Zombie, post-apocalyptic and dystopian books are like shoes - you can never have enough.
Straight after finishing the third book in the Benny Imura series, Flesh and Bone, I started reading Fire and Ash. It's quite rare that I binge read a series anymore - blogging tends to make it a bit too much of a balancing act, but once I had the momentum going, I really wanted to find out how this series ends.
As with the other books, Fire and Ash picks up pretty much immediately where the prior book left off. Benny, Lilah, Nix and their new friends, Riot, Eve and Joe, have found Sanctuary, where monks tend to the humans dying of diseases that would have been easily cured prior to first night, but the scientists are isolated from the survivors. This in itself poses an interesting question because more people are dying of disease than being bitten and rising from the dead - how quickly and severly would diseases such as TB, cholera and typhiod decimate survivors in any apocalyptic scenario once the stockpiled medicines and treatments run out?
I have mentioned previously that all the Benny Imura books follow a similar formula - what I didn't realise until reading Fire and Ash are that books one and two are closely linked, as are three and four - but the transition between books two and three is actually the biggest directional change in the whole series. This helps break up the feeling of rinse and repeat, and also allows more room to expand on the two major scenarios of this series.
The major introduction in Flesh and Bone is the religious zealots who believe that murder of the human race is the only answer to the zombie problem - and in Fire and Ash their intentions are really notched up a level - in both books I had a macabre fascination with them, but particularly in Fire and Ash I was shocked at the lengths they were willing to go to in the name of their cause.
Relationships continue to develop and change as they did in Flesh and Bone, but in particular, Benny and Nix begin to reevaluate their relationships as adults rather than teenagers, and are incredibly mature and measured in their approach. For me, this is the biggest arc in the growth of the characters - a theme that began with book one and ends perfectly in book four. Looking back and realising how the characters have grown, changed and adapted both physically and emotionally is bittersweet but also a great example of how Maberry can develop characters from immature teens into independent young adults.
I was once again excited to see Joe Ledger reappear in Fire and Ash and take on a far more pivotal role. By doing this, Maberry has also got me excited to continue the Joe Ledger series itself - I was reminded of how much I enjoyed Joe as a character as well as being curious as to whether the tie-in runs in both directions. Joe is an extra bonus for Maberry fans, but it's definitely not necessary to have read the Joe Ledger series to appreciate him as a character.
Fire and Ash is pretty much non-stop action, and it definitely kept me entertained all the way through. The fight scenes are particularly intense in relation to the rest of the series, and it also reflects again the growth and evolution of the characters.
The reason behind the zombie plague is touched upon for the first time in Fire and Ash, and there is also a lot more delving into the long-term plans of the survivors and the science that started to emerge in Flesh and Bone is finally explained in greater detail, and it makes for fascinating reading.
I'm quite sad to say goodbye to Benny, Nix, Lilah and Chong, but I really enjoyed the journey I took with them, and seeing them grow. This is a series that has it all for zombie lovers - there's lots of new zombie ideas, great characters and action scenes that keep all the books flowing but without sacrificing some of the other aspects of the storyline.
When I first saw reviews of The Waking Dark popping up, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. Horror is (perhaps obviously) one of my favourite genres, and I like them dark, spooky and intense.
The Waking Dark jumps straight into the story - jumping through the stories of the teens on the 'killing day' as they witness people they know murder each other in a variety of ways - from the more predictable through to more 'unique' methods. Each scene is intense and are used to introduce the characters and their personalities as they react in different ways to the chaos around them.
Wasserman's writing style is unique, and works very well - there are long run-on sentences and the language is very descriptive, but rather than slowing down the story, it actually makes the reading more frantic and addictive and builds the tension perfectly. The plot itself is very Stephen King-esque although I felt that the characterisation of Wasserman is actually slightly stronger as they are all unique and easily discernible from each other, which is something I often struggle with when there is a larger cast of key characters.
True 'horror' in Young Adult literature is something I haven't been able to find very often - to be honest I usually find them to be quite watered-down and a little too happy-ending-ish. But The Waking Dark isn't a book for the faint hearted - there is a lot of violence, but it's chilling rather than just shock-value.
The only thing that didn't really work for me was the ending - although I liked the resolution it felt a little too neat and I had some questions that weren't completely answered enough for me personally.
