29 November 2011

Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors #1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors #1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Published: 1 October 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 337 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Post-Apocalyptic, Natural Disaster, Young Adult

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all--hope--in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.


My Thoughts

Amazon has been ‘recommending’ this book to me ever since I brought my first PA title about two years ago – I put it on my wishlist, I took it off my wishlist, I put it on my wishlist, I took it off my wishlist and shook it all about. There were several reasons – 1) it has never been available to me as an e-book and 2) it was kinda expensive for a book I was on the fence about. However, when it came up as a Group Read for a group on Goodreads, I finally had the final push I needed.

Life As We Knew It isn’t exact in its science, and I don’t feel that it was meant to be. The science isn’t necessary, it’s the fall-out and consequences for the family in the book that makes the story. So if you want a book with a good, grounded scientific explanation, stop reading now – this is not the book for you.

However if you want a book that is focused on a family’s fight for survival in a world racked by tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes caused by the moon being knocked out of its orbit, told from the perspective of the teenage daughter, this may be right up your street. It is told in journal style which I know some people (including myself), aren’t the biggest fans of, but if it was written in the third person it may not have worked.

What I did like about this book is the focus on survival, and family. The people of the town don’t make much of an appearance, and there are only fleeting glimpses of not-so-baddies. I did find that to be a little of a fantastical view of the world, but again, this is a YA book so by nature violence should be minimal. None of the characters were particularly abrasive or irritating, nor too sugary-sweet nicey-nicey, and were quite well developed.

And what didn’t I like? For me, I don’t think it was a realistic portrayal of how life would be like in an event of this magnitude. At 19 I probably would have hated this book for being unrealistic and narrow-minded, but at twenty-*cough* I can see why the author wrote Life As We Knew It as she did.

If I had a twelve year old daughter, I’d happily give her this book to read. If I had a friend who loved YA, I’d probably lend it to her. Will I read the next book in the series? Perhaps, because I’m curious as to what happens next.

27 November 2011

Rapture by Phillip W. Simpson

Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1) by Phillip W. Simpson

Published: 21 October 2011 by Pear Jam Books

Pages: 300 (paperback)

Genre/s: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult

Source: Author

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK 

Synopsis

The Rapture has occurred, just as the Bible predicted. The faithful have risen up to Heaven. Those left behind are in a living hell. Earth burns, hell-like in its oppressive heat. Every volcano in the world has erupted, and tsunamis and earthquakes continue to devastate the planet. Clouds continually rain ash onto the scorched landscape, sparking fires all around. Plants and animals are dying. Food is scarce. The night sky is devoid of stars, and the moon - when it can be seen - is the colour of blood. The remnants of humanity fight for survival. Most have fled the cities and now hide in caves deep in the mountains. By night, demons stalk the Earth, capturing the remaining humans and killing them - if they're lucky. The less fortunate are converted to worship of the Devil, and ushered into endless hell. Eighteen year old, Sam (short for Samael) was raised in the town of Jacob's Ladder, Utah. It is appropriately enough near to a place of natural scenic beauty called Devil's garden. He finds himself alone, unable to rise up with his family because he is half demon. His mother, a devout Christian, was seduced by Satan and conceived his child. She smuggled the boy to an old friend Hikari, a Japanese sword master and demon expert. Since then, Hikari and his daughter, Aimi, have been all the family Sam has known. Now they re gone, and Sam must set out on the mission Hikari charged him with long ago: to help all the humans left behind. Armed only with his beloved Japanese swords and his wits, Sam wanders the post-apocalyptic world alone, separated forever from everyone he loves. Cursed by his demonic heritage, he must now embark on a quest that will take him across the US to the City of Angels. There he will confront his destiny. There he must fight to save a friend ... and the souls of the living.

My Thoughts

When I read the synopsis of this book, I wasn’t really sure that it was for me. Rapture is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland but it is also YA and appears to be more than slightly religious in its overtones – devils, angels, heaven and hell, Rapture and Tribulation…..

As soon as I was holding this book in my hot little hands, I started to realize that maybe I was a little quick to judge a book by its synopsis. With wonderful cover-art and presentation that would make the most seasoned reader pick it up from a bookshelf and have at least a quick flick-through, I felt my inner cynic melting a little.

Rapture throws you right into the post-apocalyptic wasteland, complete with demons and an instantly likable character in Sam. The demons are everything your worst nightmares are made of and more, the imagery of the wastelands are moving, and Sam is a young man with strong loyalties to his family and the responsibility to save every survivor he meets.

The history of Sam is told through a series of flashbacks to his childhood and teenage years, gradually revealing how he came to be the man he is today, interspersed with the current day, which works extremely well to build a sense of history whilst still giving you the action and suspense to keep you immersed in the story.

Rapture is a beautifully told story in an ugly setting. The writing is descriptive but straight-forward, the settings are familiar yet new and the characters are engaging, evil or otherwise. I am so happy that I gave this book a chance – Mr. Simpson is an incredibly talented writer and I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment of this series, which has serious potential to be the next big thing in YA reading.

Some final comments: Those of you who know me know there are some book themes that I really do struggle with – YA and religion being two of them. So a few quick words on both those points before I finish: 


YA – this is extremely well written YA – the character of Sam is the teenage girls dream, but the adult audience will also be captivated by his maturity and sense of responsibility. I didn’t roll my eyes ONCE! 


Religion – this is a book about demons and angels, heaven and hell but it’s more a way of building a storyline and theme, rather than trying to preach. Even if you are unfamiliar with the religion and mythology, it is explained in a very straight-forward manner throughout the book.


