? The Usual Suspects

Favorite television series? True Blood

Favorite quote/saying? “The best trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”

What book are you reading now? Supernatural Noir, edited by Ellen Datlow

If you could have only one supernatural power, what would it be? The power to heal broken hearts.

If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money? I think I’d start a magazine.  I’ve even got the name: Sepulcre—the Magazine of Horror and Dark Fantasy.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, what are the three items you could not live without? A good book, a hammock – and a solar-powered radio transmitter, so I could call for help.

And now for the BOOK TRAILER of HARD SPELL! This book is absolutely amazing, the best book I have read in years. If you enjoy reading paranormal, mystery, or crime books, this is the book for you!

For more information about the book and a sneak peak of the first chapter of Hard Spell, please visit the following link: Angry Robot Books

For more information about Justin's other novels and his Evil Ways Easter Egg Contest, please visit his website: JustinGustainis.com

About The Author

Justin Gustainis was born in Northeast Pennsylvania in 1951. He attended college at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit university that figures prominently in several of his writings. After earning both Bachelor's and Master's degrees, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U. S. Army.

Following military service, he held a variety of jobs, including speechwriter and professional bodyguard, before earning a Ph.D. at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Mr. Gustainis currently lives in Plattsburgh, New York. He is a Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State University, where he earned the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002.

His academic publications include the book American Rhetoric and the Vietnam War, published in 1993, and a number of scholarly articles that hardly anybody has ever read.

Thanks for following EYO!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaser Tuesday #5: Hard Day's Knight

Today's teaser comes from my current read,
by John G. Hartness. 

ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon.com)

Children are missing.

The police are stumped.

Halloween is coming, with an ancient evil on the horizon.

The vampires are the good guys.

This is not your ordinary fall weekend in Charlotte, NC. Vampire private detectives Jimmy Black and Greg Knightwood have been hired to keep a young client from being cursed for all eternity, but end up in a bigger mess than they ever imagined.

Suddenly trapped in the middle of a serial kidnapping case, Jimmy and Greg uncover a plot to bring forth an ancient evil into the world, and enlist the help of a police detective, a priest, a witch, a fallen angel and strip club proprietor to save the world. This unlikely band of heroes battles zombies, witches, neuroses and sunburn while cracking jokes and looking for the perfect bag of O-negative.


I picked up that stupid little minivan, and slammed it into the freshman from hell with everything I had. Toys, glass, baby seats and a couple of yuppies spilled out onto the pavement, but the girl was finally down. Greg dragged the yuppies over to the sidewalk and dropped his Jedi mind trick on them about hitting a Great Dane while I used their seatbelts to tie the girl's hands and feet.

"Grab Tommy. I stashed him on a roof." I yelled to Greg.

"Where are you going with her?" He yelled back. He was weaving a little back and forth, but he could stand, at least.

"Where else? I gotta take her to Dad's." And I tossed the girl over my shoulder like a rolled-up carpet and took off toward the only place that was safe to interrogate her - St. Patrick's.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Madness #2: Addiction

Just wanted to say THANKS to Shah @ Words In Sync for posting 
about addiction on Monday Madness.If you have any mental health
 questions, need support for yourself or a loved one,
 or just want to learn more about mental health, check out her 

Thanks again Shah!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tgif #12: Follow Me Friday & Book Blogger Hop, Yay!

Are you in the hopping mood? I am! Here comes the Friday fun...

This week's question is...
Let's see...

1. Duh, I blog.
2. I write. I'm actually working on my very first urban fantasy series, Transcendence. Everything is going well so far and I'm keeping my fingers crossed - hopefully it will be a success.
3. I paint & create mixed-media pieces (like altered book art, decoupage wall art, etc.). My art is largely inspired by New Orleans and urban culture, scenery, and architecture, but I also use a lot of symbols in my paintings(Fleur De Lis, Lotus Blossoms, the Egyptian Ankh, Pagan Triquetras, the Hindu Om/Aum, etc.). I just added an "Art" tab to my blog, and hopefully I'll have some pictures of my work up soon so I can share the love with you.
4. I play with my pets. I have 5 dogs (Armani, Lady, Selena, Nina, & Maximus) and 5 cats (Jasper, Emmett, Aro, Socks, & Victor). As you can see, I LOVE animals.
5. I spend time with the love of my life, Mitchell. We are very different, but we compliment each other. How boring would life be if you spent every day with someone who was JUST LIKE YOU? I keep him grounded and he challenges me to try new things. I'm goofy and he's, well, not as goofy as I am. I talk about books, music, and dance and he, err...listens. He is the best part of me :)

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question comes from Veronica who blogs @ Read Books, Have Fun.


Good question...

I get my books from all sorts of places. Sometimes I kick it old school and go to Barns & Noble, browse around for hours, and buy  a few brand spankin' new  novels. I also love the atmospheres of small, privately owned book stores.  One of my favorites is The Book Merchant in the historic town of Natchitoches, Louisiana. It's full of unique, interesting reads as well as classics & new releases, but it also has a great display of antique furniture and odds and ends, and a super friendly cat who greets you at the door :) 

Any time I see a used book store, some force of nature pulls me through the doors. I LOVE used books! They have so much personality :) I usually stop by the local libraries on Fridays and sift through the racks of books that are for sale. A couple of months ago, I found a ton of classics (Jane Eyre, Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice) and some of my favorite Anne Rice novels (Pandora & Blood Canticle) for 10 cents a piece! The books I use for my altered book art also come from the "Sale" racks at the local libraries. I also frequently order books from Amazon.com-new and used paperbacks and hardcovers-as well as eBooks so I can read them on my iPod or Android (too poor to buy a Kindle, lol). 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

TV Thursday #7: SYTYCD

Just wanted to share a few clips of my favorite routines from this season of So You Think You Can Dance.
They are absolutely amazing!

This one is my absolute favorite - Travis Wall is a genius

This one is absolutely beautiful, and Marco was amazing (he's the shirtless one if you didn't know that already)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Art Giveaway @ Bookaholic Does Blogging!

I am honored to say that Ashley who blogs at BOOKAHOLIC DOES BLOGGING is hosting an awesome giveaway - a unique piece of book art created by ME! Yay! It's my first piece of altered book art and I'm super excited to have it featured on her blog. 

Here's a pic of the one-of-a-kind book art that one lucky follower of Bookaholic Does Blogging will win...

Now isn't that the prettiest book you have ever seen? (patting myself on the back)  I had so much fun creating this piece and I hope the winner enjoys it as much as I enjoyed making it :)

If you would like to enter this awesome giveaway, just click the link below and hop on over to Ashley's blog for more details. 

Thanks Ashley, you're the best!

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