Monday, October 31, 2011

Review of The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 1

9781607060765
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb (This is the blurb for only the first issue of The Walking Dead, so as to not give any spoilers):

An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body. Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living.

** Be warned that I would recommend this book for only mature YA readers who are not disturbed by graphic violence or sexual content. **

So I have to say that my only interest in reading this was because I love the AMC show. Zombies had never really been a genre that I wanted to read at that time, and comics ranked even lower. However, I wanted to know where the characters were headed as well as seeing what was different.

I'm very glad to say that my love for the TV show did not cause me to dislike anything about the comic. In fact it made me appreciate the interactions between the characters (both in the comic and on the show) even more. I do have to admit that I missed Daryl and T-dog who do not appear in the comics, but the comics have a much quicker revolving door of characters, although the core characters of Rick, Lori, Carl, Carol, Andrea, Dale and Glenn stay consistent.

There were so many differences that to me the comic and the show are separate entities, and I hope that the show doesn't stick too much with the comics. Both are dark and character driven, but the comic is a much more disturbing look at human behavior. The sexual content and truly disturbing violence builds as the issues progress, and although I really enjoyed the beginning issues, the later ones seemed like they were trying too hard to push the boundaries of what people will read. 

This compendium ends in a way that I would never have expected. I was shocked and definitely not prepared for some of the deaths that occur. But in order to move the story and characters forward it had to be done. I just wish it hadn't felt like such a massacre. I'm debating now if I want to read more issues and I think I'll probably wait. I enjoy the show more than I liked the comic and show producers have said that eventually the show will follow some of the same story lines. I want to be surprised and at this point my heart is with the show.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Published: October 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

ISBN: 9781416989417
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb:

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her...until Patch comes along. 

With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel. 


For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.


***

So the cover of this book is amazing. The story not so much. It felt too much like the author read Twilight and then sat down and wrote the story the way she wanted it to happen. The whole thing about suddenly being seated beside a new mysterious, strangely acting, guy in her bio class was straight from Twilight. Although I have to say that Fitzpatrick definitely made her 'hero' a bit more lively. 

Nora was pretty blah, and in fact I find it hard to remember much about her other than she made some pretty stupid decisions. She seemed to be constantly flip flopping and it drove me nuts. I can get that she is supposed to be confused, but I just wanted her to make up her mind about something! She is constantly switching between believing Patch is stalking her and then thinking he would never hurt her. It's the same with Elliot, and pretty much everyone else she interacts with. At least in Twilight Bella took a stand in believing and loving Edward despite what he was capable of. 


The ending was a jumble of action, that seemed too obvious and in fact was so predictable that I wanted to skim to the conclusion. In fact there was a lot I wanted to skim in this book. The scenes with Nora's best friend Vee start out interesting, at least until Vee starts acting like a complete moronic b***h. 


Patch is the only thing that saved this for me. I loved him for the simple fact that he was a horrible, manipulative, sarcastic, and all-round bad boy. He hides his intentions pretty well behind his lecherous behavior and although I can't see why Nora falls for him so hard, or why she believes he'd never hurt her (at least part of the time), I liked him. He is unapologetic and is the only character that is consistent throughout the book, even though it's as a prick. 


That said, I think Patch and Nora's 'love story' is an excellent example of what is wrong with YA books. Patch sexually harasses Nora repeatedly, he stalks her, he forces her into uncomfortable situations and Nora never once says no. She attempts to deflect his comments, she makes excuses for herself and for him, but not once does she stop him and tell him 'No'. In fact, by the end she finds his aggressive and offensive behavior a sign of his affection. Even Bella told Jacob no, when she became uncomfortable. Even Bella told Edward to stop hiding things from her. 

I am willing to try more from Fitzpartick and have already read the second book in the Hush, Hush series. I'll be posting that review soon followed by my review of the third book, which I am getting ready to read.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published: April 2001
Publisher: Puffin

ISBN: 9780141310886
Available: Amazon


GoodReads Blurb:

When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide.

*** this review may contain minor spoilers***

Tales of rape usually hold little appeal for me, mainly because when I read I like to escape from the harsh realities of our world. But I'd heard so much about Speak over the past year, particularly when it appeared on a list of books to ban. The reviews were glowing and it seemed as if this would be a book worth crying through.

What it was, was a bit more complicated for me. There were definite parts that moved me to tears, the beginning especially was wonderful. At first Melinda is very sympathetic. She's obviously gone through a traumatic experience and doesn't feel like she can talk to anyone about it. She acts wounded and her reactions are believable. 

Around halfway through the book, I was getting pretty tired of it. I wanted her to really show a change in her attitude and actions. I wanted her to take action. But she doesn't. It's just an endless stream of her being ignored or teased by her former friends, of her moping about how no one understands. When she finally does take some action, when her rapist moves on to a new girl, she does it in a way that is so immature that I couldn't blame the other girl for reacting with skepticism. 

