Review: ZOM-B: City by Darren Shan

 

Title: ZOM-B: City

Author: Darren Shan

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

After escaping a secret military complex amid the zombie apocalypse, B roams the streets of a very changed London, dirty and dangerous and eerily quiet, except for the shuffling of the undead. Once again, B must find a way to survive against brain-eating zombies –and now also against those who have seized control of the city. With danger lurking around every corner and no one to trust, B must decide whether to join the creepy Mr. Dowling in exchange for his protection. When everyone around you is dead, where do you turn for help?


Review:

Darren Shan’s ZOM-B books are like crack.  You can’t read just one, and because each one ends on a cliffhanger, you squirm with anticipation until the next one hits store shelves.  While I normally abhor cliffhangers, the release schedule is accelerated, so you get a new installment every 3 months.  The story is also so straightforward that there’s not much to forget from one book to the next.  B, an revived zombie who managed to keep her intelligence, is fighting to keep her undead life.  The world is a dangerous place since the zombie apocalypse, even for a zombie.  Danger lurks behind every corner, and only quick thinking and luck keep B from a final, horrible death.

Told in tense, in your face prose, ZOM-B: City follows B from her escape from the underground research bunker to her journey through a devastated London.  Along the way, she encounters a handful of surviving humans.  None of these guys are right in the head, but after witnessing the end of the world, I guess everyone is entitled to their idiosyncrasies.  Some of the living want nothing more than to end her unnatural life, while others, though wary, mean her no harm.  As she wanders from one encounter to the next, she pieces together the reality of the new world after the zombie attacks.  Billions have been wiped out, the government is ineffective, and martial law is in effect.  The remaining humans have huddled together in walled compounds, and the search is on for survivors.  B thinks that she can help save humanity – since she hasn’t become a mindless monster, perhaps a cure can be manufactured from her blood.

Shan pushes the envelope with this series.  It’s truly horrific; he doesn’t shy away from gore and violence, and he paints an interesting picture of how the survivors would behave.  They have all been twisted by their experiences, B included.  They have all seen things that aren’t meant to be seen, and there is no going back to a time before the bloodshed and death of the zombie uprising.  Mr Dowling is particularly disgusting.  This sicko clown accessorizes with human remains.  I really want to know his story, and what’s the deal with the mutants?   How did the whole zombie nightmare happen in the first place?  These short novels are impossible to put down, and I look forward to hunkering down with each new installment.  While occasionally disgusting, ZOM-B isn’t so scary that I’m afraid to read it after dark, and plot advances so quickly that it’s hard not to gobble up each new installment in one sitting.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

 

Title:  Something Strange and Deadly

Author:  Susan Dennard

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

There’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.


Review:

I was disappointed with Something Strange and Deadly.  Honestly, I don’t know if anything could have lived up to the hype surrounding this title, and since I was waiting with such a sense of anticipation, it fell short for me.  The beginning was intriguing – Eleanor is searching for a sign from her brother that he’ll be returning home soon, and poof!  A stinky, reanimated corpse gives her a note from Elijah.  That’s so much better than using a carrier pigeon!  Just wrestle up a corpse when you need to pass a note to somebody!  It will terrify the recipient, but  who’s going to try to incept your missive? 

After it is apparent that Elijah has decided, yet again, to delay his homecoming, Eleanor’s mother decides to use the opportunity to hold a séance, instead of the already planned and paid for  welcoming party.  She has to marry Eleanor off, if they hope to retain their current lifestyle, since Elijah isn’t doing his job and providing for them.  With Elijah a constant no-show, Eleanor’s mother is getting desperate.  With her husband dead and her son failing to care for the family, desperate measures are called for.

I loved the séance.  It’s creepy, and her mother’s foolishness calls forth a very dangerous spirit.  Whoa!  Who would have thought that a parlor game would have such frightening results?  The evil spirit dogs Eleanor’s footsteps for the entire book, so, yeah, thanks, mom, for messing around with stuff you are obviously not capable of handling.

I am trying to put my finger on why this story didn’t work for me, and I think it was because there is so much going on.  And because Eleanor is constantly leaping into danger.  There are zombies lurching around the graveyard?  Let’s go check them out!  There are headless corpses wandering the streets?  Let’s go out without a chaperon and see what we can find out.  While all of the sneaking around showed that Eleanor was headstrong and wasn’t going to take a backseat to anyone, it also proved that she lacked the one thing necessary for living a long and zombie-death free life.  Yup, that common sense stuff.  Eleanor needed to display a little more of it.  A lot more, actually.

