Review: ZOM-B by Darren Shan

 

Title: ZOM-B

Author: Darren Shan

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When news reports start appearing of a zombie outbreak in Ireland, B’s racist father thinks it’s a joke– but even if it isn’t, he figures, it’s ok to lose a few Irish.

B doesn’t fully buy into Dad’s racism, but figures it’s easier to go along with it than to risk the fights and abuse that will surely follow sticking up for Muslims, blacks, or immigrants. And when dodging his fists doesn’t work, B doesn’t hesitate to take the piss out of kids at school with a few slaps or cruel remarks.

That is, until zombies attack the school. B is forced on a mad dash through the serpentine corridors of high school, making allegiances with anyone with enough gall to fight off their pursuers.


Review:

Spoiler free!

This is the first Darren Shan novel that I have read (I have read some graphic novel adaptations previously), and despite some reservations, I enjoyed it very much.  ZOM-B kept me happily entertained on a flight to OKC; it’s a fast read, with blistering action and compulsively readable prose.  I gobbled this up in just a few hours, and was disappointed when I reached the last page, because this one comes to a painful, screeching halt.  It has no ending, just one of those annoying To Be Continued on the last page.  While I now feel invested in the series and will be on board for the next volume, I worry that the next book won’t work for me as well.  This one hit at the right time; with Halloween looming, I was in the mood for something scary, and being trapped on a plane for was few hours, I needed something to occupy my time and keep me from wallowing in boredom.  ZOM-B did that; in spades.  I don’t know if I will feel the same way, or have the right circumstances, when ZOM-B Underground hits stores February of next year.

B is a high school student, and after hearing reports of a zombie invasion in an Irish town, B’s father laughs the news off as a hoax.  When B’s mother voices her concern, her husband reacts violently, silencing her fears.  B isn’t sure what’s going on, but if the videos and the pictures of rotting dead people viciously attacking and eating helpless people is true, B doesn’t know what to do.  When the zombies show up at school, chaos erupts.  Only those brave enough, and willing to do anything to survive, will live through the massacre.  Will B make it out of school alive?

B is a hard character to like.  After years of trying to fend off his father’s abusive attacks, both on B and on B’s mother, B is exhausted.  Playing along with his father’s racially biased views in order to avoid beatings, B comes across as just as bigoted and narrow-minded as his dad.  While he tries to deny his prejudice, because, hey, he has a black friend, it’s hard to ignore the things B says and does.  The intolerance towards other cultures is a strong theme in the book, but it is so heavy-handed that at times it didn’t work for me.  It grated on my nerves.  Yes, B’s dad is a bully and a jerk, but I didn’t need to be reminded of that every other page. 

B has a lot to deal with at home as his father’s temper often flares out of control.  When news of a zombie plague hits the news, everyone laughs it off as an elaborate joke.  When B’s worst nightmare comes true and the zombies overrun  school, it seems as though the world is ending.  Only quick thinking and brutal reactions keep B and a small handful of students alive.  The zombies are relentless, and B’s little group is shrinking fast.  One after another is picked off and eaten by the ravenous zombies.  Soon, it’s everyone for themselves.  While the small group is forced to work together, it is painfully obvious that the peace will only hold as long as it is mutually beneficial.  If tossing a student or two to the zombie mob will buy the more ruthless survivors a reprieve from a painful death, so be it.  The group dynamics  were always shifting, which made the read even more suspenseful, because you never knew when someone would be sacrificed or eaten by the zombies. 

This is a fun, fast, gory read, right up until that dreaded, hated, To Be Continued.  I like a little more closure to my books, but as this is the first in a projected 12 book series, I guess I need to get used to running into a lot of brick walls.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop-Win The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle!

Welcome to my  Spooktacular giveaway,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Rhiannon from The Diary of a Bookworm.  This hop runs from October 24 to October 31  and you can win lots of new reads. There are over 400 blogs participating in this hop!  Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I recently read and enjoyed The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle, and I think you will, too!  It is scary and suspenseful, and oh-so hard to put down!

About the book:

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.