There's a major emphasis on her being an artist like her father and like her art teacher believes her to be. And maybe it's poor description by the author, but the art Melinda creates sounds as if it looks like crap and it is literally made from garbage. Maybe it was supposed to be symbolic of how Melinda felt about herself, but I always felt that art made from garbage is usually garbage art, especially since Melinda doesn't really put any thought into her work, she simply does it and suddenly her teacher and another students are amazed. Makes me think of when a child's stick figure is sold for thousands of dollars. 

The end was no surprise and in fact it gave me a bad taste in my mouth. It felt convenient and too much of a happy ending. Speak started out as such a deep and realistic story, but by the end it just felt hollow. I didn't cheer for Melinda, because to me her story stopped feeling authentic. I thought this book would have been a wonderful opportunity for the author to address the need to report rape and sexual assaults, but Melinda never does that. She just adds it to the rumor mill. 


This book had so much more potential, and frankly it has put a sour taste in my mouth for other books by Anderson.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Zombie Week is Over!

Zombie week is over and yes I am having a delayed reaction! It's been five days since my last Zombie post and I'm still thinking and dreaming Zombies. Yet, despite the restless sleep I've been getting I really enjoyed it. Until I decided to go ahead with devoting that much time and energy to Zombie books, I hadn't really known what to expect from them. It was a very revealing look at my own tastes.

I've always been a romance fan, and if there's no romance in a book then there's very little chance that I'll love the book. Of course there are a few exceptions, but I didn't think the zombie genre would be any different. But it was. With the exception of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth series, I didn't really care for the romance angles in the zombie stories. Zombies always have that ability to stand on complete opposite sides of the genre line. Either humorous or dark. The darker novels definitely appealed to me and hovered in the realm of realistic. Maybe that's why the romances in them drew me in. Even with Maberry's Rot & Ruin the side plot romance was interesting.


Zombies need to be Zombies, yes the idea of Zombies being more humanly functional is interesting, but it losses something the more normal they appear. Zombies are suppose to be single minded in their desire for human flesh, and reading about a zombie walking around looking normal, thinking logically and even making out with a living person, was really, well...gross, and not the good gross I want from a Zombie.

Now, the straight out funny was good as well, Ware's Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb was pure fun and although obviously written for a younger male audience it was fun and didn't try to be something it wasn't. ware recognized his subject matter, stayed within the rules of Zombies, and did it in a way that would appeal to his core audience.

There are still a few Zombie books I'm planning to read and review, but I'm glad that I'm going to be able to take my time with them. For now I'm going to enjoy watching The Walking Dead on repeat and reading something a little less blood thirsty!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review of Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb by MJA Ware

Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb by MJA Ware
Published: September, 2011
Publisher: Self-Published

ISBN: 2940013006850
Available: Amazon


GoodReads Blurb:


When life gives you lemons, kill zombies -- turns out lemon juice neutralizes the undead.

After a failed attempt at running away, best friends Nathan and Misty return home expecting to face angry parents. Instead, they discover the military has destroyed the bridges out of their rural town and everyone's fled--except a small horde of the living dead. The stress of flesh-eating zombies may be more than their already strained relationship can handle.

Even with the help of the town geek and lemonade-powered Super-Soakers, there's not enough time to squeeze their way out of this sticky mess. Unless the trio eradicates the zombie infestation, while avoiding the deadly zombie snot, the military will blow the town, and them, to pulp.

Their only shot is something with a lot more punch. Something like the Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb. But even if their friendship survives, there's another problem: Someone has to lure the undead into the trap.

***

This book was the perfect blend of 'B movie' humor and the zombie gore I love, and I say that with all the positive feeling I can. I loved this book! The characters were fun, and refreshing. The violence was necessary, bloody, and at times funny.

Obviously this was written for slightly younger audiences than the other Zombie books I've been reading, but it's probably the one that I had the most fun reading. It definitely doesn't fit the horror genre, but Ware has hit the nail on the humorous angle of zombies.

Parts of the plot are similar to what you would expect in any zombie movie, but Ware acknowledges this and has fun doing so. The best part is that he works with what he has. These are young teens, preteens really, and they don't have access to guns or other weapons, and they certainly don't start off with mature survival instincts. Their first idea is to go to the mall. Too bad it's a strip mall. Then they head for Walmart, which is a much better idea. But even then they do some silly things, the first night the get a TV, and then set up a generator inside. His concept for lemon juice to be lethal to zombies is great. It gives his characters something to work with that doesn't seem too obvious for them, especially since they discover it by accident.

I was surprised by the ending, and had thought it would end a bit differently, with a perfect happy ending that most lighthearted children/middle grade/YA novels do, but Ware gave us a happy ending that is still sad.

Overall, an awesomely fun read, and I would definitely recommend this for ages 9 and up, particularly boys.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review of The Spooky chronicles: The Crooked Man by Kevin Ranson

The Spooky chronicles: The Crooked Man by Kevin Ranson
Published: May 2011
Publisher: Self-Published

ISBN: 2940011333040
Available: Smashwords


GoodReads Blurb:


A child on his death bed is visited by a mysterious "crooked man" who returns him to the land of the living. Upon returning, the young boy realizes that his mother was taken in his place and that he must endure his new life as a "dead" boy.