In My Mailbox (IMM) #1


I've been seeing all these fantastic IMM's spread around the blog world, and I thought I might as well join in!  What better way to show off all the goodies I've accumulated this week!  IMM is hosted by The Story Siren 

I won't be doing video IMM's because 1) I tend to blog in my pyjamas and no one needs to see that, and 2) 99% of my books are e-books and unless you want to watch me displaying my Kindle/Sony, it ain't gonna be all that interesting!

So, here are my new arrivals:

 Rapture by Phillip W. Simpson - kindly sent to me by the author - my one and only ''real'' book this week!  I'm currently reading and will have my review done today.
Bleedover by Curtis Hox - Free from Smashwords via Goodreads.
Shining in Crimson (Empire of Blood #1) by Robert S. Wilson - kindly offered by the author for my review.
Z Strain (Zee Series Trilogy) by Rutger Klamor - kindly sent to me by the author via the Fantastic Felicia on Goodreads.

The Unwashed Dead by Ian Woodhead - kindly sent to me by the author for review.
Wanted by Jason Halstead - picked this up on Amazon for free.
The Apocalypse Gene by Suki Michelle & Carlyle Clark - kindly provided by the authors for my review.  Check out the website too!

So I think that's everything - I really need to start keeping a better record of what I've received!  What did you get this week?


26 November 2011

Desperate Times 2 Gun Control by Nicholas Antinozzi

Desperate Times 2: Gun Control by Nicholas Antinozzi

Published: 6 June 2011

Genre/s: Post-Apocalyptic, Financial Collapse

Source: Own library


Synopsis

Desperate times continue to grind on, with no sign of Martial Law ending soon or any hope that the economic crisis has subsided. Jimmy and his group learn of another camp of refugees that live not ten miles away from them. The group has adopted a 1960's era commune theme, complete with hippie slang and a flower child mentality. The commune was created out of one of the grand old lodges of northern Minnesota and is called Utopia, and they have one rule: No guns allowed.

By chance or design, the population of Utopia is 90% female and for some strange reason, the National Guard seems perfectly content to allow it to exist without harassment. Jimmy's group is evenly split on joining up with the much larger group, who appear to be at peace with the world. Ken Dahlgren, Jimmy's host, is bound and determined to remain where he is. Patty, Ken's wife, suddenly seems to be losing her grip on reality and it only adds more tension to the situation. Julie, Jimmy's girl, seems intent on staying with the hippies and giving up her guns. Jimmy is torn between the two sides.

Jimmy is introduced to a new world as he steps back in time to experience the sixties. What he painstakingly learns is that those he considers to be left-wing liberals are every bit as stubborn as the right-wing conservatives, which he has aligned himself with. The storyline here is a no holds barred, Desperate Times, look at the gun control issue. The result is a powerful story with an interesting message.


My Thoughts

Desperate Times 2 has the dis-honour of being the first DNF on my blog.

I read, and liked, Desperate Times earlier this month (my review here), so I was looking forward to the second book and reading more about Jimmy and Julie, Ken and Patty and the other characters of the first book and their battle to survive.

Desperate Times 2 started well, with a brief overview of the characters and their stories from the first book, but suddenly I was thrust into the next part of the story without even realizing. It took me a couple of seconds to figure it out, and then I noticed the Kindle formatting….double line-spacing between every single paragraph. This is really disorientating – you don’t know a particular scene has finished until you start reading the next scene, which seriously affects the flow of the story. Now, if this was the only thing I didn’t like about this book, I could have overlooked it – I’m fairly tolerant of formatting issues, but ….

The story doesn’t flow – it jumps and jerks about, the characters are paper-thin and their relationships are tedious – the ‘love’ story between Jimmy and Julie made me want to reach into the pages and knock their heads together, and their over-the-top jealousy either time one of them even LOOKS at a member of the opposite sex smacks of high-school romance pettiness. Characters swap allegiance to each other more often than they change their underpants, and (as far as I got) there was no explanation of how a large group of people managed to find food and supplies from such a remote location.

I made it 62% of the way through Desperate Times 2, and it’s rare I abandon a book so far in. But in the end, the part of me that doesn’t like quitting was overruled by the part screaming in my face ‘don’t waste your time when there are so many better books out there!’

25 November 2011

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

Published: 6 May 2008 by Crown Publishing Group

Pages: 400 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis 

In an expensive London restaurant Julia Lovat receives a gift that will change her life. It appears to be a book of exquisite 17th-century embroidery patterns but on closer examination Julia finds it also contains faint diary entries. In these, Cat Tregenna, an embroideress, tells how she and others were stolen out of a Cornish church in 1625 by Muslim pirates and taken on a brutal voyage to Morocco to be auctioned off as slaves.

Captivated by this dramatic discovery, Julia sets off to North Africa to determine the authenticity of the book and to uncover more of Cat’s story. There, in the company of a charismatic Moroccan guide, amid the sultry heat, the spice markets, and exotic ruins, Julia discovers buried secrets. And in Morocco – just as Cat did before her – she loses her heart.

Almost 400 years apart, the stories of the two women converge in an extraordinary and haunting manner that will make readers wonder – is history fated to repeat itself?


My Thoughts

The Tenth Gift was such a different premise to my current reading that I admit I found it difficult to get my head into a non-zombie, non-post-apocalyptic state of mind, and it has taken me nearly a month to complete. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I kept getting distracted by all the other books on my e-shelf.

