It’s been six months since Benny Imura first set foot into the Rot and Ruin, and all that time Benny’s brother Tom has been training Benny and his fri...moreIt’s been six months since Benny Imura first set foot into the Rot and Ruin, and all that time Benny’s brother Tom has been training Benny and his friends. Together, they plan to leave the safety of their town and travel across zombie-infested country on a scouting mission. However, there are larger forces at work out in the Rot and Ruin–forces that want all of them dead. What’s most frightening about the Rot and Ruin is that the scariest thing out there isn’t the zombies, it’s the living.
This follow up novel to Rot & Ruin is as good, if not better, than the first of the series. Benny’s a much more mature character at this point, so it’s easier to read along with him and root for him in dire situations. We also get to experience more interaction with Lilah, the Lost Girl, and with Benny’s friend Chong. Benny and Nix add depth to their relationship, as do Benny and Tom. All in all, we’re seeing growth of characters we already care about, and are introduced to new compelling players in the story.
Speaking of new characters, there are many more cameos by the mercenaries featured on the zombie cards of the first book. The inclusion of these characters added another dimension to the novel, and I loved seeing them in action.
Tom Imura really shines in this novel. If you thought he was good in the first book, in this book he’s practically a justice-serving god. He’s an amazing fighter, but also has a real depth of feeling for his brother and for humanity in general. I had a total character crush on Tom, and would want him on my side, zombie apocalypse or not.
Dust & Decay is absolutely action-packed, and keeps you guessing. I lost plenty of naptime on the train because I just had to keep reading. Maberry’s mastered the art of cliffhanger chapters, and rocks at action sequences. I think this series also allows him to show off his skill at writing emotion and pathos. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next book in the series, and if you read this book, you will be too.(less)
In the small town of Claysville, the residents know that who ever is born there must be buried there. There is also a tradition of giving the dead the...moreIn the small town of Claysville, the residents know that who ever is born there must be buried there. There is also a tradition of giving the dead the things they need, like food, drink, and prayers; otherwise, if the dead don't get these things, they become hungry and may come back to seek them from the living. Fortunately, Claysville always has two people to help take care of the dead: the Graveminder, who does the rituals to keep the dead in the ground, and the Undertaker, who assists and protects the Graveminder. When the current Graveminder is killed in a gruesome murder, her step-granddaughter Rebecca is called to town to take her place. Rebecca must learn to accept her role as Graveminder, come to terms with her relationship to the Undertaker, Byron, and fix the mistakes of the past before more Claysville residents are hurt or killed.
Graveminder is my favorite kind of story: dark, atmospheric, mysterious, dangerous. I love the concept of the Graveminder and the Undertaker, both working to uphold a bargain made by a town long ago. The sense of ritual and community is strong in the story, even though both main characters left Claysville for a while, so they are able to see their town through the eyes of outsiders. The Barrow family, who have provided the town with the Graveminders for hundreds of years, has an established lineage. I'd compare this to the kind of lineage and heritage found in Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, although that book is much more sprawling than Marr's is here.
Which brings me to my next point. Marr has done a great job with creating an atmosphere and mythology in a short space, while not neglecting storytelling and plot. She drops the reader right into Claysville, and part of the fun is finding out what is going on in the town. The book takes place in a very short amount of time, and there's plenty of action, concentrated into the span of just a few days. All the while, we know that there will be more to the series, and don't feel rushed. I do wish the book had been a bit longer, but just because I was enjoying it so much.
Bravo to Melissa Marr for making the transition from YA writing to adult fiction so successfully, and for building such a creative, yet believable, world. Graveminder rocks.(less)
While taking its place firmly in the zombie canon, and using familiar tropes of the genre, Whitehead has still written a novel that stands out as a de...moreWhile taking its place firmly in the zombie canon, and using familiar tropes of the genre, Whitehead has still written a novel that stands out as a departure from what we're used to in zombie writing. As so many other readers have stated, he brings a literary approach to this type horror story, which is often treated as populist and the most low-brow of monsters. In this world, each of us has the ability to become a zombie, so it becomes the great equalizer, just like death itself.
The book itself isn't very long, but it is quite dense. I was surprised at how much Whitehead packed into fewer than 300 pages, and how long it took me to finish the book. He uses words that would slow down even the guys who write the SAT vocab sheets, demanding that you give each sentence your full attention, or you won't get anything out of it. I found that Zone One demanded that the reader work at reading, making it a tougher read than I'm normally used to in popular fiction, but well worth it.
The other thing that I found unusual about this novel is Whitehead's use of chronology in the book. His story is not pinned down by the clock, and ebbs and flows in a liquid time frame, making you often question where exactly you are in the narrative. This mirrors the way that the survivors of the the zombie apocalypse will recede back into their memories, often at times of crises, in order to find solace from the horror that surrounds them. As a reader, it produces an unsettling kind of reading experience, and is very effective.