"At the age of six, the pale little boy became ill, and although he was already small and thin, he grew smaller and thinner still. His skin turned a pallid gray, but the smile never left his face and his mother never left his side. When he turned seven, the tumor in his chest finally overtook his heart, and he died.

"It is whispered that everyone dies alone. But the pale little boy wasn’t alone when he died, and on the other side, he met a crooked man with a crooked stick who pointed at the dead little boy with a crooked finger. The dead little boy opened his eyes only to find those of his mother closed. Somehow he knew that his mother had taken his place and that the crooked man had caused it; what he didn't know was why."


***

This was an interesting one to read and review. First off, I wouldn't classify this as a typical zombie book. Spooky is a zombie in the sense that he's the walking dead, but other than that he's nothing like a zombie. He grows, speaks, thinks, and feels. And he is not consumed by the desire to feed on human flesh. This is however, a nice way to introduce younger readers to the horror genre as it really is more creepy than scary. No blood or guts, but still a darker story. 


What makes this hard to read is that the author's strength is also his weakness. Ranson does an amazing job with the narration. He has a wonderful ability to describe what is happening and Spooky is an interesting enough character to keep you ready. 


The narration is also the downfall. Or more specifically the lack of dialogue. Even when there is an opportunity to reveal more of Spooky's world, such as when he is having his tarot cards read, everything is through narration. It was a little tiring simply being told everything through Spooky, instead of hearing and seeing it. This does get better towards the end, but I wish it had been built in throughout the story. I think it would have helped me experience the story better.

Interview with Author Kevin Ranson

I'm excited to be interviewing author of The Spooky Chronicles: The Crooked Man, Kevin Ranson.
Author Bio:
Kevin A. Ranson is the creator of MovieCrypt.com as well as the “ghost writer” for the site’s host, Grim D. Reaper. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and has film reviews appear weekly on RottenTomatoes.com. With numerous credits in the role-playing game industry, he has also recently entered the realm of horror fiction with “The Spooky Chronicles” in addition to working on a novel for his “Kindling Moon” fantasy setting. Kevin’s current creations and personal blog are always visible on ThinkingSkull.com. 
Did you always want to be an author? 
I’ve always wanted to be a lot of things, including a writer. I remember making my own comics as a child, but I also started writing a lot of fiction for extra credit in seventh grade English class. At the same time, I’d already found my mom’s Stephen King paperback collection, so the influences were there.

Tell us a bit about your novel.
The Spooky Chronicles are about a child who comes back to life as a zombie but continues to grow up. Having already overcome personal tragedy in his life, his unique condition also makes
him aware of (and draws him into) a secret underworld he never asked to be a part of.

How did you come up with the idea for your novel? 
A friend and myself created the initial details and idea behind the character as a superhero
in a school that secretly trains children with unique gifts (a la Xavier’s School for the Gifted) for a role-playing game. After it concluded, I wrote a back story from the character’s point of view in a
world of the occult instead of superheroes, and that became the basis of the first book, The Crooked Man.

If you got the chance to spend a day with any character from your books, who would it be and why?  
“Spooky” Spencer himself! There’s a lot of me as a child in the character, something I didn’t realize until after I went back and re-read it later just before deciding I could run with it as a book series. I envision The Spooky Chronicles as a television show, so the books run about the length of an episode in my mind.

What drew you to the YA horror genre? 
Nothing in particular. I didn’t set out to write YA or horror, it’s just the story that came out. I wasn’t
even very familiar with the term “YA” until after I began researching to market this work.

What do you hope readers will obtain from your book? 
I see Spooky as an inspiration and a bit of a role model. Bad things happen to good people, even kids, and overcoming them is part of life. Spooky had a very good, loving home life during his formative years before becoming very ill at the age of six and actually dying on his seventh birthday. He loses someone important to him while the remaining parent becomes distant afterward, but he’s a caring and resourceful young man with a very strong sense of protection for the people he cares about.

Where do you like to do your writing? 
At home, in a corner office. The walls and shelves around my desk are filled with creepy Halloween decorations I’ve collected over the years, from a Hellraiser “lament configuration” puzzle box to a glass “crystal” skull. Some of these items are sneaking their way into the Spooky Chronicles as well.

What are some of your favorite YA books or authors? Non-YA? 
For YA, I’d have to say the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling, although I admit to not being terribly familiar with the peers in my genre. For non-YA, everything from Clive Barker to Stephen King to Edgar Allan Poe.

Are there any books and stories that have influenced or stuck with you from your childhood or young-adulthood?
I recently rediscovered a Scholastic Record series that I remember listening to in kindergarten that stuck with me, with creepy titles like “Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes” and “Georgie (the Ghost).” I’ve always found creepy to be somewhat cool.