I read a lot of reviews of this book before I started reading this book (something I rarely do), and the overwhelming majority of readers either didn’t respect, or found it hard to connect with the main character, Julia, mainly due to her choices in life. Personally, I didn’t have that problem – sure, I didn’t agree with some of her life choices, but I could understand why she made some of those choices.

The character of Cat is particularly engaging – the journal excerpts are written in 17th century English which can be hard to read, until you get used to it, and her fiery, independent character make her the ultimate heroine of this book. The dedication of Rob is sweet but does stretch the imagination a little.

There is a focus on Moroccan and 17th century English history, and the history of embroidery and needlework in the middle-east and England, which adds an extra point of interest.

I’m undecided on this one – there were some very interesting parts, and some that just felt like padding.


24 November 2011

High Moor by Graeme Reynolds

High Moor by Graeme Reynolds

Published: 16 November 2011 by Horrific Tales Publishing

Pages: 354 pages (ePub)

Genre/s: Horror, Paranormal

Source: Author for review


Synopsis

When John Simpson hears of a bizarre animal attack in his old home town of High Moor, it stirs memories of a long forgotten horror. John knows the truth. A werewolf stalks town once more, and on the night of the next full moon, the killing will begin again. He should know. He survived a werewolf attack in 1986, during the worst year of his life. 

It’s 1986 and the town is gripped in terror after the mutilated corpse of a young boy is found in the woods. When Sergeant Steven Wilkinson begins an investigation, with the help of a specialist hunter, he soon realises that this is no ordinary animal attack. Werewolves are real, and the trail of bodies is just beginning, with young John and his friends smack in the middle of it.

Twenty years later, John returns to High Moor. The latest attack involved one of his childhood enemies, but there’s more going on than meets the eye. The consequences of his past actions, the reappearance of an old flame and a dying man who will either save or damn him, are the least of his problems. The night of the full moon is approaching and time is running out.

But how can he hope to stop a werewolf, when every full moon he transforms into a bloodthirsty monster himself?


My Thoughts

High Moor is my first ever werewolf novel. I wasn't sure whether to be excited or apprehensive. I'm not good outside my comfort zone (it’s called comfort for a reason!).

We begin with a prologue set in England in 2008, with a man shutting himself in his basement and a Rottweiler mutilated and killed in a local park. Despite the short prologue, the scene is perfectly set for what is to come.

The story really begins in High Moor, 1986. The descriptions of the down-trodden and depressed town which has been sliding into decay since the closure of the local mines are enthralling – I was instantly transported into the gray world of semi-poverty, fish and chip shops and small town bullies seen in so many TV series, movies and documentaries about 1980’s England.


''Steven thought the town was like a monstrous parasite, sucking the life, hope, and ambition from everyone unfortunate enough to live here.''

As the story progressed, I found myself more and more drawn to the werewolves and The Pack, the illuminati of the werewolf world, and the characters within the book. The characters were so vividly drawn, I could hear their northern -English accents and visualize the way they moved and their homes and surroundings.

The return to High Moor in 2008 is also fantastically described and again conjures visions of small working-class northern-English towns and the connections between the residents, who have been born, grown up and will die in the same place, surrounded by the same people.


''A gang of youths in hooded tops stood in the doorway of an empty shop, casting nervous glances along the street. A young child, no more than ten years old, cycled past on a BMX and, as he passed the group, he handed them a clear plastic bag containing white powder, then pedalled away as fast as he could.''

High Moor is fast-paced, creepy and gives a completely enthralling concept of werewolves that I hadn’t imaged would be contained in this book.

Will there be a sequel? I bloody-well hope so! I was incredibly disappointed when High Moor ended (in a good way!) – I want Moor! (see my joke there?)

I understand this is Mr. Reynolds’ first full-length novel and he has a lot to be very proud of.

22 November 2011

Seed by Ania Ahlborn

Seed by Ania Ahlborn

Published: 28 May 2011

Pages: 241 (paperback)

Genre/s: Horror

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis

In the vine-twisted swamps of Louisiana, the shadows have teeth.

Jack Winter has spent his entire life running from something no one else can see. His childhood is his darkest secret, but after a near fatal accident along a deserted road, the darkness he was sure he’d escaped rears its ugly head… and smiles.

But this time, he isn’t the only one who sees the soulless eyes of his past. This time, his six-year-old daughter Charlie leans into his ear and whispers: Daddy, I saw it too.

And then she begins to change.

Faced with reliving the nightmares of his childhood, Jack watches his daughter spiral into the shadows that had nearly consumed him twenty years before.

But Charlie isn’t the only one who’s changing.

Jack never outran the darkness. It’s been with him all along.

And it’s hungrier than ever.


My Thoughts

It must be really difficult to write a horror story. After all, we are battered to the point of death with it in so many ways - movies, television, and books- that it’s easy to become a little immune and even a little cynical about the genre as a whole. A book must be so much more difficult – you don’t have any special effects, ghosties jumping out of the shadows in full surround sound in a dark movie theatre, or bimbos to shout ‘don’t go into the basement!’ at (and they are my favourite part!)

I love horror, but it’s been a long time since I read one that was truly spooky and made more than a passing impression on me. For that alone, Ms. Ahlborn is already ahead of the game.

I was sold right from the get-go – the fluid writing and vivid, but not overpowering, descriptions of the Deep South had me swatting imaginary mosquitoes and dreaming of fried chicken. The Winter’s are the average struggling-to-make-ends-meet family, which makes them all the more likable and believable – the kids are cute, Aimee is the loving mother and Jack is the father who just wants his family to be happy and safe while working hard to build a better life for his wife and kids.