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Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

 

Title:  The Hallowed Ones

Author: Laura Bickle

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.

Review:

This book had me extremely freaked out at several points during the story, and I could not put it down.  Well, I did have to put it down once, because everyone else had wandered off to bed, it was dark, and I was FREAKED OUT.  I just could not sit in the living room by myself and continue to read, damn my easily frightened heart.  So I carefully marked my place, set the book down, and waddled off to bed, already counting down the hours until I would be home from work and able to read again.  It was probably for the best; it was a work night anyway, and the weekend beckoned just a few hours away.

I loved Embers, also by Laura Bickle, for both the heroine and for her cuddle-worthy elemental, Sparky.  I read a lot of books, and if I can remember most of the plot and even character names months after I have finished, it was a great reading experience.  When I saw that she had a YA title coming out, I was beside myself with excitement.  Would I enjoy it?   The Hallowed Ones intrigued me for another reason, too.  Katie is Amish, and she is about to set off on her Rumspringa, the time that young Amish are permitted to live with the English away from their communities, in order to determine whether or not they wanted to return and be baptized, and fully accepted as adults in their society.  Being baptized also meant putting aside non-Amish things, and having additional pressures to conform to accepted behavior.  I wondered if I would find Katie an interesting person.  She is supposed to be  humble and agreeable, and not make waves.  Guess what?  She is a fascinating heroine, strong, brave, and more than willing to make waves when she thought that an injustice was being committed.  This got her into a lot of hot water with the Elders, but Katie just could not step aside when she thought that someone needed her help.  Unfortunately for her people, everybody needed help after a devastating catastrophe befalls the Outside.

I can’t remember having read another book with an Amish protagonist, so I don’t know how authentic Katie is, but I liked her a lot.  She never backed down when she was needed, regardless of how unpleasant, and in several instances, how downright horrifying, the task was.  I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, because I want you to be as freaked out as I was.  Let me just say that there are evil, awful monsters Outside, and they are ravenous.  They are scary.  They are strong.  And worse of all, they are smart.  With the Elders denying that a darkness has descended and threatens to survival of the human race, things are looking particularly grim.  An Amish community, with its wooden houses and lack of technology, isn’t the first place I would choose to make my last stand with the world ending around me.  There are no radios, TV, or internet for the news, and cell phones?  Forget it!  You aren’t going to be able to send urgent, terrified text messages to your friends and family because they don’t have those there!  Several times I was struck by how difficult communication would be even without the end of days.  Heck, if I wanted to talk to my neighbors on the other end of the community, I would have to walk there.  Or hitch up my horse and drive there.  Thank goodness I know how to drive a buggy.

I thought the beginning of the story was a little slow, but now that I have finished the book, I don’t think that anymore.  We needed that calm before the storm, to establish both Katie and Elijah’s personalities, their role in their society, and what their hopes were for the future.  Katie firmly believed that she and Elijah would go on Rumspringa together, and after kicking up their heels, they would both be baptized, and then eventually they would be married and start a family of their own.  Everything was laid out in a simple path, and all she had to do was follow it.  But then the unthinkable happens, and there is no Outside anymore.  When the Elders, in an abundance of caution, closed off their community, Katie begins to question everything that she once accepted without a qualm.  She disobeys the Elders, and soon she has first hand knowledge of the evil they are up against.  Things don’t look good, and Katie thinks that it is just a matter of time before everyone in her knows and loves suffers an unspeakable end.

While I liked Katie, I think that the Hexenmeister is my favorite character.  There is just something about a crazy old guy who turns out to be a magical bad-ass that appeals to me.  While he lived on the fringes of his society because he was quite odd during times of peace  and contentment, during the end of the world he was just the guy to have on your side.  He, too, was strong and unwavering, even when confronted with the corruption that seethed within their community. 

