Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring Cleaning Contest Alert, via Maggie Stiefvater!

The Authoress of the Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy (That's Shiver (09), Linger ('10) and Forever ('11), as well as Ballad and Lament) is hosting a super awesome contest over at her blog! I am linking it below, for all to enter (though, I want to win it ...)! It's for US addresses only unfortunately (lucky me - I have two more months of school that allow me to be in the US!!!) and it invoves three whoppers of stacks of books!

Thanks Maggie!
Can't wait for Forever!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

So you've survived the Zombie Apocalypse ... Now what?

I have had a Zombie thing since my first Romero movie back in the day. It was Night of the Living Dead and it was black & white and strange, but I loved it. Prior to this, I had watched the "Zombies" (i.e. green, slow-moving things that moaned about "Brrrrraiiins!") on Tales of the Cryptkeeper and Are you Afraid of the Dark? but, these zombies - these slow-moving reanimated corpses, they spoke to me on a level that was way more intense. As I grew up, watched more horror movies and got into the genre as an enthusiast, I realized why - these zombies had a message, they were a conduit of meaning, and that spoke to me somewhere inside myself.

I mean, zombies are terrifying - they never stop, not because they're stubborn - Oh no! It's because they can't - like, they just ... can't. I think the freakiness of them is summed up nicely in World War Z,
They displayed no conscious thought, just sheer biological instinct. I once watched a Zed Head go after something, probably a golden mole, in the Namib Desert. The mold had burrowed deep in the side of the dune. As the ghoul tried to go after it, the sand kept pouring down, and filling in the hole. The ghoul didn't stop, didn't react in any way, it just kept going. I watched it for five days, the fuzzy image of this G digging, and digging, and digging, then suddenly one morning just stopping, getting up and shuffling away as if nothing had happened.
How scary is that? How scary is an unstoppable force - a slow shambling unstoppable force?

Right, I thought so.

Then I began to wonder, what would happen after the apocalypse? (If you're a fan of Romero, you know - the Zombies always win, so there was no "Beat them back!" thing in my mind; I mean, again - slow shambles of unstoppable chomping power) Of course, there is Day of the Dead where they have military ... or paramilitary ... or whatever, operations and they attempt to teach a Zombie how to speak, and there's Land of the Dead and Survival of the Dead where communities thrive (heh heh, sort of?) after the apocalypse, but in general, most literature and movies focused on the direct aftermath of infection, not the long reaching societal changes that the infection could bring. Let's see - there's 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, where the fast hordes of PCP-Zombies can starve to death (er ... death?); and Dead Set the miniseries where reality TV met Zombies (Yes, I have a British movie fetish too); and then, well ... most of these will be the same - outbreak + disbelief + mad running around = zombie movie.

Then, last winter, I came across The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. This book was set generations after the Return - a time that is best reviewed after reading Ryan's contributing short story (In Unicorns vs. Zombies) Bougeonvillia.

Carrie Ryan is one of those authors who never pulls back. She begins something and lets the story roll, running along with it and shouting out a narrative that is so real and so poignant that you run alongside her. It's one of those types of stories. The Forest of Hands and Teeth began with a girl, Mary, who is at the cusp of so many things - her father dissappeared and is probably unconsecrated (the term for zombie), her mother is half mad with wanting to be with her husband; her brother is a cold guardsman, her best friend bent on marriage and growing up and then the love of her life and his brother competing for her affections. But this world is also abotu survival - it's only a thin fence of chained links that separates the living from the ... undead.

What I loved about The Forest of Hands and Teeth was the grittiness of it. It was just so tragic and sad, and you couldn't help but be swallowed up by the story and the characters. You are carried along with the action, and you know it will end badly, you know that you are reading along and you know it is going badly for your characters ... but you can't stop. It's an amazing book and I think everyone ought to read it.

But this is the review for The Dead-Tossed Waves - so let's at it! :D

Here is the synopsis from her website:

Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She's content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she's ever known, and all she needs for happiness.