Do you have any other works published and how do they compare genre/style wise with your current work? 
I have run a movie review website for almost fifteen years called MovieCrypt.com where I critique films under the pen name Grim D. Reaper. Many of these reviews are in the horror genre, and the work helped to improve my writing as well as establish a narrative voice that I have used to write fiction with.

Do you have any current writing projects? Can you tell us a bit about them? 
Other than the Spooky Chronicles and MovieCrypt.com, I have been working on a fantasy novel called Kindling Moon for a while as well as other stories in publications that include Savage Insider
magazine (“Crypt of the Crystal Lich” serial) and have flash fiction included in the recently published 66 Tales of Terror.

The Spooky Chronicles official site: http://spookychronicles.com

Where can you find Kevin Ranson?
Thank you, Kevin, for stopping by. Look for my review of The Spooky Chronicles: The Crooked Man later today!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review of Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Published: October 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

ISBN: 9781442402324
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb:

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn't want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

***
I was a bit unsure what to expect from this book. Novels with male protagonists aren't my normal taste, but the cover and blurb really drew me in. What I found was the male version of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Not that they are similar as far as plot or characters go, but the underlying message seemed to be alike, that we can't shut out the rest of the world. 


Benny at first seems very immature and sheltered, considering the zombie infested world he lives in, hanging out with his friends and looking for a job that pays great but requires little effort. Once he's forced into working with his brother, his character begins to grow and that for me carried the story. There were parts of the plot, such as the zombie games, that seemed a bit stereotypical post-apocalyptic movie, but it's how Benny comes to his realizations about himself, his brother, and his world that really kept me reading.


Benny is a true three dimensional character. We see all sides of him, and the way Maberry mixes the darkness of a horror story with the sometimes humorous thoughts of a teenage boy is refreshing. I didn't feel like Benny' was being forced down a path by circumstances. He actively chooses his path to the end of the book. 


Maberry managed to keep a certain lightness to much of the story, and it's partly because Benny isn't aware of the horror in the Rot & Ruin where the zombies continue to dwell. The violence isn't over done and Benny's brother Tom manages to humanize the zombies in a way that actually makes the ending so sad to read.


This is the first of the Benny Imura series, with Dust & Decay the second book and he has a few other Zombie books out as well. I'm already looking forward to reading more by Mr. Maberry!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review of The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
Published: March 2011
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 9780385738590
Available: Amazon 

GoodReads Blurb:

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.  

Annah's world stopped that day, and she's been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn't feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again. 


But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?
 

***This review contains spoilers (particularly for the second book in the series)

Here is the sequel. While The Dead Tossed Waves was more of a series book, The Dark and Hollow Places was really a continuation. There are parts to this story that I found to be better than the first two books, mainly that Annah felt more believable and more beaten down. While Mary and Gabry carried their scars on the inside,  Annah is forced to carry them inside and out. She feels guilt from leaving her sister in the forest, and despair and anger from being abandoned by Elias. When she glimpses Gabry entering the Dark City, she finally has a piece of hope. the hope builds when she meets Catcher, starts to think that someone can see past her scars. 

Annah's story is the more typical romance angle. Girl falls for boy, boy finds another girl, girl finds another boy, but that boy wants the other girl too.  That did keep me interest because I really felt that Ryan worked hard on developing the characters more. In the previous book, Elias is show only through the worshiping eyes of Gabry, and while Annah initially does the same thing, his flaws start to come out and it's sad to see how she realizes that the only person she's loved for years would be willing to sacrifice her for Gabry's life. 

What I didn't like was that some of the actions sequences, especially near the end seemed to be over done and drawn out. Ryan seemed to have sacrificed some of her beautiful visuals in favor of trying to adhere to some Zombie movie scenarios.

The ending was still left open ended to a certain degree, but there was hope, not necessarily the human race, but at least for the characters left. I can't wait to read more by Ryan! 

Review of The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
Published: March 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 9780385736848
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb:

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

**** This review contains some minor spoilers.

I loved this book much more than the first in the series. Gabry was so different form Mary. Mary was always looking out, wanting to leave and discover what she was missing. Gabry is full of fear of the outside, and doesn't understand why her mother is drawn to the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But Gabry is forced into the forest and although she has her weaknesses she conquers them in order to be with the boy who risked everything for her and her best friend. 


There is a love triangle aspect that I felt worked much better than in Mary's story. When the story starts Gabry is just starting to realize that she may have feelings for her best friend's brother, Catcher. He's an appealing character, good looking, fun, brave, and ultimately self-sacrificing. When he's infected, in part due to Gabry's action, she takes a stand against her fear of the outside. Although she does make some silly choices, it made her a bit more likable than Mary. The other love interest is Elias. He's the mysterious stranger that appears, noble and her own personal hero. He's as likable as Catcher, and although they are different in many ways, there are enough similarities to see how she could be attracted to both. I really feel that I would have been happy with Gabry ending up with either one of them. 