The Hallowed Ones is an exciting, and at times, terrifying read, with a strong heroine ready to do whatever is necessary to save the lives of her family.  Without technology on her side, Katie has to rely on something many of us have forgotten how to use; her own cunning and common sense.  I enjoyed this book very much, and can hardly wait for follow-up.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Laura Bickle, Author of The Hallowed Ones

Laura Bickle is a favorite around the virtual offices, and I’m always delighted when she has time to drop in for a chat.  Today we are going to talk about her soon to be released young adult title The Hallowed Ones.  This is a scary glimpse at the end of the world!  I enjoyed this thrilling, frightening, exciting read, and I wanted to ask Laura a few questions about it, so let’s see what she has to say.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Laura Bickle] Cat-rancher, Tarot enthusiast, and sometime salamander chaser. Writing urban fantasy and YA as Laura Bickle and Alayna Williams.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Hallowed Ones?

[Laura Bickle] Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there…and it is making a killing.

Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a decree: no one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elders’ rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Laura Bickle] I was thinking about what would happen if the end of the world came…I know this is a common thing to think about on an everyday basis! But that’s part of the joy in being a writer. I get to think about odd things.

I was wondering who would be best-equipped to survive a large-scale disaster. It occurred to me that the Amish would be uniquely equipped to survive. They are incredibly self-sufficient and are not dependent upon things we take for granted in our world, things like electricity and cars.

I live not too far from a large Amish settlement. When I was a child, my parents would take me to visit, and I was fascinated by a world very different than the one I lived in. I’d see Amish girls my age over the fence and wonder what their lives were like. And that’s where Katie came from.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you research Amish culture and traditions?

[Laura Bickle] I spent some time visiting the Amish settlement near where I live. I also did a good deal of reading…there are a lot of great books out there that look at the Plain way of life from a sociological perspective. National Geographic has also done a number of very good documentaries about the Amish. Many of the ideas were very foreign to me. For example, the Amish do not wish to be connected to the outside world, so power lines, phone lines, and electricity are not used. That kind of voluntary isolation is fascinating to me. The only parallel I can draw in my own life is when storms came through our area and we were without phone, cable, electricity, and internet for a week. It was very still and very peaceful.

I’m acutely conscious that I can’t know or understand everything about the Amish, never having lived in an Amish community. But I learned enough to develop an immense respect for the Amish way of life.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Katie?

[Laura Bickle] Katie is strong, quiet, and resolute. She’s a young woman growing into her power.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things would Elijah never have in his room?

[Laura Bickle] Hmmm…Elijah is the boy Katie has grown up with, who she expects to marry someday. Elijah is something of a straight arrow. He’d never have the keys to a car, a secret stash of Star Wars action figures, or anything with a remote control.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Alex would never have in his pockets?

[Laura Bickle] Alex is an injured man Katie finds outside the boundaries of her community. Katie brings him inside her barn to recover, but can’t be sure what kind of evil he’s bringing in with him.

Alex is a graduate student in anthropology. You wouldn’t find any of the following in his pockets: more than twenty bucks, a comb, or directions to the nearest church.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Katie had a theme song, what would it be?

[Laura Bickle] Hmmm. Katie doesn’t spend much time listening to popular music, but she was caught by her father humming “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones while milking the cows.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Laura Bickle] My herd of cats would say they’re my greatest influences. There’s always one or two draped on me while I’m trying to type, trying to hit the delete key.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Laura Bickle] Quiet, Coca-Cola, and someplace to sprawl out.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Laura Bickle] FEVER by Lauren DeStefano. Her voice is so incredibly powerful – I can’t wait for the third book in the Chemical Garden trilogy. Both WITHER and FEVER were books that lingered with me for a long time after I finished – I love it when a story takes up real estate in my head and haunts me like that.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Laura Bickle] My all-time favorite is Robin McKinley’s HERO AND THE CROWN. I read it when I was a pre-teen, and fell in love with fantasy ever after. It was the first book I’d read that had a female protagonist who slew her own dragons. I was hooked.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Laura Bickle] In my day job, I work in a library. I get to pet all the new books and come home with armloads of books to read for research and pleasure.
My husband and I are amateur astronomers. We were excited to finally get a break in the cloud cover to see a bit of the Perseids meteor shower this year.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Laura Bickle] I love to connect with readers! My website is www.laurabickle.com. I blog about nerdy stuff like my action figure collection at http://laurabickle.com/category/blog/ I’m also on Twitter and Facebook.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order The Hallowed Ones from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.