But life after the Return is never safe, and there are threats even the Barrier can't hold back.

Gabry's mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but like the dead in their world, secrets don't stay buried. And now, Gabry's world is crumbling.

One night beyond the Barrier...

One boy Gabry's known forever and one veiled in mystery...

One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned.

Gabry knows only one thing: if she is to have any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother's past. 

So, TDTW opens up a couple of decades after TFoHaT: Mary is all grown up, living in Vista with her daughter, and that's about it for that (I refuse to spoil!).  Our main character is Gabry, the golden haired daughter of Mary, who has lived her entire conscious life in the barrier-enclosed world of Vista. She explains soon after the book begins that she had lived in the lighthouse with her mother, cleaning up the bodies that wash up on the shore from time to time. Gabry is shy, quiet and somewhat reserved in the sense that she is not quick to act when she feels pressured, but is quick to act when she feels she has to ... that's a long way to say that, she has a tonne of regrets when she acts, but her action drives the story.

Gabry is sometimes frustrating to read: She takes forever to get to any one point. She has a huge crush on Catcher, but there are a few obstacles in the way: one being the fact that he was just bit by a mudo (Another name for the zombies in this world). This brings a new element to the Ryan Zombie Universe: immunity. Catcher is immune (this totally doesn't count as a spoiler since it's int he first five chapters) and what that means for Gabry and her friends is complicated. 

What struck me about this installment to this series was the inclusion of everything in the wider world: for Mary's story we were stuck with Mary, and she grew up isolated in this tiny outpost of civilization, where people were forcibly kept ignorant of the rest of the world. With Gabry, she was educated about the world - she was taught about the satellites that can still be seen oribiting the planet, and about the other outposts and where Vista comes from; she's been told about the various religious fanatics and groups that rove the forest recruiting, and she essentially knows how the world works ... theoretically.

Because the thing of it is, that even though she knows these things theoretically, she doesn't understand them - doesn't realize the depth of her world, until she actually has to go out into it and survive for herself. She must question herself and grow up over and again. She meets people who question her, and those she thought she knew challenge her to her most vulnerable. It's amazing.

As frustrating as I sometimes found Gabry's character, I loved her by the end - I felt her loss so profoundly, and new it so well that I didn't want to finish it - which is is why I am glad I only finished it two months before The Dark and Hollow Places comes out!

Now, before I finish it must be said: Team Elias, all the way!
That is all.

Really, though, internet people - this is such an excellent bridge book - it reignites the passion from the first book and carries it forward so that you are excited for the third! I cannot express how good the writing was, it is that moving, and I would recommend it for any Zombie enthusiast - and certainly for any Young adult addict!

Say what you want about the genre, but it is true that Zombies can be metaphors for nearly anything - and for Ryan, they really are - they represent loneliness and regret, instinct and the wild, the human animal and the fear of death. They are manipulated into certain forms until they are strikingly scary and impossible not to think of late at night.

I highly recommend this book and I think you will all love it!

PS. Love this alternative book cover from Katie at Sophistikated Reviews:

Up Next: Well ... not sure, probably a review of The Physik Book of Deliverance Dane

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Go big or Go Home ...

This will be my review of "Storm of Visions" by Christina Dodd.

The Post title is from a talk Christina Dodd gave at the 2006 Romance Writer's of America (RWA) National Conference. I would recommend checking it out, it is very inspiratonal for all of us who want to be writers! But at some point in the 45 minutes speech, she gets to the point of this title - you go big, and run with it. Nuclear disaster? Sure! People who change into animals because of a pact with the Devil? Hell (ha ha) yeah! Do anything, do whatever - just commit to it - and follow it through.

I think that's a remarkably good way to look at writing. And she follows it through so well, too!