It’s difficult to write a review without a spoiler, so all I will say is if you love horror buy this book. You just may want to consider carefully whether you read it alone in the dark!

(And finally, it’s no wonder this book was right up there for Goodreads Choice Awards for horror!)



21 November 2011

World-Mart by Leigh M. Lane

World-Mart by Leigh M. Lane

Published: 13 October 2011

Pages: 278 (paperback)

Genre/s: Dystopia

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Government and corporate business have merged in an attempt to keep the country from going bankrupt, the effects of global warming and antibiotic-resistant disease having caused a full collapse in infrastructure. The class divide has become profound, leaving most people trapped in an impoverished, working class world with little room for improvement. Complacency and corporate hierarchy control and confound the masses, run by the elite few, collectively referred to as "Corporate." 

George Irwin remembers a time before the Big Climate Change, back when the airlines were still in business and people still drove their own cars. Sadly, his children have only known an indoor world of endless reconstruction, public shuttles, recycled water, and limited energy. The world has changed much over his lifetime, but he still believes in the American Dream. When an alleged terrorist act lands his wife in the hospital, however, George stumbles upon a Corporate secret that could mean the end of all civilization.

My Thoughts

World-Mart depicts a very possible future reality – class segregation, failing energy supplies, food shortages, global warming, anti-biotic resistant viruses and governmental control over every action and choice made in life. Your background, upbringing and ability to follow without questioning dictate whether you thrive or simply survive in the world.

This is a thought-provoking and quite frightening book. I particularly found the idea of euthanasia of the ill and voluntary euthanasia for people who have found themselves, for whatever reason, demoted through the class ranks to be very disturbing and a reflection of the importance we place on bettering or at least maintaining our own statuses in life.

World-Mart also contains some wonderful poetry written by one of the main characters, Shelley, which I found particularly moving.

My only negative with this book was that some scenes played out way too quickly and could have been fleshed-out a little further, particularly to give a little more life to some of the characters. However this does not mean that the characters were flat or one-dimensional, simply that I wished I had gotten a chance to know them better, and particularly to know how the world came to be that of World-Mart.

20 November 2011

Say Something on Sunday

Usually the weekends are when I read like a demon - employment doesn't interfere.

However, this weekend I've read very little.  Bad Kat, bad!  Instead I've spent the last, oh, 6 hours, watching The Walking Dead.  Yep, I've heard all about it, and finally I've nearly finished watching the first series.

Love it - no holds barred!

18 November 2011

Kings of the Dead by Tony Faville

Kings of the Dead by Tony Faville

Published: 12 April 2011 by Permuted Press

Pages: 270 (paperback)

Genre/s: Zombie, Post-Apocalyptic


Synopsis

When the H1N1 "Swine Flu" virus mutates it begins to not only kill those who have received the vaccination, but also bring on the unthinkable: the dead reanimate. Cole Helman and his friends are not only survival experts, they've spent hours discussing and preparing for just this event and quickly head to the hills before the cities become clogged with looting and riots. But the group knows all too well that the living dead are just the beginning of their problems, and they'll eventually have to deal with the worst qualities of the living-desperation, greed, selfishness, and cruelty-in this new post-apocalyptic world. And a chance encounter at a secret military installation may reveal a conspiracy bigger than any of them had imagined... Straight out of the apocalypse comes the chronicle of one small group and their experiences with life and death, survival and loss. In a world of the living dead, is one man capable of maintaining not only his community, but his own sanity?


My Thoughts

Kings of the Dead is written in journal form, which is a style I particularly like in zombie and post-apocalyptic books, as it tends to reveal more of the human emotion and daily struggles of the writer. There are also some entries from other characters, which add a new perspective to their situations.

The majority of Kings of the Dead is written by Cole, a survivalist who, along with his wife and friends, has prepared for the worst and escaped from the cities before it all goes pear-shaped.

To begin with, I did find this book to be quite run-of-the-mill – the characters seemed a little cookie-cutter (ex Marine for example) and the action sequences a little too similar to so many other zombie books.

However, Kings of the Dead did pick up, and posed some very important questions on what would happen to an ordinary person thrown into an undead world. Characters with medical conditions find their health improving and their ability to be self sufficient, and the idea of creating ‘channels’ around their safe-haven to ensure they only have to fight zombies a handful at a time, rather than being overrun by a horde is an interesting one that I have not come across before.

There is quite a bit of discussion over weapons which I do admit I skimmed – not because it was badly written or inaccurate, it just held little interest for me.

Kings of the Dead does delve into the darker side of the ‘human factor’ and there are several disturbing scenes, however these are necessary to the story and show the struggle that normal human beings have maintaining their moral and ethical standards in a world falling apart.

It’s not easy to write a book that stands out in a sub-genre that’s experienced such fast growth and popularity but Kings of the Dead holds its own. And the ending is just that, an ending! Hurray!

17 November 2011

Pure (Pure #1) by Julianna Baggott

Pure (Pure #1) by Julianna Baggott

Expected Publication: 8 February 2012 by Grand Central Publishing

Pages: 448 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopia, Young Adult

Source: Publisher for review


Synopsis

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .

Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . . 
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.


My Thoughts

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was a little bit reluctant to start reading. Although dystopian fiction is one of my favourites, it all sounded a little bit ‘YA-romancey’’ to me. However, as I skimmed through the first few pages, I decided maybe it could be better than it sounded.