YA eBargains for Your Kindle

Here’s a small round-up of nicely priced YA eBooks for your Kindle or Kindle app.

 Eve by Anna Carey ($2.99)

Where do you go when nowhere is safe?

Sixteen years after a deadly virus wiped out most of Earth’s population, the world is a perilous place. Eighteen-year-old Eve has never been beyond the heavily guarded perimeter of her school, where she and two hundred other orphaned girls have been promised a future as the teachers and artists of the New America. But the night before graduation, Eve learns the shocking truth about her school’s real purpose—and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Arden, her former rival from school, and Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust . . . and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

In this epic new series, Anna Carey imagines a future that is both beautiful and terrifying. Readers will revel in Eve’s timeless story of forbidden love and extraordinary adventure.

.

 

Partials by Dan Wells ($2.99)

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what’s left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she’s not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

Dan Wells, acclaimed author of I Am Not a Serial Killer, takes readers on a pulsepounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question—one where our humanity is both our greatest liability and our only hope for survival.

 

These Harper Collins’ contemporaries are at a lower price point, so check them out.  I enjoyed both of these.

 

Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley ($5.69)

Meet Corrinne. She’s living every girl’s dream in New York City—shopping sprees at Barneys, open access to the best clubs and parties, and her own horse at the country club. Her perfect life is perfectly on track. At least it was. . . .

When Corrinne’s father is laid off, her world suddenly falls apart. Instead of heading to boarding school, she’s stripped of her credit cards and shipped off to the boonies of Texas to live with her grandparents. On her own in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the life she’s supposed to be living. She doesn’t care who she stomps on in the process. But when Corrinne makes an unlikely friend and discovers a total hottie at work, she begins to wonder if her life B.R.—before the recession—was as perfect as it seemed.


A Long Way from You (Where I Belong) by Gwen Heasley ($5.69)

For too long, Kitsy has had to satisfy her dreams of becoming a real artist by giving her friends makeovers before prom. So when her best friend Corrinne’s family offers to sponsor her for a summer art course in New York City, Kitsy bids a temporary good-bye to Texas to say hello to the West Village.

Between navigating the subway and the New Yorkers—namely, the Art Boy who has a nice trick of getting under her skin—Kitsy knows that this summer is going to be about a lot more than figure drawing.

Review: Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

 

   Title: Dead Reckoning

   Author: Mercedes Lackey  & Rosemary Edghill

   Publisher: Bloomsbury

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

Review:

I haven’t read anything by Mercedes Lackey in a long, long time, and I don’t think I have ever read Rosemary Edghill, and that’s something I would like to rectify, because I enjoyed Dead Reckoning. Though there are some pacing issues at the end, and few too many convenient coincidences, I found my time  with Jett, White Fox, and Gibbons well spent. These characters were easy to like.  I do wish White Fox had been given more depth and more page time.  I loved Gibbons, and thought that she could probably talk her way in to and back out of Fort Knox with a bucket full of gold bars.  She was never content to take anything at face value; she had this all-consuming need to understand the how and the why of everything.  I loved how this drove Jett nuts.  She was more than willing to accept what she saw with her own eyes, and didn’t need to overthink anything.  Gibbons had an annoying habit of getting on her last, frayed nerve, and there was nothing Jett could do once her new acquaintance got on a roll.

I feel that I am still a recent convert to zombie-dom.  I wouldn’t even consider reading a zombie book until after a few reviews of The Enemy and The Forest of Hands and Teeth prompted me to read outside of my comfort zone.  I’m so glad that I did, but I am still a bit squeamish when it comes to rotting corpses.  I can’t be too scared, or I start to feel anxious and worried and I am torn in agony over putting the book aside or mincing cautiously through the pages.  Dead Reckoning was downright creepy in a few parts, but the horror elements weren’t the focus of the story.  If you are looking for a gross out, zombie rampage, you won’t find it here.  Instead, you’ll find a western that’s more medical thriller than zombie apocalypse, with steampunk elements thrown in for good measure.