Zone One will get you thinking about what life is like when everything is gone. How do you deal with the day to day when everything is gone? How much of your daily life is really useless repetition, and would you miss it? Do we live in self-sustained cocoons of mediocrity? If you want a thinking man's zombie novel, this is it.(less)
Two magicians, both ancient, have been dueling through time using their own proteges as the pawns. The latest two, Celia, daughter to one of the magic...moreTwo magicians, both ancient, have been dueling through time using their own proteges as the pawns. The latest two, Celia, daughter to one of the magicians, and Marco, an orphan adopted and trained by the other, have been pitted against one another in a lifelong battle that neither understands. The rules have never been explained, but they come to see that the chessboard of the contest is the newly created Night Circus, a traveling circus where all dreams can be made reality. While falling in love, the true nature of their contest becomes clear, with dire consequences.
The Night Circus is the kind of book that I just want to melt into completely. From page one, Morgenstern paints a gorgeous canvas of scenery and imagery that tempts the imagination. I love circus stories, and this is one unlike any other that I have read before. The circus has some of the normal aspects of circus culture, like the fortune teller, the illusionist, the big cat show, the scent of caramel on the air, but is so much more than that.
Morgenstern has written a world that I wanted to live in, or even to just visit for a single night, like so many of those who encountered the Night Circus in the story. The writing is lyrical, and the descriptions are detailed and just dripping with wonder. This book is a bit short on plot–instead, it paints a world so complete and sensual that the reader feels the need to linger a while to imagine everything that has been painstakingly described.
While reading, I couldn’t help but compare this to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, another book that shows the competition between two magic workers, in which they are indelibly tied to one another. However, whereas Jonathan Strange is very densly packed, with huge amounts of plot and intricate historical details in footnotes, The Night Circus is much lighter and will probably appeal to more people based simply on its readability and smaller scope.
My only wish for the book would have been that there would have been more plot and stronger characters. Those two things sound like a big deal, but they factor less into the spirit of this story than one might think. Even so, I would have loved to have gotten to know Marco and Celia more intimately, to know more of the details of the contest they were engaged in, and more about the two magicians that are pulling the strings behind the whole affair. The story also jumps through time quite a bit, with chapters that don’t follow chronologically, so I would recommend that readers pay attention to dates that appear with the chapter headings.
The Night Circus is both a debut and a standalone novel. Morgenstern has done an impressive job with her first work out of the gate, and I can’t wait to see where her imagination leads next. The rights to The Night Circus have also been purchased by Summit, so there will likely be a movie in the future.(less)
History professor Frank Nichols has been blacklisted from academia after stealing the beautiful Eudora from a tenured professor. The two have been dow...moreHistory professor Frank Nichols has been blacklisted from academia after stealing the beautiful Eudora from a tenured professor. The two have been down and out on their luck, until Frank inherits a house from his aunt in rural Georgia. Frank, a Northerner, is fascinated by his monster of a great-grandfather, and the ruined family plantation, so the pair move. Not all is quiet and quaint in Whitbrow, GA, however, and they soon come to find that the town has a very dark secret–one that is tied to Frank, and so secret that the town itself has forgotten the reason for the very rules that have kept it safe. Nobody goes across the river, for good reason.
I loved this lush, dark Southern gothic tale. Buehlman captures the tone of Depression era Georgia in the language on every page in this book, so that I felt I was transported back, and that the book could have been written in the time when it take place. I’m usually quite picky when it comes to historical fiction, but the setting and vocabulary rang true to me. Whitbrow is filled with interesting characters that were fleshed out nicely, so that the town itself came alive.
The story moves along, with not too much happening out of the ordinary, other than a dog getting hit by the moving truck, and the townspeople’s strange habit of releasing pigs in the area across the river once a month. Only, there are other clues along the way–slight, unsettling occurrences that signal that all is not right in the town. However, they’re easily brushed off until it is too late.
I had no idea that the story would take the turn it did. Out of nowhere, I was astounded by where Buehlman chose to go. Except that it worked. Far from simply being a thriller, this turns into out and out horror, and I loved it. As a girl who has been reading a lot of YA horror lately, it was a real treat to read a horror novel for adults, that is so sophisticated and nuanced in its buildup.
I know that there will be those that disagree with me, and that will dislike the events in the last quarter of the book, but I really think that Buehlman delivered, far more than I ever expected from this unassuming book. And for my money, that’s the best kind of horror.(less)
The year is 1815, and Agnes has just entered into her first season, a time to go from social event to social event to try to snag a desirable husband....moreThe year is 1815, and Agnes has just entered into her first season, a time to go from social event to social event to try to snag a desirable husband. One very eligible (not to mention rich) suitor is Lord Showalter, so when Agnes is invited to a mummy unwrapping party at his home, she attends. What she doesn’t know is that this event will lay open a plot to help Napoleon obtain an ancient Egyptian artifact–one that may turn the tides of the war and result in Napoleon defeating England. With the help of a new friend, Agnes decides to thwart the plot, and have some un-ladylike fun in the meantime.