Julianna Baggott describes the post-apocalyptic/dystopic world after The Detonations in a way that sucks you right into the story from page one. Mutated animals, disfigured humans, creatures that defy definition are all part of a world that is unrecognizable, yet recognizable at the same time.

The characters, particularly Pressia, are so well defined and drawn I was immediately immersed into their lives, their feelings and their very different situations.

For me, this book is not YA in the traditional sense. It is brutal, ugly and beautiful all at the same time, and although the main characters are in their teens, their speech, thought and actions are for the most part that of older characters, giving a real sense that they had grown up in the world so intricately created by Ms. Baggott.

The science behind the Detonations and the Dome are examined and to some extent explained, but not in a way that is overwhelming for readers who may not be overly interested in that facet of the book – in fact, it is so well intertwined that at times I didn’t really even notice!

The only negative for me is that I found the book to be slightly long, perhaps 50 pages longer than it could have been, but that didn’t dampen my enjoyment of this book.

I highly recommend this book to fans of YA-dystopia, dystopia and post-apocalyptic genres.
(And yes, it's the first book of ANOTHER series - why do I do this to myself?!)

15 November 2011

Thicker Than Water (Blood Brothers) by Greg Sisco

Thicker than Water (Blood Brothers #1) by Greg Sisco

Published: 22 October 2011

Pages: 209 (paperback)

Genre/s: Vampires, Paranormal

Source: Own Library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Tyr and Loki are not your teenage sister’s vampires. Their skin is not covered in glitter. They do not drink the blood of possums instead of humans. They view humanity as a secondary species; they have mastered the skill of manipulating and seducing women; and if you find yourself in a room with them, don’t expect the opportunity to say goodbye to your loved ones.

Since the Crusades, the Blood Brothers have waged war on all things wholesome. They have terrorized mankind with their hedonistic and brutal theatrics every night for a thousand years.

Thicker Than Water, the first novel in the Blood Brothers series, spans from Tombstone, Arizona in 1893 to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1999. After Tyr sparks a feud with his domineering brother by impaling him to a wall and abandoning their relationship, a story unfolds weaving together vampires, brothel owners, gunmen, prostitutes, and buckets of innocent blood in a twisted orgy of sex, murder, revenge, romance, betrayal, and brotherly love.


My Thoughts


Disclaimer - I have to start by saying vampires aren’t my thing. No way, nuh uh, no vampires for this girl - strictly Zombies only.


However, after reading Greg’s fantastic blog post on ‘proper’ vampires I was intrigued. Maybe, just maybe, there’s someone out there who doesn’t think vampires sparkle and love kittens. So casting my long-standing vampire prejudice aside, I (reluctantly) picked up a copy of Thicker than Water.

Thicker than Water is the story of two brothers Tyr and Loki, and their recent (in vampire terms) recruit, Thor. Named after Norse mythological characters, the brothers have been around the block more than a few times, and have the whole vampire game pretty much down pat. After a disagreement over a child during one of their hell-raising, blood-guzzling escapades, they are no longer in contact – Tyr is in a relationship with a human and Loki is building up his empire with Thor within the sinful confines of Vegas.

Much of this book focuses on the tale behind the turning of Thor, in the late 19th century wild-west, and ends with the story behind the argument that has separated the brothers for the last 13 years.

Thicker than Water pulls no punches where these vampires are concerned – they are in the truest sense of the word, proper vampires. For me, the story started a little slowly, but after the first third of the book, the pace was ramped up quickly, climaxing with the story of their last raid together. The characters are strong and easily identifiable, which makes them very ‘likeable’ (for want of a better word!) and intriguing.

There were some small spelling and grammatical errors, but not enough to bring out the Grammar Nazi’s in full force. One other thing I found slightly difficult to get used to was the accents during the Wild-West chapters, but once I got into it, I didn’t even notice it anymore.

Am I converted? Partially (I’m old and set in my ways!). I love that Greg isn’t afraid to go all out with his vampires and paint them exactly as they should be – bloodthirsty and merciless.

13 November 2011

Broken Promises

At the beginning of November I made a promise to myself - NO NEW BOOKS.

Today is November 13 and I've crumbled....I made it 12 days......I'm a failure! But there is an upside - I now have some shiny new books to comfort me!

Thicker Than Water by Greg Sisco
The Enemy, The Dead and The Fear by Charlie Higson
Dead Come Home by Nathan Brown
Kings of the Dead by Tony Faville
Deadfall by Shaun Jeffrey
Ashes by Isla J. Bick
20 Years After the Zombie Apocalypse by Lee Emerick
Babylon's Ark by Lawrence Anthony
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

And I'm not done yet - now THAT'S how to break a resolution properly!

12 November 2011

Dead Living by Glenn Bullion

Dead Living by Glenn Bullion

Published: 4 April 2011

Pages: 224 (paperback)

Genre/s: Zombie, Post-Apocalyptic

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon

Synopsis (Goodreads)

It didn’t take long for the world to die. The dead rose with no explanation and only one purpose...to eat living flesh. Born on the day everything died, the world of the living dead is the only world that Aaron knows. Kept in relative isolation from the walking corpses, his family teaches him how to read and write, how to survive on his own. After a tragedy hits close to home, he discovers he is different than any human left alive.

The undead want nothing to do with him.

The survivors of the old suburb of Lexington call a high school their home. They survive day to day, without any of the luxuries mankind used to enjoy, and surrounded by the living dead. Samantha is a product of the new world. Alone, cold, looking out only for herself. She and the other residents of Lexington feel their hope dwindling. They need change. They need someone who isn't afraid of the walking corpses. They need someone who would rather live in a city of the dead.