What made this book for me was the character interaction.  White Fox was the peacemaker between Gibbons and Jett, whose constant head-butting kept me turning the pages.  In the years just after the Civil War, Jett is desperately searching for her twin brother.  She doesn’t believe that he’s dead, and he’s the only family she has left after the devastating war.  Masquerading as a  boy, she pretends to be a gambler and gunslinger, thinking that she’ll encounter less trouble if everyone thinks she is a male.  Having witnessed the looting and destruction of her home by Northerners, she doesn’t have much trust for them.  Fleeing from certain death at the putrefying hands of a zombie army, Jett encounters White Fox and Gibbons – both Yankees and both to be viewed with suspicion.  When Gibbons, who is too clever by far, immediately sees through her disguise, Jett is even more wary of them.  Her continued safety depends on her ruse, and she doesn’t trust either of them to keep her secret.

Though they are very different, both Gibbons and Jett are strong, outspoken women.  Gibbons has gotten grief because of her “outlandish” ideas and demeanor, but she refuses to be something that she’s not.  She prizes science and thinks that if she only looks hard enough, she’ll find a rational reason for everything.  Even an apparent zombie horde.  She has no patience for simpering females, or their ridiculous clothing.  Jett, on the other hand, enjoyed wearing frilly gowns and attending parties.  She blames the war for changing her life so drastically, and she believes that after she locates her brother, she can go back to her idea of normal.  They couldn’t be more different, but they both share the courage and resourcefulness to try to stop the zombie army.  Neither of them has a personal stake in this fight, but they won’t ignore their moral obligation to save the countless lives that would be lost if they didn’t put a stop to it.  They made a great team, I would love to see them take on another fight in the future.  I feel that White Fox was seriously underutilized here, and would like another chance for him to prove his mettle.

Dead Reckoning is a fun read with zombies, a Western setting, and steampunk elements.  The pacing was a bit off near the end as the villain rambled on without end, gloating about his superior intellect and forthcoming victory. Despite that, this is a fast, popcorn read with a cast of diverse personalities that are thrown together and forced to stop a zombie army – even though one of their number doesn’t believe in zombies.    

Grade: B/B-

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by publisher

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Novella Review: Red Winter by Clark Hayes

 

Title: Red Winter

Author: Clark Hayes

Publisher: Pumpjack Press

ISBN: B005GLEU68

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sheriff Early Hardiman has seen a lot of bad things in his life, but nothing could have prepared him for the first Vampire to visit the Old West. It’s 1890 and winter is closing like a noose around tiny LonePine, Wyoming. When the snows come and the train stops and the passes are buried, there’s only one way to leave LonePine — boots up in a pine box. For Sheriff Hardiman, once one of the fastest guns in the West, it’s another four months of watching over the foolish and the foolhardy and praying for spring. At least he has the lovely Miss Grace, his new wife and former madam of the infamous Pearl, to keep him company. Then a murderer turns up out of the cold and dark. People are being killed and not in the usual way, either — they are dying hard, tortured and drained of their blood. Worse, it appears Miss Grace may be next on their list.

How do you kill someone who just won’t stay dead? It will take more than a steady hand filled with a blazing six shooter if anyone in LonePine lives through the Red Winter.

Fans of "The Cowboy and the Vampire" (Midnight Ink, 2010) know that LonePine will see its share of Vampires in another 120 years. But in 1890, no one had yet imagined the kind of terror Jericho Whistler brings with him to Wyoming when he hunkers down for a long winter of feasting on humans.

Review:

I picked up this novella because I was in the mood for a story with a winter setting.  We had just gotten a fresh coating of snow, so I thought it would be fun to curl up under a comforter and stay warm while reading about characters who weren’t as cozy as I.  Better yet, the western town of LonePine is being terrorized by a murderer, and the residents are cowering in fear, wondering who will be next to meet a bloody, violent end.

