Tag Archives: ghosts

‘Gil’s All Night Fright Diner’ by A. Lee Martinez (Book Review)

Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez is a fun, quick read I recommend for those of us that enjoy fantasy stories that don’t take themselves too seriously. It begins with the unlikely (in other universes) pairing of a vampire and a werewolf.

While passing through the town of Rockwood, rough werewolf Duke and self-doubting vampire Earl end up in an out-of-the-way diner. They find out that this is no ordinary diner- it has a recurring zombie attack problem. Earl and Duke help the diner’s owner Loretta work together to fend off an attack and stay on as workers to help solve the undead issue. The zombies, however, are only a symptom of the real problem; local teenager Tammy is hell-bent on bringing the old gods back to this dimension and ruin things for everyone.

Gil’s All Fright Diner is a simple story written with plenty of humor. I really enjoyed the character development of Duke and Earl, but was a bit disappointed in the female characters. For example, I was left trying to figure out why Tammy felt the need to destroy the world besides the fact that she’s a teenager. I suppose evil doesn’t need an excuse, but I felt it needed more. Also, the constant reference to Tammy’s hotness (and her using sex to get anything) and Loretta’s ugliness (she was fat and therefore, undesirable) was over the top.

Thankfully, to balance out Tammy, there is a ghost called Cathy who I at first thought was there to be rescued but ended up being a strong character in the fight against evil. Also, “ugly” Loretta is a strong woman that takes no bullshit from zombies or any other creature even with her limited human body. While Duke and Earl can heal themselves, Loretta can not, so her bravery kicked ass.

I have a few A. Lee Martinez books I’ll review here; he’s a fun fantasy author to read.

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The Island of Eternal Love by Daína Chaviano (Book Review)

Spanish book cover and front flapBefore reading fantasy novel La Isla de Los Amores Infinitos (available in English as The Island of Eternal Love) the only other Chaviano work I had read was a sci-fi short story about the Immaculate Conception (mentioned in my Cosmos Latinos anthology review). I really enjoyed that story for its irreverent sense of humor. It put the author on the radar for me. The Island of Eternal Love is part of Chaviano’s “The Occult Side of Havana Series” which the author’s website describes:

“In these works Havana is the point of departure for arriving at other universes – fantastic or magical – that lead the characters to unexpected discoveries about themselves. Each novel explores different facets of spirituality: reincarnation, Celtic magic, Spiritism or mediumistic practices, Afro-Cuban cults…”

The Island of Eternal Love is a family saga that includes ghost relatives, fantastical creatures, obscure religious rituals and supernatural abilities. It’s also a great story to learn about Cuban history while being entertained. The novel focuses on three families originally from China, Nigeria, and Spain that end up in Cuba .

The three families are [this section contains spoilers]   :

1. From China: Kiu-fa, husband Síu Mend, son Pag Li. They flee Chinese civil war to Cuba with Síu Mend’s grandfather who lived in Havana’s bustling Chinatown. They used dream interpretation to play the clandestine Chinese Charade lottery.

2. From Spain: Clara, husband Pedro, daughter Ángela. When the women of this superstitious family hit puberty, they are cursed with a mischievous dwarf called Martinico only they can see. Ángela can also see other fantastical entities.

3. From Nigeria: Caridad (African name Kamaria) and Florencio, both emancipated slaves of African mothers and white slave trader fathers that start a business in Havana. Caridad can see ghosts, and her daughter Mercedes falls victim to a demon that completely alters her personality.

English translation cover [END SPOILERS]

The families’ story is told by an old woman (Amalia) to Cecilia, a Cuban woman who left Havana for Miami. She alternately misses Cuba and despises it. Cecilia’s loneliness in her new city makes her visit with the old lady again and again to continue the tale. Cecilia is a reporter investigating claims about a phantom house that appears and disappears in different Miami locations. Only people with the ability to see supernatural phenomena can see it. In general they are reluctant to talk about it, so Cecilia is having a hard time writing the story.

