A Strong Start for an Amazing Series

I recently read Kody Boye’s First Light, and I absolutely loved it. It’s book one of The Daylight Cycle series. (I’m currently reading book two – and whoa! Does he amp up the scares!) The central characters, Rose and Lyra, are flatmates in England. It’s Lyra’s home country, and Rose’s adopted country. They are typical college best friends, and their third flatmate Mary is the overly dramatic third musketeer.

The zombie takeover is well underway when First Light begins, although nobody knows that quite yet. The news stations are using words like “riot” and “civil unrest” to describe the outbreaks of violence in major cities. Rose and Lyra are worried that their proximity to an airport will cause them to encounter the violent protestors. Only a few pages into the book, Mary stumbles into the flat bawling her eyes out and bleeding. Apparently her on-again off-again boyfriend not only proposed, but proceeded to bite her. The girls hear a terrifying screech from the hallway while they are trying to calm down their hysterical friend. Moments later her boyfriend throws himself against the door and claws his way in. For Lyra, Rose, and Mary it’s a battle to the death. And it’s only the beginning.

As the story progresses, the girls find themselves in a variety of situations that they had no way to be prepared for. Including floating on a boat that neither of them knows how to sail, and fleeing from a country that’s using deadly force on anyone looking for asylum. Neither of the girls can really blame the country, because by then they know it’s a virus that spreads through bites and scratches.

First Light is an amazing book, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what exactly about the book is my favorite. Kody’s apocalypse is all too real. The freshly dead run, the long dead shamble. And the girls are forced to survive by whatever means they can.

I also really love how Kody portrays the friendship between Rose and Lyra. They’re incredibly real. They argue over what the best course of action is, and where they will be safest. They wind up eventually talking out their points of view, and though they have their rough moments, they are always fiercely loyal to each other. They are strong in their own ways, but also show their weaknesses.

The end of First Light finds Rose and Lyra making a choice that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Rose doesn’t believe they are safe in their current location, despite fortifications. Lyra, however, doesn’t believe that they are any safer outside the walls. The decision is a heavy one, and could possibly split them apart for the rest of their lives.

First Light is an amazing read from start to finish, and showcases Kody’s unique writing style. I recommend this book (and series!) to anyone looking for a solid story with relatable characters, realistic situations, and a helluva scary zombie element! (If you like what you read, I’d also recommend checking out his other books. He writes more than just horror!)

 

 

More Bite than Sparkle

Before I start this review, there’s a little bit of a disclaimer I need to go into first. Part one is that when Stephen was writing Hunter of the Dead, he crowd-sourced names off Facebook through a random draw on a post. I figured what the hell, and did it. I was one of the people picked. Therefore, should you take my sage advice and read this book, I’m one of the characters. When I was chosen, he contacted me, and asked if I had any requests. As I recall, I told him not to make the character suck (as if that were ever a remote possibility!)

The second part of the disclaimer is that I was approached to write a review, and gifted a copy. The price, was that I had to write an honest review. That’s always a piece of cake with Stephen, because his books are fantastic.

All of that being said, I had no idea where the story was going when I started. I was pretty sure it was about vampires, and an elite vampire killer. But the story started off with what I thought were zombies. As it turns out, zombies are what people become if they can’t stand the change to a vampire, or if their sire screws up the process. You see, vampires in Stephen’s world don’t need to drink blood after they get to a certain level of badass. They are able to draw the life source directly out of their victims. The zombies are the cleanup crew. As in, they come in and devour the remains of the meals. It’s a mess, but there’s always a bottom feeder, isn’t there?

The reader follows several main characters throughout the story. Cicatrice is the most powerful vampire, he rules House Cicatrice, one of the 13 vampire houses. Otto Signari is his rival, the leader of House Signari. Topan is Cicatrice’s get, but he is dishonored in favor of Idi Han. Idi Han was sired by Topan, and he to gain acclaim and respect by siring such a powerful get. Idi Han, for her part, doesn’t want to be a pawn in anyone’s game.

Just as there are vampires, there are also Inquistors, or vampire hunters. Bonaparte believes that the Inquisitors should centralize and put their strength together. Carter Price believes that it’s better to go rogue, because then nobody can rat anyone else out if they’re caught. When a vicious vampire attack at the convenience store where he works blows his cover, he’s forced to take his shift manager, Nico, on as an apprentice. Disillusioned with the direction the Inquisitors are heading, Price bears this burden with no small amount of sass.

Amidst all of this turmoil, vampires start dying in rather large numbers. Too large for the Inquisitors to be involved, according to Cicatrice. He believes the legendary Hunter of the Dead has come back, but he’s not sure why.

