The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack


24/7 Demon Mart

24/7 Demon Mart


5 Revenge of the Furballs by D. M. Guay

At the end of the last book in the series, Lloyd discovers the missing pet hamster of the serial-murderer-esq seven-year-old who lives next door and things are clearly not right with the poor animal. I’ve spent the past nine months wondering exactly what was up with the poor little critter and have been leaning toward the hamster-zombie apocalypse. Fortunately, D. M. Guay had a much better plan in store for us, although it takes quite a while to learn what’s up with the city’s hamster population.

The reason for the delay is that Lloyd has a whole new set of problems distracting him from Mr. Nibbles. Half of those problems resulted from promises he made in attempting to save his friends in the last book. The most important of these problems take the form of his supervisor, Kevin (reincarnated into the body of a cockroach) who wants to move in and be roommates, and his guardian angel, who got herself suspended and is trying to avoid her new gig as a miraculously weeping angel statue. The other half of the problems come from the local vampire and werewolf populations who are working themselves into a state of war. Lloyd, naturally, is smack in the middle of all of this, even though he is desperately trying to stay out of the new problems so he can work on getting his life in better order so he does not fall prey to re-possession by Sloth.

If that all seems like a lot to bite hold of, it’s not. Guay eases you in with her usual humor, as poor Lloyd stumbles from one problem to the next with the least supportive group of “friends” imaginable. It seems that everyone wants to eat our overweight hero—except for his mother who is hinting strongly that he should be like his big sister and move out.

It’s pretty standard to feel bad for Lloyd in this series, but I find it especially true this time around. After his experiences in the last book, Lloyd really is trying to do the right thing and get his life in order, and absolutely everyone is pretty rotten to him, acting disgusted that he freeloads off his parents while they freeload off of him (and his parents). I think it’s a testament to what a good guy he is that he keeps it together as long as he does.

As usual, it’s Guay’s odd takes on standard horror motifs that makes this book stand out from the crowd. I honestly don’t know how she does it. Her monsters are true to the genre (werewolves and vampires this time) and yet, at the same time, they are total farces that had me laughing all the way through to the end.

In Alpha Order

1 The Graveyard Shift by D.M. Guay

I have a confession to make. While I read a fair number of books that are supposed to be comedic at least in part, the comedy often escapes me for most of the novel. That wasn’t the case here in The Graveyard Shift. I was laughing very early in the book and sharing the jokes with my son who would laugh uproariously at them second hand. Guay has a gift for the absurd and it really works in this first book of his 24/7 Demon Mart series.

The hero (Lloyd) is a loser. It’s not nice to say, but even he recognizes it. His major problem would appear to be pure laziness coupled with a remarkable lack of even a modicum of ambition. He seems essentially happy living in his parents’ house, playing video games, and going every night to a convenience store to sample one of their 100+ varieties of slushies. Oh, and I should also mention, that he is really, really, stupid. I’m not saying he has a low IQ, just that he’s really amazingly dumb—but weirdly enough, in a totally believable way.

So here’s the set up. Lloyd goes into the convenience store where he has a schoolboy crush on one of the attendants who probably doesn’t know he exists and while he’s there a demonic snake creature appears and tries to escape the store and he helps his fantasy crush stop this from happening. In addition to the snake creature, genuine magic is displayed. Keep this in mind for later.

Long and the short of it is that the store owner arrives and offers our hero a job at an extraordinarily good hourly rate. Since he is in desperate debt, and it will let him be near his crush, our hero accepts. It is very clear to the reader, and in all fairness, the demon hiring Lloyd tells him, that this store is not a normal place. There are genuine threats to life and limb here. There are demons involved. But Lloyd immediately zones out on the training video and never does get around to reading his employee handbook which tells him how to survive these dangers. He also has a really hard time accepting that the supernatural is in play in this store. All of which produces hilarious situation after hilarious situation. It’s as if he just can’t process magic and the supernatural even when he keeps seeing it.

The author also manages to show Lloyd growing as a person without having him overcome the qualities that have made him basically unsuccessful so far in life. So it’s sweet when his mother’s sheer joy that he has gotten a job keeps him from quitting. And it’s also nice to see him starting to want the things that other adults around him desire. Oh, and I should mention that even though Lloyd thinks he is a coward, he’s actually intensely brave and steps up when he has to. And again, credit to the author, this is done in a very believable way.