This was a difficult review for me to write as there is a lot that happens in The Waking Dark, but I really don't want to ruin the surprise for anyone that reads it, but I will say that this is one of my favourite horror stories this year - it has an old-school horror vibe but a with a modernity that I really appreciated.
Quite often when I read a series, I find that my interest starts to wane as the series goes on - it's almost like I've completely invested myself in the first books and by the time we roll around to number three I'm feeling a bit tired and jaded and just want to find out how the whole thing ends already.
However, the Benny Imura series has had the opposite effect on me. I enjoyed, but didn't love, Rot and Ruin, and Dust and Decay had me a little more charmed, so I was curious to see where Maberry took things in Flesh and Bone and whether the upward trend would continue.
Flesh and Bone begins shortly after the end of Dust and Decay. Benny, Nix, Chong and Lilah are on the track of the jet they saw flying overhead earlier in the series, determined to find out what is really out in the Rot and Ruin. The action begins straight away as Benny finds himself in a rapidly decaying (yep, I totally went there) situation alone, and the first new character of the series is introduced in rather dramatic fashion.
Introducing a new character halfway through a series can be hit-and-miss because the long-term characters are so much more familiar, but Maberry brings in a completely unexpected character which makes it far more interesting and emotionally compelling.
The Benny Imura series has a familiar theme in pitching the teens (the good guys) against a range of characters who have completely different intentions (the bad guys) and although it could get a little stale having the same formula, Maberry's imagination saves the day. The bad guys in Flesh and Bone stomp all over the previous baddies in the series and are far more frightening than even than those in Dust and Decay. These guys are completely crazy and so far removed from normal human behaviour that I was completely aghast at what they were actually trying to do.
Maberry is very good at developing characters and relationships in the midst of action scenes, and Flesh and Bone is no exception. There are two couples in the awesome foursome, and both are developing along with the characters and the series itself and I love that it all fits together so well. All four are becoming braver and stronger physically, but they also develop emotionally and start to have more insight into themselves and relationships which endeared them to me even more
For fans of Jonathan Maberry there is one awesome thing that happens in Flesh and Bone that was completely unexpected but I totally loved it - and that is one of the characters from his other series pops up as a recurring secondary character.
This series continues to go from strength to strength, growing the 'old' characters and introducing new characters for a fresh perspective - I'm going to be very sad to say goodbye to Benny and the gang.
The Hallowed Ones was one of my surprise reads for 2013 - it kind of snuck under my radar for a while, then I was hesitant to read it, and then I really enjoyed it. I love when a book sneaks up and makes me second guess my initial reactions, and I was definitely looking forward to reading The Outside.
The Outside picks up shortly after the ending of The Hallowed Ones, with Katie, Alex and Ginger travelling north, where they believe their best chance of survival will be in the wilds of Canada. There are brief recaps of what happened in The Hallowed Ones, enough to remind me what had happened, but it's not overdone - the balance is perfect.
The vampires in this series are particularly scary as they use psychological tactics on the human survivors rather than only pure violence which adds another aspect to the storyline as they try and resist the calls of loved ones to join their ranks.
I struggled to love Katie as much in The Outside as I did in The Hallowed Ones. In the first book she is openly rebellious without being bratty, but in The Outside although she is brave and thinks strategically, at times I felt she was almost hiding behind her beliefs. It's admirable that she sticks to them so consistently, but to me it just didn't feel like she was allowed to grow as a character as much as if she had weighed up the pros and cons and made the smart decision. Alex also grated on me a little - he relates a lot of what is happening to mythology and although for the most part it is interesting, at times it felt a little like overkill.
One of my favourite parts of this series is the relationship between Katie and Alex - it's not all smooth sailing, there's no insta-love or unrealistic 'die for you' scenarios - and in fact during large chunks of the book it almost fades into the background as they focus on what they should be focusing on - survival. They also don't let their relationship cloud their judgement on what is the smart thing to do - and although they are realistic in what they can achieve, they are aware of their own limitations, all of which was very refreshing and atypical to some Young Adult dystopian literature.
Although I didn't enjoy The Outside as much as I enjoyed The Hallowed Ones, I think Bickle made some brave choices in taking the story in a different direction than I would have expected, and having realistic relationships and characters that although not perfect, are interesting and stand out from the crowd.