I really wish that I could say more about the book’s plot, but I fear that I’ve given away too much already! There is intrigue, romance, mystery, and outright horror awaiting any reader brave enough to open Hunter of the Dead. When you’re done, I highly suggest checking out his other novels. They’re always fun, fast-paced, and well worth the read.

March HorrorBlock Subscription Block

March’s HorrorBlock just arrived in the mail today. (In case you’re new to it, it’s part of the NerdBlock family, and focuses on bringing unique horror merchandise to subscribers every month. Usually there’s a theme, but lately they’ve chosen one or two movies or tropes and centered the box on that. It costs $19.99 per month.) Per usual, I waited to see Dipper before opening it, which incidentally meant that I had to wait until I was at work tonight.
This month’s theme was again zombie-centered. After the letdown of last month’s block, I was not looking forward to this one. As luck would have it, the second try was really the charm. This month’s block was a delight to open.
horrorblock
* Samara t-shirt – This month’s t-shirt was a close-up of Samara from The Ring franchise. It’s blue and white on a black background, and not bad at all. I was dreading what Ring merchandise would be included, as it’s not one of my favorite films by any stretch. (It also doesn’t stand up to a second watching, as all of the secrets are spoiled by the first viewing.) Dipper recommended that I give the shirt to our co-worker for his daughter, since she’s pretty all-in when it comes to horror movies.
* Oven Mitt – I’m not gonna lie, I pounced on the oven mitt. I enjoy baking, and have been looking for a new oven mitt. This one is most likely going to be too thin to actually use with any sort of safety in mind, but the pattern is really awesome. The color green also goes with my current oven mitts, which are the same slime-snot green. I can’t wait to hang this on the cupboard door above my stove! (UPDATE: Omg! It really works! I can use it without burning my hands!)
* Zombie Hand Back Scratcher – I’m not going to use that for it’s intended purpose by ANY stretch of the imagination. However, having a telescoping zombie hand plaything is about the best thing you can think of in a cube farm environment. After taking it out of the packaging, I spent about 10 solid minutes terrorizing coworkers (and my unsuspecting supervisor) with it. The possibilities are literally endless!
* Zombie Squeeze – To me, he looks more like a voodoo doll, or a shrunken head with a body. But he’s pretty cool just the same. When you squeeze him, you can see his brain stretching at his head to get out. It also makes a nasty kind of squick noise when you squeeze him. I suggested Dipper give this little ugly to his horror-loving daughter, but I have my suspicions that it’s going to go to his personal collection instead.
* Zombie Door Stop – This was in a mystery box, and when we opened it, Dipper’s eyes about boggled out of his head. I was over the moon that I already have a zombie door stop, because I really wanted to be able to give this item to him. When we divvied up the goods, this was the first item he chose. I don’t think he’ll use it as a doorstop because the guts are kind of delicate, but I think it’ll look great on whatever table or shelf it winds up on. (I’m actually hoping his kitten menaces it, so that I can snag a picture of that!)
* Walking Dead Building Blind Bag – I had no idea these were a thing. I thought it was going to be some kind of Lego, but it’s really a little figurine that comes in pieces. You put it together and then you have whatever character (or zombie). Apparently it’s part of a set you can get where you build the pieces. I’m not going to track down the set, but it’ll look pretty neat on one of my shelves. Preferably somewhere that my cat and dog can’t get to it. It’s a little small for them to safely menace.
* Zombie Dog Tags – These are pretty cool – not gonna lie. I’m not usually the dog tag type of girl, so they went to my husband. While not quite the zombie fan that I am, he enjoys his military shooter video games just fine. (He was pretty psyched when he got them!)
* Rue Morgue – It’s taken practically everything that I have not to purchase this magazine before it arrived in the box. When Dipper and I were out in Barnes & Noble the other day, I saw the cover. Love me some Rob Zombie! Apparently he’s got a new album coming out, so that is something I’ll be looking forward to. Probably should put his other stuff on rotation again to make a comparison when the new disc drops.
Overall, I think this block made up for the last one, which was incredibly lame. They varied the contents, and included 3 exclusive items. I also didn’t feel bad giving Dipper any of the items – when the block isn’t as good, I can’t escape the feeling that I’m giving him sub-par horror merch. And that is NEVER a good thing!
If you’re still debating on whether or not to order this block, I’d say go ahead. The instances where the block isn’t as good are few and far between, and usually even if you get one bum item per box, the rest of the merch more than makes up for it.

Eve Brenner : Badass Extraordinaire

Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl eve brenneris the book I’ve been waiting for without even knowing it. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s the debut book for author Alessia Giacomi. She brings more to the table in terms of character and plot than seems fair for her first book. In short, this book blew me away.

The story begins in Egypt, where Eve and her friends, Cam and Alex, are at a dig site looking for artifacts with their favorite professor. Tenacious Eve disobeys their professor’s wishes and ventures into a tomb, looking to find something remarkable and life-changing. She gets more than she and her friends bargained for, and right out of the gate the reader is drawn into the chaos that ensues.