So, to sum up this review, I really enjoyed this book and am seriously looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

2 Monster Burger by D.M. Guay

D.M. Guay picks up just where she left off in her awesome novel, The Graveyard Shift. Perennial loser Lloyd is still a loser after helping to save the world, but his success and poor judgment has caused him additional problems. For example, paying off all the money he owes his mother just a couple of weeks in to working what she thinks is a minimum wage job has made her suspect that he’s really entered the drug trade. And he’s also horrified to discover that God took him seriously when he made that fervent I’ll-reform-my-life-if-you-get-me-out-of-this prayer (and how many of us haven’t done the same thing on occasion?) and He expects Lloyd not only to keep working in the ultra-dangerous Demon Mart but to get fit so he can do the job better. (And this is not the kindly Jesus God, it’s the fire-and-brimstone Old-Testament-wrath God.)

So life is not looking good for Lloyd as he reluctantly returns to his job where the only joy is coworker DeeDee whom he has a crush on and the Monster Burger joint across the street which has just come into new management and become highly weird. Add to that that nothing works properly in the newly rebuilt Demon Mart including the demon portal and their protective charms and life could not be crazier for poor Lloyd. (And if you read the first book, you will realize just how insanely crazy that means things have to be.) There are pixies, carnivorous plants, and more weird demons, plus, as you can tell from the great little image at the beginning of each chapter—zombies, zombies, and more zombie.

D.M. Guay is clearly an aficionado of the zombie movie genre, telling us repeatedly in this novel that Dawn of the Dead was a documentary, not a work of fiction. And she brings all of her impressive zombie chops to this novel managing to do so with humor and style as opposed to the typical blood fest. And throughout everything, those crazy pixies keep making things ever more dire and complicated.

Guay outdid herself in this one. Can’t wait to read the next.

Angel Trouble by D.M. Guay

After almost getting eaten by zombies in book 2, Lloyd is finally ready to stop messing around and get his body into shape. Unfortunately for him, the bizarre problems that are a daily occurrence at the Demon Mart do not plan to wait for him to get ready for them. This time, the trouble centers upon The Grim Reaper (actually, he's only A Grim Reaper) who has been laid off from his job while the other angels investigate some rather nasty accusations against him. To make matters worse, The Grim Reaper's girlfriend of a mere 5000 years has broken up with him and so he's doubly heartbroken and has come to the rather strange idea that Lloyd (whom he has just met) is his best friend in the whole world. He then goes about accidentally destroying Lloyd's life, screwing up his company-paid-for gym membership and getting Lloyd put on review and in danger of losing his job. Oh, and the Grim Reaper is also apparently accidentally killing lots of people he runs into. 

Now the reader is pretty sure from moment one that all is not what it seems, but the cast of our Demon Mart epics can be forgiven for not catching on too quickly. After all, Lloyd has a demon personally interested in wrecking his life and all the spirits the Grim Reaper is creating have come to the Demon Mart to haunt everyone (including one of our beloved main cast heroes.)

Lloyd has to really step up and become the principal hero (as opposed to the sidekick) this time. He has to be better than you ever believed he could be or he, Kevin, and DeeDee are going to be seriously dead for all eternity. I was, quite frankly, shocked at how far D.M. Guay took this and I was incredibly pleased how she maneuvered Lloyd into tackling these problems without fundamentally changing who he is.

Now if all of that isn't enough, I cannot close this review without mentioning Lloyd's employee manual. He has been avoiding reading it for two books now and it appears to be very angry at him over his neglect. Now that he needs it, the manual wants nothing to do with him. If you thought it was getting odd and scary in the last book, you ain't seen nothing yet.

This is hands down the best book of a great series. Here's to hoping the next book is just about ready for publication.

4 (Re) Possessed by D.M. Guay

Lloyd, DeeDee, and the rest of the crew at the 24 hour Demon Mart are back for another adventure, but all isn’t well after the last novel. The Seven Deadly Sins are about to be released again so they can try to bring the Lord of Chaos back to takeover the world. Naturally, the crew of the Demon Mart are all that stand in the way of the big seven, but they are also the victims of these sins which brings us to the heart of one of Guay’s most interesting novels. It’s a book that couldn’t have worked without all the previous novels establishing these characters. The reader knows their strengths and weaknesses and each time one of the deadly sins possessed someone, it made perfect sense. (I don’t think that’s a spoiler. I never had any doubt what was happening even if Lloyd was very slow on the uptake, but then, he never has been very smart.)