When The Catastrophic History of You and Me was coming up to its release date and all the reviews were coming in, I was completely hooked on the idea of this book and immediately put it on my wishlist. Although I'm not the hugest fan of paranormal stories, books that deal with the afterlife are something I find infinitely fascinating. But it took me over a year to actually buy a copy because it kind of got bumped down the list a little.
The Catastrophic History of You and Me doesn't wait to get straight into the story - Brie's death happens pretty quickly and then combines flashbacks with the current day storyline. The flashbacks are not that frequent, and are used to give context to the current storyline, but for me it was the right balance - too many flashbacks probably would have had me a little bored.
Whilst I loved Brie's snarky, smart-arse personality, I didn't immediately feel a lot of affinity with her, or sympathy for her situation. I like my female characters with a bit of baggage, and Brie's 'life' was a little too charmed for me - with a great family and three BFF's, without the quick plunge into the afterlife I honestly would have found her a little irritating. However, Rothenberg does a good job of getting the action going early on and that made me feel more sympathetic towards Brie.
The relationship between Brie and Patrick is incredibly sweet without being overwhelming - they bounce off each other with a natural ease and although Patrick is quite protective of Brie, it's not overwhelming.
There is also an emphasis on Brie's growth which I particularly liked - at the beginning she comes across as a little overly-dramatic, but as she comes to terms with her own death, she also realises some things about her 'previous' life, and how she had actually interpreteded things a little immaturely, and tries to make amends for that.
The afterlife that Rothenberg creates is an interesting one - based on the idea of a personal heaven, with the option to 'zoom' back into the real world and see what is happening to her family and friends is a pull that Brie, understandably, cannot resist. But I did find it became a little too complicated later in the story, and I actually got a little lost and frustrated with this book for a while because it felt like things were made far more complicated than necessary, without a great deal of explanation why.
If I was asked to describe The Catastrophic History of You and Me in three words, I'd say Fun, Cute, Sweet. It's not a book that had me gasping in shock, feeling a little misty eyed or swooning over the romance, but it was a fun read, and one that I would definitely recommend if you need something light and entertaining.
Although The Light Between Oceans was the Goodreads Choice Awards Historical Fiction winner in 2012, I hadn't actually heard of this book until it came up as a Group Read in one of my Goodreads groups. This may show just how little attention I've paid to adult historical fiction over the past couple of years, as usually this kind of book would have immediately been on my radar.
Tom meets Isabel whilst on a temporary posting to Janus, in Western Australia and they have a whirlwind 1920's romance, quickly ending up living permanently on Janus, where they only return to the mainland very rarely. Living in isolation is something that obviously appeals greatly to Tom, who is trying to escape the horrors of World War I, and Isabel seemingly embraces the isolated beauty of Janus. I didn't quite understand why Isabel was so attracted to Tom, not that he isn't an intriguing character, but it didn't seem to really fit with her outgoing personality, especially living so far from everyone.
The arrival of the unknown baby suddenly pitches their morality into the ocean and they find themselves immediately in conflict - Isabel believes the baby was meant to find them, and Tom is eaten up by the guilt that the child is missing from another family. There are interesting moral debates here, and my opinion swung regularly back and forth between Tom and Isabel as they both presented compelling arguments as to why their decision was the right one.
There is a great deal of atmosphere in The Light Between Oceans - the isolation of Janus is obvious, but it's also the beauty that Stedman brings out through descriptions of the lighthouse and the island itself, coupled with how haunted Tom feels by his experiences in the war.
The Light Between Oceans is undoubtedly emotional - it's hard not to side with a particular character, but I actually found myself torn for both Isabel and Tom as they are forced to make decisions about how to move forward with their lives. The ending itself is a strange mixture of being too fast-paced and yet all the open plot lines are tied up satisfyingly.
The Light Between Oceans definitely poses a lot of moral questions, but although I enjoyed it, I didn't find it to be as heart-wrenching as I thought it may be - in parts it was quite emotional but there was something about Isabel that stopped me from feeling completely sympathetic towards her.
It's good historical fiction that does more than just tell a story - I'm glad I read and enjoyed it, but I did find the ending a little disappointing.