I think that labeling this book a sequel is an injustice to this book. The Dead Tossed Waves isn't a continuation of The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The story is set nearly twenty years later, and although Mary is present, her role is minimal. You could read only this book and not feel lost in the references to the first book. I loved having Mary back in this book and that Ryan chose to go back and give Mary some happiness and hope, along with information about some of the other characters from The Forest of Hands and Teeth


The action in this book is equal to that of the first. Both have some terrifying visuals and I think that is Ryan's greatest strength. Even weeks after reading these stories I can clearly visualize specific scenes. This truly is a dark and somber zombie movie on paper.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan


The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Published: March 2009

ISBN:  0385736819
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb:

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

***This review contains minor spoilers.

I freely admit to being a zombie addict. I have a zombie apocalypse plan, and am constantly bombarding my husband about various ideas I have for evading the relentless flesh eaters. So, The Forest of Hands and Teeth immediately appealed to me. This isn't a badass slasher flick turned book though. It's an intense look at what happens years after the zombies take over.


This is a dark tale and at times I felt so hopeless while reading it. I wanted a happily ever after for Mary and the other survivors, but that isn't what happens in zombie tales. There are points where I questioned Mary's actions and decisions, but what I realized is that there was a touch of madness in her. Her obsession with finding the ocean, even her seemingly thoughtless actions towards Travis and Harry, were simply manifestations of a slow descent into madness. And that really is what made this tale so scary. How would we all cope if our only existence was behind a fence and after being tempted into believing there was more out there, we were confronted with the realization that there is nothing.

I really wanted a full round happy ending, but I know that if I had gotten that I would have been disappointed. Mary didn't need the perfect ending, and part of me thought that she didn't really deserve it after the way she acted. Ryan left readers with just enough hope for Mary that it didn't feel like a sequel hanging cop-out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Zombie Books - Do's and Don't Bothers

With all of my Zombie reading I have to admit that I didn't get to everything I've wanted to. I have a a couple that I'm still reading and another I'm waiting for but I've also passed on a number of them. What makes a good Zombie book has been the question that has really plagued me since I came up with the idea of Zombie week. 

When I think of Zombie movies I've always categorized them as either dark and violent, or humorous and bloody. With books it's obviously a little harder to classify them. Especially with YA there seems to be the assumption that a humorous telling shouldn't include any real violence (a few minor exceptions) and while the darker books have the gore, the humorous ones have been falling flat. It's almost as if the author's are trying to make Shaun of the Dead for teenage girls, but without any of the fun violence that should ensue when being chased by Zombies! So, while I still have a few more reviews to go, I'm going to go ahead and post a short list of some Zombie books I'm reading, waiting on, or gave up on.


What I'm Reading with Hope: 

Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby 
Witty and enjoyable so far, with an interesting twist on how the zombies are created and how they react to the virus. However, I'm on chapter 8 and not one hint of blood yet. The plot seems vaguely similar to that of I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked it and I find it a bit sad that these female protagonists are so insecure and obsessed with popularity that they would do nearly anything to obtain that perfect prom/dance to secure their place in the soon to be faded memories of high school.
 
What I'm Waiting On:

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris   
The cover alone makes me excited to read this one! What I like about this one is that it's not portraying the protagonist as the originator of the virus, nor is she interested in keeping anyone that way just for the sake of boosting her popularity. Although, I have yet to read it so I could be wrong. Look for a review near the end of October!


Generation Dead by Daniel Waters  
This seems to be an slightly more serious take on the love with a zombie tale and I hope that it ends up more appealing than the others I've read. For me the idea of kissing a zombie is extremely revolting, but maybe this will be the one to change my mind. 


Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry
This is the sequel to Rot & Ruin which I'm review later this week, so I'm not going to say why I'm looking forward to this one, but the fact that I'm going for the sequel should tell you something about the first in the series.


What I Gave Up On:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen
I've never been interested in reading anything by Jane Austen and I thanked God every day during high school that I was never forced to read her work. It doesn't appeal to me. I love romance, and I love historicals, but I have no desire to read a romance that at it's time was considered contemporary. I've never even watched a movie based on her books, although I think Bridget Jones' Diary is inspired by Jane Austen's work (not something that inspired me to go out and pick up one of her books). But this had ZOMBIES!! I was so excited when I picked it up, and although the cover was boring, I loved that there were pictures spread throughout the novel. Sadly it wasn't enough to keep me interested. Even with the added action of the Zombies, it was dry and boring and felt so stuffy in the actions of the character and the dialogue. I know that it was true to how they behaved and spoke back then, but still it bored me to death, well, almost. The only people who would love this are people who have a love of Zombies and Jane Austen. 


Feel free to comment or email me with recommendations for YA Zombie books!