They need Aaron.


My Thoughts

Dead Living begins with a normal workday for Joe, a forklift driver. However, his normal day quickly becomes very abnormal as one of the employees is bitten. Receiving a call to inform him his wife is in labour, he speeds towards the hospital, desperate to be there for the birth; however upon arriving at the hospital he finds himself in the middle of the zombapocalypse with staff and patients alike being bitten and hunted through the hospital corridors.

Escaping the hospital with his wife’s best friend, newborn baby son and two strangers he meets in the hospital, they retreat to the woods to try and survive.

Flash-forward 13 years later and Joe and his son Aaron and friends are living a comfortable life in a secluded cabin, forging new relationships and venturing reluctantly out into the world to scavenge. After a supply run turns deadly, Joe’s son Aaron finds himself alone in a world over-run by the undead.

Another flash-forward and Aaron is a young man, living alone in the middle of a city populated by walking corpses and by chance meets Samantha, an angry and isolated woman who trusts no one and takes her back to his haven among the dead. However, Aaron has a secret that he is desperate to hide.

The first chapter of this book, focusing on the first day of the zombapocalypse is fast-paced, a little too much so. Although the action drags you in, I didn’t find the writing style to my liking and, to be honest, had a sinking feeling that I wouldn’t enjoy this book. Even after the first flash-forward I was a little bored, and although not tempted to give up, I still wasn’t convinced this book would improve.

However, once I had reached lead-up to Samantha and Aaron meeting each other, things improved out of sight. Suddenly I had to keep reading, and found myself lost in the story….

Aaron is definitely my favourite part of this book and as a character is extremely likable. Sam was also well-drawn and her transformation from an abrasive tough young woman to a valuable member of the survivor community was interesting to see.

Now, I’m not a fan of romance in zombie books – it’s a hard thing to pull off when the world is populated by walking corpses – it tends to distract me from the story itself and often results in eye-rolling of epic proportions and skim reading. This one however is not too bad – sure there are some cheesy lines along the lines of ‘dying for you’ and ‘follow you forever’ – but it also brings some interesting ideas on how people born into an undead world learn about love and relationships.

As Zombie books go, this one has far less blood and gore than most I have read, but don’t let this put you off – the focus is far more on the characters, storyline and survival. The zombie / post-apocalyptic sub-genre was once the domain of a select few writers and readers, but over the past few years there has been a glut of new writers and new books, which makes it difficult to write a stand-out book. However, with Dead Living, Glenn Bullion has given it a damn good try and for me it is a success.

10 November 2011

The Year it Snowed in April by Eva Bottier

The Year it Snowed in April by Eva Bottier

Published: 30 March 2010 by St Martin's Press

Pages: 320 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary

Source: Own library


Synopsis (Goodreads)

Avery Benjamin Clarke is a shy and demure boy, raised in the upper middle classed home of his maternal grandparents from the day he was born. He’s a straight “A” student and a model child who has never given his family an ounce of trouble. Then one Easter Sunday, his wayward mother, Carla, returns to his grandparents’ brownstone. When an unexpected tragedy strikes, Avery is forced to live with Carla permanently. Soon after, his life begins a swift downward spiral as she introduces him to a world of dysfunction and darkness.

As Avery grows into a young man, he is determined to hide the secrets he’s accumulated from the world. He struggles to suppress his psychosis and obtain some sense of normalcy in his life. But when the tables are turned yet again, Avery is given crosses no young person should ever have to bear. Will he ultimately delve within himself for the strength and sanity that was stolen from him or will he awaken the monster that has been lurking beneath the surface created by years of suffering and abuse?


My Thoughts

The Year it Snowed in April is story of Avery, abandoned by his teenage mother as a toddler and brought up by his respectable, safe grandparents in Harlem. Avery is a clever, thoughtful and shy teenager, unsure of girls and the world around him, adores his grandparents and has big plans for his future.

Unexepectedly, Avery’s mother comes back into his life and he is thrown into a world that he never even knew existed outside the safe life his grandparents have created for him, with a mother who isn’t ready to be his mother, nor act like one.

As Avery becomes more and more entwined in his mother’s lifestyle he spirals downwards into depression, alcoholism and violence.

I picked this book up quite randomly, looking for a book with the word April in the title for a reading challenge. It began quite slowly, not really picking up speed until nearly half-way through. I had some trouble relating to Avery, his grandparents and his mother to begin with, but as the book progressed I became more involved with the characters, particularly Avery.

This is not a light read. There are confronting scenes of violence, abuse and disturbing sexual scenes, which definitely may not be to some readers’ tastes. It is the story of a boy taken from a safe, secure life and thrust into an adult world and his ability to deal with this new reality is tested to the limits.

I’m still undecided on this book – it has many great qualities, but in parts I felt quite rushed through the story and although the affect on Avery’s life was well drawn, the affect on the lives of those around him could have been expanded further. It’s good, but it could have been so much better.


Giveaway - Shameless Ploy for More Followers

Ok, I admit it - I want people to read and follow my blog!  So to show my love for you, dear followers, I'm going to do a giveaway.

It's a simple one - a $20 Amazon voucher (or GBP 15 from amazon.co.uk depending on your choice!).  All I ask is that you tell me your true feelings about Zombies and follow my blog before November 30 2011.

C'mon, how painful can it be?