So Lloyd, unsurprisingly, is possessed by Sloth and spends the book trying to overcome his own intense laziness to save the day. This felt a little overlong in the beginning, but actually was handled pretty well by Guay. Lloyd has been putting off for tomorrow everything he could get away with since the beginning of the series, and this is the book that that habit comes back to bite him and I loved watching him struggle with his natural inclinations so he could try and save the day. But the best part was when he had to use what he had learned about his friends to save them, in doing so undergoing a spurt of truly touching character growth.

This was another fun one with the set up for another disaster offered in the last pages.

Hell for the Holidays by DM Guay

I enjoyed The Graveyard Shift so much that I was a little bit leery of giving another of DM Guay’s books a try. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, I know, but humor is difficult to pull off in a novel and part of me thought she could never sustain the heights of hilarity I found in The Graveyard Shift. But it was Christmas and I wanted to read a Christmas-themed novel and so I thought, “What the heck” and am I ever glad that I did.

This novel is a wonderful walking calamity slowing unfolding for the reader’s pleasure. It starts with our hero, Lloyd, enjoying some paid vacation for the holidays so he can escape the insanity that is his job where he keeps demons from escaping into our world. Then the problems begin. Too much snow is forecast on the night of his mother’s annual Christmas Eve Party. The in laws, who hate each other, all arrive early for Christmas because they fear that the snow might keep them away the next day and they want to be snowed in with the family. (They aren’t for the most part a festive group, so this is definitely a bad thing.) Then we learn that 13 murderers have escaped prison nearby and we just know they are going to show up for the party. Then Lloyd’s work colleagues (including the talking cockroach and a fairly nice giant centipede demon) also show up as does the snooty rich woman from the first book and you can see it all going downhill from there—and that’s before the trouble starts.

It’s over the top hilarity as Lloyd and his friends try to stop Christmas from being destroyed without anyone else finding out what they’re doing. Hell may have come for the holidays, but our heroes are determined to make sure we all still have a joyous Christmas Day.

Critters from the Poo Lagoon by D.M. Guay

D.M. Guay is back with another crazy short novel from her 24/7 Demon Mart series (which apparently doesn’t count as part of the main series because it doesn’t happen in the actual demon mart). This time, Lloyd is helping his mother set up a Hawaiian-themed party at the country club to thank a bunch of volunteers for their hard work. They are permitted to do this by perennial thorn in the side, Caroline, the snooty rich woman who uses the volunteers but detests them. As the reader can guess before page one, everything is going to go wrong.

Lloyd has invited his love interest Dee Dee, who has told the rest of the Demon Mart staff about it so that their manager the cockroach and the loveable demon giant centipede come to the party as well. This complicates things as the rest of the world is not supposed to know about demons, but it’s not the real cause of concern. The real complication is that the party is about to be invaded by water creatures such as trailer park mermaids and a plant guy similar to the Swamp Thing from the comics. It’s a great set of villains who really threaten the party, but of course, they’re only the beginning of Lloyd’s problems.

As if all the supernatural troubles aren’t enough, Guay brings all the sorts of mundane problems one can find at a party in the real world. Lloyd’s grandmother brings extremely high octane moonshine to the party and over-the-top drunkenness quickly ensues. And of course, rich and snooty Caroline is constantly creating the wrong kind of waves for Lloyd and his friends.

All in all, this is another excellent edition to the Demon Mart series and anyone who has enjoyed the first book should hurry up and read it. If you haven’t read the first book (The Graveyard Shift), what are you waiting for?

Other Stories by D. M. Guay

Bake Off by D.M. Guay

Trust D.M. Guay to find a way to turn one of the most low key (dare I say, boring?) events in small town America into a hilarious and exciting romp with the supernatural. The event in question is the judging of the annual pie-baking contest which from the very first sentence Guay imbues with interest and excitement that I never suspected could be found in such an event. But here you have it—the pies are biting back this year which makes the judging unique to my experience.

The lead judge, however, continues to embrace her responsibilities with a solemn dignity one would expect to find on the Supreme Court. It’s that unflappableness that makes her such a wonderful character. She’s not oblivious to what’s happening but she’s simply determined not to let that drive her to undignified action. You can’t help but love the old woman.

It’s a quick read with a huge surprise (even bigger than the cherry biting back) so if you like a little dark humor in your stories, you should definitely give this one a try.