Interview with Nuayma Jeggels, Author of Raven

I was so pleased to have the opportunity to interview Nuayma Jeggels, debut author of the YA Zombie novel Raven


GoodReads Blurb:


When Shardaie wakes up, she doesn’t know who she is, why she can’t understand emotions, why she has been unconscious for nearly nine of her thirteen years, or why the dead just won’t stay dead. The only clue to her past is a locket, but the Plague, which finally stretches its unnatural hand to her village, forces her to leave and to learn to protect herself. But everything has a cost: the protection against the undead reveals a secret that Shardaie and her classmates just don’t want to accept, and at the end, Shardaie realises that some secrets shouldn’t be revealed. Secrets have the power to destroy, and the power to change her view on humanity for ever. 

GoodReads Author Bio:

Nuayma Jeggels lives in South Africa with her imaginary cat named Pookie. When she isn’t writing or reading, she is battling mathematics and gravity. Her favourite colour is violet. Her favourite meal is lasagna.


Did you always want to be an author?
 
To tell you the truth I didn’t know what I wanted. Some know what they want at a young age -- a doctor, a firefighter, a superhero -- but not me. I wanted to be a receptionist, then I wanted to be a tour guide or work in a hotel, but they were all ideas and not ‘dreams’. But I finally discovered my passion, my dream, at age thirteen when I watched the Fellowship of the Ring, staring wide-eyed up at the theatre screen. Then I knew: I wanted to write something like that. So I began writing, and I haven’t stopped.
 
Tell us a bit about your novel
 
Raven is about a thirteen year old girl who wakes up and realises that she doesn’t know who she is and that she can’t understand what she is feeling. She hears that the dead are walking among the living, and when the first signs of the zombie Plague finally appears in her home, she is sent away to learn to protect herself. Raven, the first book in the Violet Jewel series, is about secrets and how they can change people.
 
How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
 
I started writing Raven when I was fifteen, and back then I only knew that my main character would have violet eyes. That’s it. There wasn’t an event or a dream that suddenly pulled out an idea. I started to write and slowly the story grew; the plot changed, the world changed, the characters evolved. Seven years later I had finally completed the first book in the Violet Jewel series.
 
What drew you to Zombies and the YA genre?
 
Desperation. Will I be next? Anxiety. Fear. What people might do in such situations. The moral decay. The emotions and the actions that appear in a zombie novel. Why? Why? Why? A good zombie novel takes control of your emotions, and when you sit back and imagine how a zombie outbreak could be like -- well, what would you do? And what if there was something more to this zombie outbreak, this virus? Lies and secrets? What would you do?
 
Some people say that writing YA is the chance to rewrite being a teenager. Change high school experiences? Live in a mansion? Have superpowers? A good-looking love interest. Mysterious? Hot? Who cares, anything is possible! But others like that it’s ‘clean’ or safe and not safe. That we meet the character in his or her defining years. Between the children and adult section. But that -- between the children and adult section -- felt perfect for my series, so I decided, alright! Young Adult! Safe and not safe.
 
Would you define your book as traditional zombie horror or more of a humorous telling?
 
Raven is not a humorous telling and, seeing that we’re in the beginning of the series, the before-the-world-falls-apart (Raven takes place in the ‘early’ stages of the zombie Plague), it isn’t the traditional zombie horror. Yet. But will there be guts and blood? Yes.
 
If you got the chance to spend a day with any character from your books, who would it be and why?
 
If I could spend the day with one of my characters it would mean that I would be able to explore their world, so really any one of them would be perfect. But it’s difficult to answer your question because if I could take Nathaniel I would be able to look into his world of the rich and privileged nobles. Kaylou? Explore his underground city which used to belong to the sector’s slaves. Lord Shiro, a ruler and protector; ask him for his history books and attempt to dig into his head, pull out his secrets. But then there’s Shardaie, my main character. Poor confused little girl who doesn’t understand what she’s feeling. So I would definitely want to be with all of them.
 
What do you hope readers will obtain from your book?
 
One. It isn’t good to keep secrets, even if it’s supposed to be protect the person you love. The truth may hurt in the beginning, but the pain will eventually fade. Two. Pray that we will never experience a zombie outbreak! Hold on to your knickers.
 
Where do you like to do your writing?
 
 
What are some of your favorite YA books or authors? Non-YA?
 
YA: Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld. Tamora Pierce. Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. Tomorrow series by John Marsden. Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
 
Non-YA: A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. Shogun by James Clavell. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
 
Are there any books and stories that have influenced or stuck with you from your childhood or young-adulthood?
 
The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. Period.

Raven is now available in Kindle format at Amazon.

You can find Ms. Jeggels at:

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Blog

Thank you, Ms. Jeggels, for stopping by and good luck with Raven!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review of Zombie Blondes by Brian James

Review of Zombie Blondes by Brian James
Published: June 2008
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

ISBN: 9780312372989
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb:

From the moment Hannah Sanders arrived in town, she felt there was something wrong.
     A lot of houses were for sale, and the town seemed infected by an unearthly quiet. And then, on Hannah’s first day of classes, she ran into a group of cheerleaders—the most popular girls in school.
     The odd thing was that they were nearly identical in appearance: blonde, beautiful, and deathly pale.
     But Hannah wants desperately to fit in—regardless of what her friend Lukas is telling her: if she doesn’t watch her back, she’s going to be blonde and popular and dead—just like all the other zombies in this town. . . .