**Update** with three days to go I have determined the very scientific way I'm going to decide the winner. Yep I'm going to write all your names on a slip of paper and put them in a hat.  I know, I should have just got Rafflecopter......but the old-fashioned way is fun!  I'll even post pics ;-)


A big THANK YOU to everyone who has commented - I'm now closed for entries.  I have to go and do the whole employment thing then I will draw the winner - exciting!

09 November 2011

The Dark Trilogy by Patrick D'Orazio - the full review

The Dark Trilogy by Patrick D'Orazio

Published: 2 May 2011

Genre/s: Zombie, Post-Apocalyptic

Synopsis

The end came with a whimper, not a bang. The mysterious virus came out of nowhere and engulfed the world in a matter of days. Everyone who was infected seemed to die...and rise again. Governments collapsed, armies disappeared, and entire civilizations turned to dust as the human race tore itself to pieces. Jeff Blaine had a good life: a beautiful wife, adorable children, and a nice house in the suburbs. He liked his job, loved his family, and spent his lazy summer Sundays out on the deck, barbecuing with the neighbors. Things were perfect until everything fell apart. And no matter how hard Jeff tried, he could not spare his family from the horrors scratching at the door. Now, with his family gone, his life in ruins, the only thing left is raw anger and pain. As the world continues to sink into darkness, Jeff does as well. So he ventures out into the desolation with no better plan than to destroy as many of the monsters that stole his life away before they destroy him as well. But soon Jeff will discover other survivors unwilling to give up. They will force him to decide whether or not to give in to the venom that gnaws at his soul. Should he continue to fight to survive, or succumb to the things in the darkness?


My Thoughts

Trilogies…love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are an ever growing part of reading. Myself, I’m ambivalent – but one thing I always want to know up front is if a book is part of a trilogy or series. Cliffhangers are not my friends.

I’d been watching Patrick D’Orazio’s books for over a year when I noticed the Dark Trilogy had been released. As an additional bonus, Dark Stories, from D’Orazio’s blog are also included.

The first book, Comes the Dark, starts with a bang (no long lead up to the zombapocalypse here folks) as main character Jeff discovers his wife and children have become the latest victims of the living dead. Driven to the edge, he embarks on a suicidal mission of revenge through his neighbourhood, only to find another survivor, Megan. As they find themselves trapped, they are rescued by Jason and George at an abandoned rescue station that has been overrun by the zombie hordes. While attempting to make a supply run on their way to find their safe haven, they are taken hostage by another band of survivors.

Into the Dark focuses on the conflicts between the two groups, of which the leader, Michael, and Jeff have very different ideas and opinions on how to live and survive in a world populated by the undead.

Beyond the Dark starts with the fall of the stronghold of the gang that captured Jeff, Megan, George and Jason and continues with their attempt to flee the hordes through a nearby town, culminating in the ultimate battle for survival against both the Zombies and each other.

The ending of this series is great – I promise No Spoilers, but a trilogy like this is hard to end – either you aren’t satisfied that everything is wrapped up, or it’s wrapped up too nicely, like a Christmas present from your grandmother that you know was wrapped in-store. Beyond the Dark strikes a happy medium with both.

The ‘bonus’ book, Dark Stories are from Patrick D’Orazio’s blog and these are the back stories of the characters, how they survived the initial outbreak, came to be together and some very interesting insights into how their characters developed into those in the book. Dark Stories starts with a disclaimer from the author that these stories may change your feelings on some characters - personally I found that it gave me an extra insight into the characters that I would have missed otherwise.

All three of the books and the fourth book of extras are full of action, suspense, survival and some pretty intense gore – but it’s not pointless, the writing style is very descriptive and you can imagine how some of these monsters really would look like.

The characters are very well fleshed-out and are by no means Mr./Ms. Action Hero – they are all teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown, are not physical wonders and say and do some very questionable things. The ‘’baddies’’ are bad, sure, but they aren’t the quickly-descend-into-savage-brutality types that are rife in the Zombie genre – to an extent their actions are understandable and plausible.

If I had to pick my order of preference for the books, it would be:

1) Beyond the Dark – 5 stars – action-packed, pee-your-pants scary, some of the best descriptive writing I’ve encountered.
2) Comes the Dark – 4 stars – Hooks you in, sets the scene.
3) Dark Stories – 4 stars – How characters experienced the first days, and banded together.
4) Into the Dark – 4 stars – Extra character development, builds towards the climax.

Are these books perfect? No – there’s no such thing (unless you are a Twilight fanatic *runs and hides*) – every book has some fault, and one very small thing that I didn’t like about these books was a couple of the descriptions, such as: ‘the desperate renegade’ and ‘the gimpy man’ - I personally don’t like these kind of descriptions, particularly when the passage is focused on only one character – it makes me think someone else has suddenly appeared and I’ve missed something.

In summary, these books are one of my favourite zombie trilogies/series in 2011, and it’s going to take a damn good try to better them. If you like your zombies real and in-your-face, this trilogy is definitely for you.


One last thing – I loved this description: Billy Bubba had the obligatory mullet, molester mustache, and sleeveless t-shirt allowing a clear view of a series of tasteless and poorly drawn tattoos running up and down his arms.

07 November 2011

The Dark Trilogy by Patrick D'Orazio (currently reading)

Currently I'm reading Patrick D'Orazio's The Dark Trilogy.



Initially released as separate novels: Beyond the Dark, Into the Dark and Comes the Dark, it has been re-released as a full, immerse yourself in brains and survival, trilogy via Kindle.

It's quite long as a trilogy (I'm guessing 600 pages easily), my full review won't be ready for at least a few days.  I toyed with the idea of reviewing each book seperately, but I think I'll just save it all up for one enourmous review!