Another thing that drove me batty was how the characters snarled, shrieked, growled, and screamed at each other.  All of those noises!  Nobody just talked or held a quiet conversation.  Nope!  That’s just a pet peeve of mine, though, and your mileage may vary.

There is a dreaded love triangle, between handsome, wealthy Clarence and Daniel, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who is on the run from the law.  He’s a gifted inventor, though, and his devices help battle the zombies.  I never liked Daniel, which was another impediment to my enjoyment of the book.  I didn’t like the way either potential love interest treated Eleanor, but Daniel’s demeanor was particularly grating.  Nicknaming her Empress, he was constantly dismissive of her,  at least until the very end of the book when she saved his bacon.    I don’t know that  I would have thrown myself into the midst of a zombie horde to save anybody in this book, other than Jie. 

While Something Strange and Deadly failed to impress me, it will appeal to action lovers.  If the book hadn’t been so hyped for me, I think I would have enjoyed it more. 

Grade:  C/C-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Win The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan!

Today I am giving away a copy of Carrie Ryan’s The Dead-Tosses Waves!  Got a hankering for a zombie story?  Enter for your chance to win!

About the book:

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.

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Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

 

 

Title: The Dead-Tossed Waves

Author: Carrie Ryan

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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.

 

Review:

I am trying to finish up some series that I started reading, and Carrie Ryan’s zombie series is at the top of the list.  I love the world-building; zombies have been decimating the human population for decades, cutting off the remaining human settlements.  Life revolves around not getting eaten by zombies.  A bite will turn a normal, healthy human into a slavering, mindless monster.  Walls and fences have been erected around the towns and villages to keep the creatures out, and Gabry’s mother, who lives in the lighthouse, must patrol the shoreline and dispatch any of the undead that the tide brings in.  Gabry is content with her life; she obeys the rules, helps her mom, and tries to stay out of trouble.  This makes one giant lapse in judgment on her part almost inconceivable.  Bowing to peer pressure, she sneaks over the wall to go to the old roller coaster, putting herself, and her entire village, at risk.  Gabry and her friends are, predictably, attacked by a zombie, and the consequences of her breaking the rules will have repercussions she could never have guessed at.  It sends her on a harrowing race through the Forest of Hands and Teeth, in search of her past, and in search of the truth.

While I love the deadly, menacing world where Gabry lives, I was not so enamored with Gabry herself.   I found her so shallow and immature, and I could not relate to her.  Even after the disastrous outing beyond the Barrier,  a willful act that destroys most of her generation of teens from Vista, she tells herself that she wouldn’t change a thing about that night, because then she and Catcher would never have brushed their together.  Wait? What?!  Most of her friends are either killed or turned into zombies, or are going to be banished from the village, and that’s okay, because why? She and her crush, Catcher, brushed lips together.  They don’t even share a proper toe-curling kiss! No, they brush lips, and that life-altering experience was worth the cost of several lives, including her best friend forever, Cira.  This made no sense to me, and made me dislike Gabry intensely.

When The Dead-Tossed Waves centered on Gabry and friends race to elude the undead and the Recruiters, I enjoyed this book.  As long as Gabry was reacting to all of the near-death situations she is constantly confronted with, I thought this was a tense, exciting read.  As soon as Gabry started her endless internal monologues, I was jarred out of the story and wished she would just. Stop. Talking!  to herself.  I think that I felt this way because she established herself to me as a self-possessed, self-involved, and selfish woman who always put her own desires ahead of everyone else’s.  When her mother makes confessions about her past, Gabry rejects her, condemning her for lying to her.  This bothered me because Mary’s whole life revolved around making a safe, secure home for Gabry, which was something that she didn’t really have when she was a girl.  For Gabry to abruptly turn her back on her mother, to let her venture off into the Forest by herself, I just couldn’t forgive her for that.  Gabry had already crossed the Barrier several times by herself, which was strictly forbidden, yet she was willing to let Mary go alone.  She was too scared to go with the woman who loved her and raised her, but she was willing to put herself in harm’s way if a cute boy was waiting for her?  That just didn’t say much about Gabry’s strength of character, and since I didn’t respect her, I had a hard time liking her.  She does come around by the end of the book, but it was a little too late for me.