Wrapped is a lighthearted historical romance, complete with witty heroine, intelligent but poor love-interest, and a dastardly villain. The story never gets too serious, and while we know the stakes are high, it really doesn’t feel like it.
I don’t read a lot of historical fiction because it often feels too inauthentic to me. This book kept with that trend. I was really skeptical about a mummy party being held that early in the nineteenth century, although Bradbury does acknowledge in her notes at the end that she set it earlier than it was likely have happened, so at least she is aware of it. I think the success of historical fiction is largely in the details, so when Agnes cites something that her father brought her from Japan, it irked me. Britain did not have any contact with Japan in 1815, and wouldn’t until after 1854, when Commodore Perry forced his way into the country.
I also felt frustrated by Agnes’ constant references to the works by A Lady (aka Jane Austen). I love Austen as much as the next girl, but this got to be too much for me. I wish she would have made references to other great works of the time, too (to be fair, she does ask for Faust at one point).
The villain was pretty obvious from the get-go. I won’t spoil it, but I think anybody who reads the first couple of chapters will know how it inevitably ends.
In summary, Wrapped doesn’t do much to scratch the surface, and has some problem with anachronisms, but if you close your eyes to its faults and read it strictly for fun, you’ll probably enjoy it–especially if you’re a historical fiction nut.(less)
When John Farrell finds out about the cure, he knows he has to have it. It stops you from aging, and at 29 years old, he could potentially live foreve...moreWhen John Farrell finds out about the cure, he knows he has to have it. It stops you from aging, and at 29 years old, he could potentially live forever–barring accidents, murder, etc. He would have hundreds or thousands of years to do all of the things he always wanted to do. Absolute freedom. The cure is illegal, but that isn’t about to stop him. We watch John as the world changes around him, affected by people who do not age, and an ever-growing population. What should bring happiness doesn’t always deliver, and the cure is no exception.
This book got me thinking. From the first chapter, I was questioning whether or not I would get the cure if presented with it, what it would do to and for society, and the moral implications involved. It would be completely selfish to get it–to say that I’m so important that I need to stick around as long as possible, just as I am now. On the other hand, when presented with such a prize, how could you possibly turn it down? I’m just one person. Surely it wouldn’t do that much damage for me to gain immortality? Or to give it to my elderly cat so we never have to face a future without each other? And I’d need to give it to my family as well, because a future without them wouldn’t be worth living. Plus, my friends should get it too, because it really isn’t fair for me to have it and not them.
Get the picture?
Magary starts small, with John getting it, then telling his best friend how to get it. But then things start to go wrong. Anti-cure terrorists begin bombing clinics. Russia builds a massive army of soldiers who never age. Demented mothers give it to their babies to keep them young forever. Roving gangs of “trolls” roam the streets, inflicting random violence on unsuspecting victims. Marriages become rare, because “’til death do you part” suddenly seems unbearable. Natural resources are depleted as more and more people get the cure, but don’t stop bearing children as well.
Even though this is a very dismal future, Magary still is able to infuse humor into the bleakest of situations. I found myself laughing along at the absurdity of it all, and the truth of humanity’s own selfishness. Plus, the story moves along well, with action and news stories to break up the rhythm of the narration.
I loved this book. After reading it, I decided I wouldn’t get the cure. Except I probably would.(less)
Alison has just woken up in a mental institution. Groggy at first, she gradually remembers that she flipped out after somehow killing the class sweeth...moreAlison has just woken up in a mental institution. Groggy at first, she gradually remembers that she flipped out after somehow killing the class sweetheart, Tori, with her mind. Nobody can find a body, and Alison questions her own sanity regarding what happened. That isn’t all, though. Alison learns that her lifelong strange perceptions are actually something called synesthesia, where her senses are crossed in strange ways. Letters have colors and personalities, and too much stimuli seems to set her off. Could this condition be related to Tori’s disappearance, or is something else at work?
I was sucked into Ultraviolet immediately. Seeing Alison navigate the world within the mental hospital was engaging, and reminded me of Girl, Interrupted. Alison certainly sounds like she’s sane enough, until she goes off the deep end again. We’re really led to believe her throughout the entire book, but then we’re given a reason to doubt, over and over again. This is the unreliable narrator done very well, and in the right context.
This book really can be considered science fiction. I won’t give anything away, but there are strong science fiction elements at work the further you get into the story. But you pretty much know there might be early on, from the way Tori dies.
The synesthesia was the coolest part of Alison’s story for me. I loved the language Anderson used to describe Alison’s perception of the world and everything in it, and how it is a really integral part of the story. Synesthesia alone is cool (for people like me who don’t have it), but Alison’s is off the chart. I would love to be able to experience music and the stars the way that she does.
I think that Ultraviolet goes above and beyond the standard YA fare, so I encourage people who love mental institution or science fiction books to give it a go! It made an R.J. Anderson fan out of me.(less)