Dying for a Living by Kory M. Shrum

ShrumDyingForALivingWhy I Read It: Sounded like a new take on zombies,and lord knows we needed a new one.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Urban fantasy fans who enjoy death and mystery would find this fun.

Narrator: Hollie Jackson

Publisher: Timberlane Press (2014)

Length: 8 hours 56 minutes

Series: Book 1 Jesse Sullivan

Author’s Page

Jesse Sullivan is a necronite and hired as a consultant by the government to participate in federally sanctioned life regenerations. Basically, a client pays a fee to the company, an AMP (a simple acronym for a fancy term for psychic) is consulted, and a necronite is assigned to shadow the person on the day of their predetermined death. When death comes, someone has to walk through the tunnel of light into the void and that is what Jesse is paid to do. Don’t worry, she regenerates in anywhere from a few hours to a day later (depending on the circumstances of death). The story opens on the morning of her 67th death as she meets her client, her life assistant (Allie) in tow. He’s a pretty dull business man and sure enough, Jesse saves him later in the day, after many hours of watching him make boring calls and process paperwork. The most exciting thing about this man was his use of improper slang, such as ‘zombie’ for necronite.

The 68th death was much more interesting. Jesse was assigned to a prostitute. Yep, Jesse got an education during this day’s work. These were some of the best scenes of the book, having me laugh out loud. Who was pretending to be the boat again? What are we bending the other direction? Of course, Jesse has to stay in the same room as the client the entire time, so she got to play a different role for each of the prostitute’s clients throughout the day, including a sex worker in training. Ha!

The story gets a little deeper when someone tries to outright kill Jesse (yes, even zombies can be killed) and it is just luck that her friends are able to save her in time. This event is the start of a deeper mystery for Jesse, Allie, and Lane (Jesse’s friend with benefits). There’s a lot of people and groups, including many religious organizations, that see the necronites as unnatural. It’s hard to nail down just which group or which individual wanted Jesse dead for good. Her case handler, Brinkley, goes missing and suspicion falls on him.

But then things get even weirder for Jesse. Most necronites don’t recall much of their lives before their first regeneration. Jesse’s first death was due to a barn fire. She has a complicated and sometimes painful past; as the story moves forward, Jesse has to start working through some of that. Then we have Gabriel, a black winged, suited man that only she can see and interact with. Now Jesse must question her own sanity.

I really enjoyed this fast paced urban fantasy. It used science to explain (sort of, it’s still fiction) the regenerations and then placed it within a boring government job. Jesse’s ability isn’t unique (there are others, although not bunches, like her) and it is used like a tool in her weekly job. I really liked this new take on zombies. With our current culture saturated with zombie books, movies, tv, music, costumes, games, etc., I wasn’t sure I would find this book interesting. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that I didn’t want to put the book away.

And there was a love triangle! I despise love triangles in general, feeling that they are also overused in the last 10 years. But this one was different. Jesse wants simple – like friends with benefits kind of simple. She’s not looking for a long-term, deep connection kind of relationship. But both her lovers are. Plus our main character is bisexual (without it being a big deal). I loved this aspect because Jesse was so many things – government consultant, snarky wit, center of some big mystery – and oh, yeah, she also swings both ways. It was footnote to her character, not the main aspect. So the love triangle really worked for me, adding to the character building instead of ticking me off.

I almost passed on this book and I am ever so glad I did not. There’s a lot of cool stuff that happens in the second half of the book, but I don’t want to toss spoilers around. Let’s say that there is plenty of action, some sacrifice, more character development, and more dealing with the past. It’s excellent. I am very much hoping Book 2 in the series makes it’s way to audio as well.

The Narration: Hollie Jackson was a good fit for Jesse Sullivan. She really pulled off all of Jesse’s witty remarks and defensive mechanisms. She had distinct voices for all the characters and good range that included male and female characters.

What I Liked: A fresh take on zombies; zombie regeneration is simply a tool to help you get a job; the scenes with the prostitute were full of humor; Jesse’s pet pug; the love triangle; the sacrifices made.

What I Disliked: The cover didn’t do much for me – there’s plenty of coolness captured in this book and I don’t feel that the cover really conveys that.

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