This last book I read, Storm of Visions, I got from my bestie, LG, for Xmas. We exchanged at Starbucks on one of those cold, slushy January days before I had to go back to school. I unwrapped it and just grinned - I love Christina Dodd, as I am sure you're all aware. And I was so eager to begin this new book - especially since it connects to the other contemporaries she writes - and have I mentioned (well, it bears reitterating) how much I love extended universes? I reall do.

Anyways, onto my review of the first book of the Chosen Ones series:

Here is the Synopsis from Christina Dodd's website:
 Jacqueline Vargha has always run from her gift. Now Caleb D'Angelo forces his way into her life, demands his place as her lover, and insists she take her place as one of the Chosen. She flees, he pursues, but she can no longer deny her visions, or the dangerous man who is her downfall — and her destiny.
Enter our new hero!  Caleb. And he is fit enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my favourite cursed former shapeshifters, the Wilders, and the other contemporary heroes!

The scene opens with the back story to this series, which I am reproducing below:
When the world was young, twins were born. One brought light to a dark world; the other, darkness and danger. Their powers could not be denied, and they gathered others around them, men and women destined to use their gifts for good or evil. Today, their descendents walk the earth as the Chosen… and the ultimate battle is about to begin.
So we begin with this legend and abandoned babies - a theme also visited int he Darkness Chosen series. This is a short excerpt - the longer one at the beginning of Storm of Visions is really good - heartbreaking, even.

So, we have laid the ground work and all fans already see connections with the Darkness Chosen series, and then enters our heroine, Jacqueline - who is running and hiding in California. She is sassy and she is independent - she has a lot of secrets she likes hidden, and she has a lot of baggage she likes to ignore. Her mommy issues become apparent nearly immediately, as does her huge crush on her mom's bodyguard, Caleb.

Caleb seems, at first, a little bit like Jasha from Scent of Darkness - he knows she wants him, and he pressed it - almost to the point of taking advantage of it. At first reading,  it makes me a tad uncomfortable - but when it works between the two characters, it works - and it definitely works between Jacqueline and Caleb - they start playing cat and mouse, move to fisticuffs, she stabs him with scissors, then they get onto business. And it is written with such passion, that you are instantly brought into the world, immediately drawn into the characters and their stories.

And then the action moves at break neck speed to NYC, and suddenly everything begins to get out of control. Like the first book in many series, this one wanes in and out of perspectives, establishing the world it exists in and the players in this world. Many a book have failed to do this and keep the attention of the reader - but Dodd does not need to worry about that with this installment of the Chosen Ones. She blazes ahead, never pulling her punches - she forges into the areas where there is no turning back, and she exlores them. And that is what makes it such a good book - and what makes her such a good author - she will not set you up and cater to what you want, she will give you what the story needs - what the story means.

Which makes her a good storyteller.

I liked Jacqueline's realization of her own feelings towards her mother, the dynamic of growing up with a famous and glamorous mother - and not knowing any of the history surrounding that. When it all comes down, it is so heart warming, that I was frowning, trying to control my face from pouting at the sadness in it. It was really well done!

Of course, as I alluded to before, the scenes with Caleb and Jaqueline are pure fire! It's amazing since it is in the simplest of things that you see this - like the look he gives her, the way she leans into him - it is all the visual things you see in your head while reading that make you think - "Yes, that's it, isn't it? Hawt.". They are compatible in a strange and wonderful way that works for the book. 

The other Chosen Ones are interesting: I have a particular fascination with Charisma - she speaks to stones, and she is totally awesome. This book also brings back the golden boy - Aleksander! Yes, the little boy from the Darkness Chosen series - Firebird's son! Yes! I love character connections! And bringing back Alex, was genius! Especially since he is all about the one line quips and smart ass comments. Love him all grown up. Cannot wait to see what happens to him! :)

The ending for this one, I thought could have used a few more pages of Caleb and Jacqueline. But I did like the set up - even though I saw it coming.

Oh, I cannot wait for the second one now! :)

Off The Shelf!

4/75 books