That said, I did enjoy aspects of the book.  I just didn’t not like the protagonist.  I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy The Dead-Tossed Waves more, and  I am hoping that The Dark and Hallow Places will be more up my alley. 

Grade: C+

Review copy ordered from Amazon

Review: The Dead by Charlie Higson

 

 

Title: The Dead

Author: Charlie Higson

Series: The Enemy #2

The Dead (Enemy) Digital

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The disease only affects people sixteen or older. It starts with the symptoms of a cold. Then the skin begins to itch, and spots appear–spots that soon turn into pus-filled boils. But the worst part is the headache, the inner voices that tell you that you need to eat them . . . the young ones.

When the Disaster strikes, the world turns upside down for Ed, Jack, Bam and the other students at Rowhurst School. The parents and older siblings they left back at home are dead–or worse. Once the teachers go on the attack, the kids know it’s time to escape and make their way to the city.  It’s got to be better in London . . .
or will it be worse?

Higson’s terrifying, utterly compelling prequel to The Enemy introduces an all-new cast of characters and sets the stage for a dramatic third book in the series.


Review:

I have had The Dead on my TBR for over a year.  I actually started it, found it a bit too intense at the time, and set it aside for another day.  October always puts me in the mood for scary stuff, so I pulled the book out again and wondered why I ever put it down in the first place.  This is a fast-paced, harrowing vision of the future, with likeable kids left to fend off the crazed adults who are trying to eat them.  Yeah, that’s pretty scary and nightmarish, but Charlie Higson’s The Enemy series is so compelling that you want to see what happens next.  The only thing I am still iffy on is how the “sickos” got sick in the first place, but that is often a complaint with post-apocalyptic stories; there usually isn’t a concrete reason for why  things are now the way they are, and I need all of those background details to be fully invested in a story.  We get some background that was lacking from the first book, The Enemy, but there is still so much to know about what exactly went wrong.

Like The Enemy, The Dead follows a small group of kids as they struggle to survive in the terrible new world they wake up to.  All adults have contracted some weird disease that makes them flesh eating, pus-filled monsters.  They crave the tender flesh of kids, which makes it even more frightening.  These awful, nightmarish creatures are consumed with the need to eat kids.  Yuck!  They are weakened by sunlight, but if a group of yummy kids wanders by, the zombies will venture out into the sunlight for a tasty snack.  This book proves that it’s not easy being a kid!  At any moment, some gross, oozy adult may swoop around a corner and eat you!

I liked the protagonists, which made it hard when several of them met with an early demise.  I will give Higson credit for shocking me several times with the unexpected death of one of my favorite characters.  Talk about heart-breaking!  I have walked through the monster infested streets of London, gotten to know and like most of the cast, and then had my heart ripped out every time someone succumbed to death, either from sickness, grievous wounds, or becoming dinner for the zombies.  Sob!  This made reading a very tense experience, because I was so afraid that another favorite would meet his maker.  At point one, after Ed crawls into a house in a desperate bid for safety, only to find it filled with zombies, I screamed and had to set the book aside for an hour or so.  Gah! I felt as though I was working through an intense cardio workout as the end of the book approached.  I couldn’t breathe!  I felt all trembly!  I wondered how the younger kids hadn’t all keeled over in fear!  Even the teens were at a distinct disadvantage.  The adults were bigger, stronger, and they only had one thought in their rotting brains – EAT THE KIDS!!  GAHHH!!!

Some of the action and descriptions were a bit over the top, and only added to the gore-factor, without progressing the plot much.  While traumatic and action-packed, Jack’s journey back home didn’t serve much purpose other than to gross the reader out.  An arena filled with bloated, rotting corpses?  Check.  Three brave boys with a bit too much curiosity? Check.  A gooey, ooey race through mountains of stinky, maggot infested bodies to escape a zombie horde?  Yup, check, you got that, too.  I felt that much of this particular adventure dragged at the pacing, and it didn’t keep me engaged in this story thread.  I kept longing to get back to the other kids, get back to the day to day survival, and leave Jack’s selfish side adventure in the past.

The story roared back to life for me shortly after that,  and I stayed engaged until the end.  I don’t think that it’s necessary to read The Enemy before diving into The Dead, as the events take place prior to the first book.  I’ve got The Fear, the third book in the series, on my wish list, and I am curious to see where the story goes next.  Originally a planned trilogy, the series will now be seven volumes, according to a quote from the author.  I wonder how long he can carry the momentum, and keep the plot fresh and exciting.  I’m eager to find out!

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

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