***

Come on! What is up with YA authors wimping out on the true strength of Zombies? What has happened to the good old zombies needing to feed? The constant craving they have to devour human flesh? The fact that zombies are supposed to be the risen dead?!! 


The cover should have been my first warning that this book was not going to go the logical and traditional route of zombies. Don't get me wrong, I think the cover is brilliantly done and definitely drew me in, but what you see on the cover is the exact way the zombies look. No rotting flesh, no dirt and blood covered skin. Just pretty, blond girls.


So, I get that the author is trying to say something about society's need to follow the leader, especially in high school, but it just seemed over done. What non-popular kid in high school hasn't thought of or joked about the popular kids being zombies, or clones of each other? There was potential with the story, but James couldn't pull it off. Maybe it has to do with the fact that he has no idea how teenage girls think.


Hannah starts fairly likable. She's obviously had a rough time constantly moving around the country with her father, and she's like most teens, wanting to fit in, to be popular. That is where I see the similarities ending. Hannah is obsessed, which could have been humorous, if the novel had been going in that direction, and if Hannah hadn't been such a self-absorbed, selfish, and downright rude character. Despite being constantly snubbed by the popular blond girls (zombies) she keeps going back for more, complaining about not having friends, then being a complete b***h to the few students who do try to befriend her. She was stupid and frankly I wish she had died at the end (sorry for the spoiler, but I'm just to angry to not put it in!).

I'm going to skip all of the abusive friendship and romantic relationship stuff because I would simply rant about it forever. 


The plot is left with huge dangling threads. There's an almost constant reminder (every single chapter mentions it at least once) that her father was once a police officer, but is now on the run, and yet at the end nothing. We never find out what he did. There's no closure to this story, just a big cop out by James, maybe he was hoping for a series. I sincerely hope not.

The actual writing style has it's downfalls as well. James has a habit of dropping the subjects of his sentences. This can work occasionally. Occasionally. Here are some examples I randomly pulled:


(p40) We take a few steps over the grass together before Diana tells me she's got to go the other way. Says good-bye but doesn't walk away.


(p58) He adjusts the tape that wraps around the remote to hold in the batteries. Taps it gently against the palm of his hand...

(p.82) I snatch my backpack up off the ground. Start to stomp up the driveway toward our dilapidated brown house with...


There's just so many I wonder if an editor even read through it. What scares me the most is that one of my 3rd grade students just read one of his children's books and I'd hate for her to think he utilized the same style and she though it was an example of good writing.


As sad as I am to say this. Skip it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review of I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked It by Adam Selzer

I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked It by Adam Selzer
Published: January 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 9780385735032
Available: Amazon 

Amazon Blurb:

For 18-year-old Algonquin "Alley" Rhodes, living in an era in which vampires, werewolves, and zombies are the norm is not what it's cracked up to be. Unlike most human girls at her high school, dating, especially the undead variety, is the last thing on her mind. Alley just wants to leave Cornersville Trace, go to college, and make something of herself. But then, while critiquing a local band for the school newspaper, Alley the Ice Queen falls head over heels for the guest singer. Like Alley, Doug truly loves music, and she feels as if he is singing just for her. They begin dating, and Alley overlooks what is obvious to everyone else. Doug isn't just a Goth—he isn't even human—he's a zombie. As Alley's world is turned upside down, she must make decisions with major ramifications for her future.

**
First I have to say that since I've been tackling the YA Zombie bookshelf, I've been very disappointed with the lack of blood and guts. I'm not sure if this is because authors and publishers are hesitant to publish those types of books for teens or if there isn't the demand for them. I can only speak for myself when I say that as a teen I would have loved a good bloody Zombie book! 

As for I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked It, there's zero blood and guts. There's the suggestion of it, but no description, no battle that the reader gets to read, just one character telling another that it's not a pretty scene. 

Lack of gore aside, I actually enjoyed this book. It had a strong female character who even though she initially waivers in her beliefs, ultimately figures out that life is worth living to the fullest. There was a predictability to parts of the plot, but I was never exactly sure what would happen in the end. Alley's character really does struggle with her decisions about love, life and death. It doesn't seem forced and the ending, despite the tears I shed (Yes, I cried while reading a seemingly humorous zombie book), didn't leave me feeling sad. I thought that Selzer handled Alley and Doug's choices well, and Alley shows actual growth of character, an aspect that seems to be missing from so many popular YA books.

This was definitely an enjoyable book and I'm hoping to find more from Adam Selzer.     

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review of Never Slow Dance with a Zombie by E. Van Lowe



Never Slow Dance with a Zombie by E. Van Lowe
Published: November 2009
Publisher: Tor Teen

ISBN: 9780765320407
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb:

Principal Taft's 3 Simple Rules for Surviving a Zombie Uprising:

Rule #1: While in the halls, walk slowly and wear a vacant expression on your face. Zombies won't attack other zombies.