Cecilia isn’t a very likeable character (she gets rather depressing after a while), but she is a smart investigator that is open-minded about the supernatural. The novel constantly switches from Cecilia’s investigation to Amalia’s story. At first I found Cecilia’s phantom house investigation intriguing, but as it went on I wanted to get back to the “good stuff” which to me was the old woman’s story.

The old woman’s tale eventually brings the three families together and along the way explores Cuban political, musical, slave, and ethnic Chinese history. It is also heavy on the religious rituals from all three family cultures and has a subtle sense of humor throughout. I would recommend this book for anyone who likes stories of ghosts and the occult and/or is interested in multi-ethnic Cuban history. Chaviano writes beautifully in Spanish, so I hope this translates well in the English edition.

Check out Daína Chaviano’s official website here. There is also a Facebook fan page and a book trailer for The Island of Eternal Love.

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All Souls is All Cheese with a Streak of Blood

All Souls cast, with Adam Rodríguez on far right
All Souls cast, with Adam Rodríguez on far right

All Souls, a creepy supernatural UPN Series from 2001 (still replays on SyFy) will make you afraid of old-timey hospitals forever if you weren’t already.   It lasted six episodes before it was cancelled, and that might not have been such a bad thing.  Here’s the plot: All Souls Hospital is a 300-year-old Boston institution with a dark history- insane asylum and dungeons included. Super-smart doctor Mitchell Grace (played by Grayson McCouch) arrives at All Souls after rejecting jobs at prestigious institutions. His father had mysteriously passed away while working as a janitor at All Souls, and this haunting memory became some kind of freaky incentive to work there. All Souls Hospital is well-known for its cutting edge research, and during the course of the series Mitch finds that this research is a tad bit… well, crazy unethical. But he must stay, because he is The Chosen One. Of course he is. He has two male friends, Patrick Fortado (Adam Rodríguez; CSI Miami, Roswell) and Dr. Brad Sterling (Daniel Cosgrove). Both of these actors are as handsome as McCouch but they get uglified with extremely bad haircuts to make Chosen One shine. Shame, because Adam Rodríguez is a deliciously handsome Puerto Rican and Cuban mix (raised in New York).

Rodríguez does a great job playing Patrick Fortado, a computer whiz. He’s the kind that can hack into anything *but* the hospital’s computers so you know somethin’ shady’s going on. Patrick is a paraplegic, recently confined to a wheelchair, and his spinal injury is one of the show’s plot points. He is a support character, the lead’s best friend, and appears in most episodes. Patrick lives in a trailer with his computers. Not sure how he actually can move around comfortably in a trailer, but whatever. Mitch and Patrick share 21 years of friendship, since Patrick’s parents “adopted” Mitch after he was orphaned.  They didn’t have time to develop a true bromance, but I believe they were well on their way. Adding to the mix, two Magical Negroes: a physic nurse and an American Civil War orderly ghost that hang out at the hospital dispensing cryptic advice and bossiness. This adds to the cheesiness in a good way.

It would have been nice to get some resolution to the series’ conflict, but it was short-lived for a reason.  My personal theory is that the hospital was a gateway to evil a la Sunnydale but instead of Buffy humor we get a weak The Shining. Still, if you see an All Souls marathon on TV, it is worth a watch, especially the pilot, episode two, Spineless, where Rodríguez really shines, and episode four, Bad Blood.

Bonus: Bad Blood has more latinos! So I’ll talk briefly about this particular episode. Dr. Márquez, played by Miguel Sandoval (Medium) flies to the hospital on the All Souls private jet (uh huh) for treatment of a mysterious ailment.  He is a world famous environmentalist, the “Nelson Mandela of the rainforest” since he was imprisoned many years for his efforts. Márquez also is a potential future president of a random Latin American country with dictators and torture who seemingly isn’t as saintly as he appears. You’ll notice Spanish guitar and South American pan flute music throughout the whole episode. I TOLD you it was cheesy!

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