Early Hardiman is a mostly reformed gunslinger.  He is the sheriff of LonePine, a tiny town where nothing much happens.  Until a series of grisly murders destroys the usual peaceful streets.  With winter closing in and a killer to track down, Early has his hands full.  Can he capture the murderer before more of his friends are brutally slaughtered?  When a stranger comes to town, Early is immediately suspicious.  As the body count rises, he is convinced that Jericho Whistler is involved in the crimes.   But Jericho is dead.  Or is he?

I loved the western setting of Red Winter.  It’s 1890, and the town is both small and isolated.  One good snowfall with trap everyone in town, leaving them sitting ducks to the murderer preying on the citizenry.  I liked the gruff Early, too.  He is far from perfect, but he takes his job of protecting his neighbors seriously.  Early believes he’s seen death in all of its awful forms, but even he is aghast by the degree of violence  committed against the victims.  The bodies have been dismembered, blood spattered everywhere.   The sense of urgency is overwhelming.  Early has to capture the murderer before he strikes again, but he isn’t having much luck.  And he just killed his only suspect.  Some days it’s just not worth getting out of a warm bed.

I was totally engaged in this story from the first page, and I read it in one sitting.  Early is a flawed but likable character.  He’s under an incredible amount of pressure to stop the murderers, and the stress is making him cranky.  He doesn’t believe in the supernatural, even when all of the evidence points in that direction, and his dismissal of Joe’s warnings results in yet more deaths.  Early’s reluctance to believe in undead assailants worked perfectly in this story.  Why would he accept that vampires exist?  He believes in things he can see – fists and guns and a hanging noose – but a monster that delights in pain and bloodshed?  Not going to happen.

This is a short, exciting read with a super bad villain you will love to hate, and a reluctant hero you want cheer for. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours

 

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Review: Gantz Vol 15 by Hiroya Oku

 

Title: Gantz Vol 15

Author: Hiroya Oku

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595826626

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Gantz is getting absolutely intense! Our protagonist, the eternally awkward otaku boy named Kei, has hunted a bevy of odd and dangerous aliens living in Japan. The Onion Alien was strange enough, but then there were the dinosaur aliens and eventually some vampires who might not be aliens at all. Gantz moves along at a furious pace, drowning readers in blood and violence, but then holds back for a few tender (and sometimes excessively sexy) moments here and there. It’s a crazy ride so far, a guilty pleasure for many readers. See who Kei is told to hunt next! It will certainly be a surprise.

Review:

I haven’t picked up a volume of Gantz in a while, and since I had a free weekend with the New Year’s break from work, I eagerly dove into a few manga series that I have allowed myself to get behind on. I couldn’t think of a better time to catch up, so Gantz was one of the first ones I picked up.

I find this series enjoyable when the hapless characters are trapped in the room, about to be sent off on another mission.  It’s exciting, tense, and explosive once the hunt begins.  The rest of it, I can do without.  The story slips into the realm of ridiculousness whenever Kei is doing something other than blasting aliens to tiny, bloody bits.  I just don’t find him an interesting character, and I can’t relate to his teenage boy issues.  I don’t care if he gets his rocks off or not, and I find his preoccupation with ginormous breasts tedious.  So I remind myself, yet again, that the series isn’t really intended for me, and I flip pages as quickly as I can to get back to the stuff that I like – all of the mindless violence and gore.  Yeah, go figure.

In this volume, Kei is blundering through his personal relationships yet again.  He has gone off to see Reika behind Tae’s back, not thinking that a popular idol like Reika would be stalked by paparazzi.  When their picture appears in the paper, he is soon the talk of his school, and quiet, timid Tae discovers his indiscretion.  At least he had the decency to feel guilty for hurting her feelings.  When she is caught up in his next mission, Kei worries that she will get killed if she keeps hanging out with him, so he is even more determined to break up with her.  Too bad that stupid black ball isn’t going to let that happen.

I suffered through the first half of this volume, but the ending had me all caught up in the action again.  Argh!  It’s insidious!  I don’t want to like Gantz, but all of that over the top destruction keeps me coming back for more.  I have only one more volume in reserve, so hopefully Rightstuf will have a Dark Horse studio sale soon…

Grade: B- for the first half of the book

  B+ for the rest of the book

Review copy provided by publisher