Rule #2:  Never travel alone.  Move in packs.  Follow the crowd.  Zombies detest blatant displays of individuality.

Rule #3:  If a zombie should attack, do not run. Instead, throw raw steak at to him.  Zombies love raw meat. This display of kindness will go a long way.

On the night of her middle school graduation, Margot Jean Johnson wrote a high school manifesto detailing her goals for what she was sure would be a most excellent high school career. She and her best friend, Sybil, would be popular and, most important, have boyfriends. Three years later, they haven't accomplished a thing!
Then Margot and Sybil arrive at school one day to find that most of the student body has been turned into flesh-eating zombies. When kooky Principal Taft asks the girls to coexist with the zombies until the end of the semester, they realize that this is the perfect opportunity to live out their high school dreams. All they have to do is stay alive....

*** 
I was so excited when I found this Zombie book! There were so many things I loved when I first saw it. The cover had the perfectly creepy, yet still appealing zombie boy on the cover wearing vintage prom clothes. The title spoke very clearly to the humorous tone of the book. And the blurb itself was very appealing. Normally I'm a guts and gore type of Zombie girl, but this just seemed like the kind of Shaun of the Dead style story that I couldn't resist.

The opening was good, and it was easy to see why an agent or editor would keep reading. The main character, Margot and her best friend, Sybil, are quickly established and fleshed out ;-) The girls have an honestly refreshing friendship that feels real, well, for a while at least.

The action starts fairly quickly, although some of it was pretty predictable. The predictability continued as the story progressed and for me the character of Margot just seemed to flop after a bit. I couldn't wrap my head around her reasoning behind some of her actions. This is what truly kept me from being absorbed into the story. I could take some of the unexplained acceptance the girls have of the zombies, and even the obvious plot turning points, but Margot becomes completely obsessed with the idea of popularity to the point of nearly getting herself and her best friend killed. And even then she doesn't learn her lesson. It's only when she learns that the popular bitch is as one dimensional as herself that she realizes what she's doing is crazy. That's when the pace of the book really picks up and Lowe wraps up the story in a few more pages.

Overall, it was a fun read, but not enough blood and gore for me (NONE!), and even the knowledge that it's a humorous approach to zombies, it was just too unbelievable light.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review of Soulless by Christopher Golden

Soulless by Christopher Golden
Published: October 2008
Publisher: MTV

ISBN: 9781416551355
Available: Amazon


Amazon Blurb:
Times Square, New York City. The first ever mass seance is broadcasting live on the Sunrise morning show. If it works, the spirits of the departed on the other side will have a brief window—just a few minutes—to send a final message to their grieving loved ones.

Clasping hands in an impenetrable grip, three mediums call to their spirit guides as the audience looks on in breathless anticipation. The mediums slump over, slackjawed—catatonic. And in cemeteries surrounding Manhattan, fragments of old corpses dig themselves out of the ground....

The spirits have returned. The dead are walking. They will seek out those who loved them in life, those they left behind...but they are savage and they are hungry. The horror spreads quickly, droves of the ravenous dead seeking out the living—shredding flesh from bone, feeding . But a disparate group of unlikely heroes—two headstrong college rivals, a troubled gang member, a teenage pop star and her bodyguard—is making its way to the center of the nightmare, fighting to protect their loved ones, fighting for their lives, and fighting to end the madness.

**

When I first saw this on a library Zombie list, I was sure it had been mislabeled simply because the title didn't bring Zombies to mind. The blurb is what did it for me. Golden seemed to have a truly unique concept as to the origins of the Zombies.The idea of Zombies being brought back by a seance only made this even creepier for me, solidifying my absolute certainty that I will never be involved in any seance or use a Ouija board.

These Zombies truly are an uprising, brought back to speak to their living relatives, to gain closure, but their bodies are empty, and their pure souls gone for good. At first they seem pretty typical, simply saying things like "I'm so empty" or "Hungry". It after the Zombies have been around a bit longer that they turn from hungry to vicious. Their spirits hunger to see those familiar to them, and they seek out their loved ones, and it's this same awareness that allows them to remember details of relationships and try to use that to gain access to the flesh their bodies crave. One of the saddest scenes is where a father dies and rises as a zombie, trying to trick his daughter into letting him in and when she does he starts berating her for the choices she made in life.

The violence in this story isn't overwhelming, but Golden also doesn't water it down for us. We get what we need to in order to understand the horror of what they are seeing. There are moments where the state of the Zombies and what they are doing is important to the story and he goes with it, giving us the blood and gore that Zombies bring with them. At others, he keeps it simple and focuses on the emotional ride the characters are on. It's a wonderful balance.

The only aspect of the novel that I didn't like was the constant changes in point of view. I didn't mind the different groups of people, but there were so many main characters it was hard to connect with some of them, in fact with the characters Nate and Matt, I kept having to go back to where they were first introduced in order to figure out who was who. I would have preferred if Golden had picked one character from each group to focus on.