One thing I can say, being at the beginning of the third book, the first two are fantastic - no wonder I'd been eyeing these books off for the best part of a year!  Cool retro cover art too!

06 November 2011

2012 E-Book Challenge

I'm a sucker for a challenge.  Well, several dozen challenges for 2012, but let's not talk about the war.....

This challenge is one I can definitely do without adding to my reading list as 95% of my books are e-books anyway!



There are several levels, but I'm going to go with "Server - 100 e-books''.

Go ahead and join up here.

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse by Max Brallier

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier

Published: 8 February 2011 by Gallery Books

Pages: 384 (paperback)

Genre/s: Post-Apocalyptic, Zombie

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Inside these pages lies unspeakable horror. Bloodsplattering, brain-impaling, flesh-devouring horror. You’ve probably read your fair share of zombie stories. But this time it’s different. No longer can you sit idle as a bunch of fools make all the wrong moves. All hell is about to break loose—and YOU have a say in humanity’s survival. You have choices to make. Moral dilemmas. Strategic decisions. Weapons. Vehicles. Will you be a hero? Or will you cover your own ass at all costs? Can you withstand the coming hours, days, weeks, and months? Or will you die amidst the chaos and violence of a zombie uprising? Or, worst of all, will you become one of them?

My Thoughts

Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books from your childhood/teenage years? They were amongst some of the most popular books in the library when I was in Primary School....all the cool kids had one!

So when I stumbled across this book I had to have it. Now. Right now. And thanks to the magical power of Amazon, I could have it almost now.

This isn't really a book I can review in great detail because, well the ending is different depending on the path you choose! The fun with these type of books is every choice you make influences how the story progresses and how far you get in evading zombies, helping the military or meeting a grisly end!

As such, you can't really determine when you have 'read' this book in it's entirety (unless you get a little bit anal and track which paths you have and haven't chosen and mark them off - I didn't go THAT far). However, that also means that you can pick it up at any time, read one 'path' and come back to it again and again.

The writing style is kinda 'blokey' and a little sexist towards women in some places, but hey, this is a pure fun book - and I loved it!

The Survivors (Life After War#1) by Angela White

The Survivors: Life After War (Book #1) by Angela White

Published: 10 May 2010

Genre/s: Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK

Synopsis

Fated to lead New America, seven special people survive a nuclear apocalypse, only to find themselves on a cross country quest that will shake the very core of who they thought they were. From dangerous trips into dark, apocalyptic cities, to patriotic rescues and furious revelations, Life After War is an action packed fantasy series where those left alive must come to terms with their mistakes in the old world, while fighting for a place in the new one.

My Thoughts

When I purchased The Survivors, I obviously didn’t read the full summary. I love post-apocalyptic novels, but I didn’t realize that there was also a fantasy element in this book.

Having said that, the book started well, straight into the action with the nuclear war of 2012 devastating America and the inevitable nuclear winter, and continues with the survival stories of the characters which are introduced gradually throughout the first part of the book.

There are also some minor characters introduced through the book that are only heard of once, presumably to be reintroduced in the next book/s in the series, although for me that was slightly disappointing as I wanted to have their stories fleshed out a little more to make them more memorable.

As the action slowed down in middle parts of the book, I did find my attention wavering, and started to enjoy the book less and less, however it picked up again towards the end when characters started to develop more.

The fantasy theme I found to be unnecessary at times and added to the story at others, but I think without this element I would have enjoyed this book more.

The Kindle formatting is distracting and I found myself slightly irritated by the breaks between paragraphs where there is no break in the story.

One thing that I also found strange was the description of some characters not by name but as ‘the blond’, ‘the dirty blond’, ‘the Marine’ etc. I knew who was being described most of the time, but sometimes (as there is more than one blond character!) it really confused me.

Why Zombie? And Where to Start?!

The Zombie world can be overwhelming if you've never dipped your toe in the water before.  There are now so many choices, good and bad, that you risk starting with a bad Zombie novel and never wanting to revisit the undead apocalypse again.

Therefore, I bring you my Zombie Honour Roll:

The Zombie Fallout Series by Mark Tufo.  Now at book #4, these books are the Zombie genre in it's best form, combined with a little paranormal twist.
The White Flag of the Dead Series by Joseph Talluto.  Three books so far, the protagonist and his baby, along with a band of incredible likeable survivors delves into the survival scenario.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth Series by Carrie Ryan.  Although I've only read #1, the series has been highly acclaimed in YA circles
The Morningstar Strain Series by Z.A. Recht.  Although Mr. Recht passed away before finishing his trilogy, it is one of the key Zombie series that began my obsession.
As the World Dies trilogy by Rhiannon Frater.  Again, I've only read #1 due to the unavailability of e-books in my region, the series has strong female protagonists, unique in Zombie novels.
The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell.  One of the best 'literary' novels in the Zombie genre, this book is beautifully written and certain to become a cult classic.  On my list of re-reads for 2012!
Day By Day Armageddon Series by J.L. Bourne.  Part of my early introduction to the genre, I listened to both books on Audible, but will be purchasing, and 'reading' the written versions in 2012.  The third book is eagerly awaited by Zombie-philes and and Post Apocalyptic lovers worldwide.

As you can see, some fantastic choices - but don't forget the Indie authors, particularly those I have reviewed in earlier posts.  These are the true hidden gems of the genre!

Edit - new book reviewed recently - The Dark Trilogy by Patrick D'Orazio - one of my favourites for 2011!  Horrifying, gory zombies as their best!

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