I first listened to Meat as audiobook in January 2011. I love audiobooks but I'm pretty particular about them - the narrator has to make me feel part of the book, and the story needs to capture my attention enough that I'm not distracted by things around me. And the audiobook version certainly met my requirements on both, but it didn't feel quite 'enough' - I wanted to read it for myself. So although I rarely re-read books, I decided this one was good enough to get me to read it again.
Let me be completely honest - this book is grim, disturbing, gory and intense. There's not a spot of happiness to be found in its pages, perhaps with the exception of the closing pages.
Abyrne is a town that appears to be built out of the ruins of an apocalyptic event, which is never expanded upon. The town is now run by the Welfare, who are responsible for the moral purity of the townsfolk and a megalomaniac meat baron who controls the food supply with an iron fist. With the exception of rare few, the characters have no redeeming features - they are mindless, ruthless and slaves to their lust for meat.
The writing is intense and the pacing is non-stop - as the story unfolds and more and more disturbing events take place, I couldn't stop reading, just to see what happened next. And there were more than a few stomach-churning, brain-stretching moments. The 'baddies' are infinitely evil, and the characters that are fighting against them are down-trodden and outcast, but as they start to awaken to the true evils of Abyrne, they realise that there is only one thing that can be done - resist.
There is a deeper 'meaning' to this book - one of how we, as top of the food chain, treat our food sources. I wouldn't recommend this book to vegetarians unless they have a strong stomach- it's incredibly intense and disturbing, and it shows that Mr D'Lacey's inspiration came from the current and past practices of meat 'cultivation'. But if you can get past the horrific images that this book conjures up in the mind, it's definitely worth reading - Meat is a book that has stuck with me for a long time, and will continue to do so!
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!
This is my third Courtney Summer's book - although I loved This is Not a Test, it was Cracked Up To Be that really got me interested in reading more of her writing - she has a talent for making me feel sympathetic to the most unlikable of characters, particularly those I would have absolutely despised myself as a teenager, and would really irritate me even now.
Some Girls Are is pretty much the ultimate story of how bitchy and nasty some teenage girls can be. Regina is best friends with the Queen Bee of her school, Anna, and finds herself in a horrible situation right at the beginning of the story, and it's obvious that things are going to very wrong for Regina.
What Anna and her friends do to Regina are pretty horrendous, but at the same time there are hints that Regina had already done some nasty things herself, particularly to one of her former friends, although Some Girls Are doesn't go into a great deal of detail about it which I found slightly disappointing. Having said that, perhaps doing that would have made it completely impossible to feel sympathetic towards Regina so it may have been intentional to not revisit it.
If I thought girls were horrible when I was at school, Some Girls Are takes things to a whole new level of bitchy cruelty, but Regina actually takes all of the abuse with a fight-back kind of attitude which I actually admired. It would have been easier for her to just take everything that was dished out, but she finds her own way to get back at her former friends. I did find the lack of attention paid by the school staff and her parents a little disturbing, particularly the fact there are only a handful of scenes with Regina and her very distant mother.
The ending was quite abrupt, however it's all forgivable for a book that had my attention completely, and yet there were times it was so intense I wanted to put it down and physically step away. Shocking and frighteningly easy to imagine it's real, Some Girls Are is another Summers book that I really enjoyed, despite the fact I wanted to slap those horrible girls into next week.
When I read the synopsis of Until You're Mine, I was immediately curious. Although not a mother myself, it struck me that a story about a pregnant woman with creepy nanny could be one of those edge-of-my-seat kind of books because the stakes are so very high.
Until You're Mine is told through three perspectives - Claudia who is finally pregnant with her first child after years of trying and heartbreak, Zoe the nanny who seems too good to be true and Lorraine, the police office investigating a rash of deaths amongst pregnant women in the local area. Lorraine's perspective was a real surprise, for although she is the investigating officer, she is also having problems in her marriage to Adam, who is also a cop working the same cases as Lorraine.
Unfortunately, Lorraine's perspective, although interesting, actually distracted me from the storyline of Zoe and Claudia and I didn't really see why it was relevant to the story. It almost felt like it was thrown in as a filler to make the story longer (and at 400 pages it's not exactly a quick read) and it also made it difficult for me to connect with Lorraine because I just wasn't invested in her story.
As for the plot between Claudia and Zoe, that was certainly more what I was looking for - there was definitely an element of mystery and as the story progressed it became more and more captivating as more about Claudia and Zoe's pasts were revealed and the story climaxed in a way I wasn't really expecting. I didn't see the clues that led up to the ending, although looking back they were there but just cleverly concealed.
Until You're Mine is a good, if slightly predictable in places, thriller, with a lot of mystery and some very clever characterisation. However, I found the extra perspective irritating rather than adding any value and the ending was a little bit too quick, without the kind of resolution I really needed.
When I finished Code Name Verity I knew I'd fallen in love with Elizabeth Wein's style, characterisation and sense of history. Although I had some small issues with Code Name Verity, I loved the strength of the characters and the depths of their relationships so I was very excited to see how Wein could take another aspect of World War II and turn it into a story of friendship, bravery and strength, and I can say right now that Rose Under Fire didn't disappoint.
Unlike Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire begins at the beginning of Rose's story. There are also some connections to characters and situations in Code Name Verity, however Rose Under Fire is definitely a traditional companion novel in that it can be read as a standalone. It could definitely be read and enjoyed without reading Code Name Verity first, but I'm glad I did as it does give extra meaning to some of the secondary characters' stories.
The Boy on the Bridge is listed as Historical Fiction on some websites, which kind of made me laugh in an I'm-so-not-offended way because I was born in 1982. Although I don't particularly agree that is IS historical fiction, it does focus on an interesting time and place in history - Russia during the cold war.
Beginning with Laura meeting a local boy, Alexei, after he rescues her from some intense beggars on the bridge near her foreign-student accommodation. Laura herself isn't really a character I connected with - her naivety and blindness to some pretty obvious issues grated on me a little bit, and there's not a lot of delving into her personality, likes and dislikes, interests etc.
David Levithan is one of my few auto-buy authors. I'm pretty selective when it comes to my auto-buy list because I'm 1) not a good fangirl and 2) I like to be sure that even if it's an author I'm mad about that the actual synopsis appeals to me. With Levithan being pretty much king of that auto-buy list however, I simply purchased Love is the Higher Law without even reading the synopsis and it wasn't until I picked it up that I realised it is about 9/11.
On 9/11 I was still living in Australia. Half a world away, but it was still a profound moment in history, and I can still remember where I was, who I was with and what I was doing when I first heard what was happening. And the idea that such a terrible moment can imprint itself so definitively in our minds is the basis of Love is the Higher Law.
From the very moment I first heard about Margo, I wanted it in my hands. I've said it a hundred times, but Historical Fiction is the genre I grew up reading - I love the insights into life in the past, the characters, the atmosphere - absolutely everything about it. And although Margot is based on a non-fiction book, the fiction element was strong enough to have me obsessing about reading it.
I admit that I don't remember reading The Diary of a Young Girl although I do own a copy - iconic books are often the ones that I don't choose to read because I'm so fearful of being disappointed, but I don't think it would be considered essential to have read it first - and in some ways I'm glad I haven't. Although it will be interesting to read it having read this, albeit fictional, book from Margot's perspective.
I had an overwhelming sympathy for Margot right from the beginning - having lost her family and even her own identity, she has ensconced herself in a safe, comfortable life in Philadelphia, and has, for the most part, packed away her past and concentrated on just blending into the background and making it through the next day. As the story progressed, I really started to admire her as a character too - although cracks start to appear, she continues to hold everything together as best she can.
This Song Will Save Your Life is a book that pretty much everyone I know completely adored. In fact, it's a book that never would have been on my radar if it wasn't for the glowing reviews that it received from bloggers that I trust implicitly to be totally honest about how a book makes them feel. So when it accidentally-on-purpose fell into my cart, I was so excited to read it.
Elise is a character that I immediately felt a strong connection with - she's not popular, doesn't fit in and puts up with some horrendous behaviour from the other students at her school, but she has a burning passion for music, and can completely lose herself and ignore the world around her when she's plugged in. And that is probably why this book was such a fabulous experience for so many people - being a teenager (and an adult if we want to get that deep) is hard, especially when you are different and for some reason that you can't fathom, you are ostracised, belittled and generally just treated like crap. Relating to Elise was easy for me because I had similar experiences at school.