Throughout the book the viewpoint changes. The reader is given the story through Eve, Cam, and Alex’s eyes. In many ways, this allows Giacomi to sidestep the pitfalls of having to provide background information, since the friend’s memories fill in the gaps. In this way, the reader understands that the three friends have been through several traumatic life events, and their friendship has always remained strong. But is it strong enough to survive Eve’s eventual transformation into a zombie?

Giacomi is patient, and draws the reader deeper into her book with each page. The transformation into zombie is slow at first, but rapidly picks up speed. Giacomi is likewise patient with the obstacles that Eve and her friends face. As Eve changes, so do the types of struggles they encounter – and there is never an easy way out for anyone. Eve and her friends also change, and so does the dynamic between them. Giacomi masterfully navigates all of the simultaneous changes in a way that is seamless. It feels organic, and adds a layer of believability to what is an otherwise clearly fictitious story.

Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl serves as the pilot book for a series that I will be following extremely closely – and you should too. Giacomi’s origin story is a great standalone book, but also sets the tone for the rest of this unique series. My only wish is that someone, somewhere would make this into a movie. We have movies about slow shambling zombies. We have movies about running zombies. We have movies about zombies in love. Why not a poignant and scary zombie story about a girl coming to terms with her transformation?

PULSE. BUY IT. READ IT. LOVE IT.

I’ve written this review over and over for the past few hours, trying to do justice to multi-talented author Eloise J. Knapp and her newest novel, PULSE. When she offered me an advanced reader copy, I knew I was in for something special. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since my husband gifted me The Undead Situation. It was her debut novel, and I was immediately floored by her realism. She wrote like she knew the weapons and tactics intimately. Anyone who has casually perused her Facebook page or her official website will see that the realism comes from experience. Eloise believes in being prepared, and that sincerity makes her stories and characters all the more interesting. In addition to writing, Eloise makes her own costumes for cosplay, creates videos on YouTube, and makes some of the most mouth-watering foods you could hope to see show up on your Facebook feed! To top it all off, she’s also extremely humble and friendly. 

The Undead Situation gave rise to Cyrus V. Sinclair, a sociopath with an all-consuming sweet tooth. He and his ferret companion are fine riding out the apocalypse in their apartment, until a few unexpected human guests spoil the party. Once outside of the cozy apartment, Cyrus finds that all the fun has gone out of the apocalypse. The Undead Haze continues, and Cyrus gains a conscience as he attempts to deal with the events of the first book. As per fan request, Eloise teamed up with Timothy Long, writing the free Internet serial Dead Haze. Dead Haze sees Cyrus team up with Kate, Timothy’s own sociopathic survivor.

About a month ago, Eloise sent me an advanced reader copy of her new novel, PULSE. I read it in three days. Instead of mindless shambling horrors, Eloise gives us something that hits closer to home. Once infected, her pulsezombies are cunning, violent, and absolutely no-holds-barred crazy. The infection makes the dead clumsy, but it also intensifies their baser instincts and desires, and that is where the true horror is born. Eloise shows the reader a funhouse mirror, where humanity’s reflection shines back dark and perverse. The infection takes everything good about humanity and twists it – doctors, the bastions of salvation – become architects of pain and misery. The laughter of a child falls cold and hollow on a terrified mother’s ears. Each page brings fresh new obstacles for already beleaguered characters.

PULSE showcases Eloise’s continued growth as a writer. Her earlier works concentrate on a few characters, and she writes them very well. However, in PULSE, Eloise stretches her writing muscles and gives us a greater range. The reader experiences the story from the point of view of patient zero, the scientists racing the clock to fix the infection, a group of friends watching society fall apart, and asylum inmates who become newly rejuvenized by the chaos. Each character has their own unique voice and mannerisms, which make them all the more realistic. The plot races along gathering momentum until the end, which is abrupt and deeply disturbing. I am sooo hoping that she writes a sequel!

What impressed me most of all, is the sense that no character is truly safe in PULSE. I don’t like books that I can predict, because I quickly stop caring. If I know who is going to survive, and who isn’t, there’s really no point in reading, is there? Eloise infects and saves with reckless and random abandon. Characters that I thought would surely last to the end of the book were turned into the violent hordes within pages, while others that I was sure were no more than fodder hung on stubbornly.

With every page PULSE is sure to frighten, delight, and keep the reader guessing! You need to add it to your collection IMMEDIATELY – and when you’re done, be sure to drop by amazon.com and give it a review!

Genre Clash – Zombies Meet Body Horror

The-New-Ecology-of-Death-James-Robert-SmithYou know what I miss?  Classic monster movies.  Godzilla destroying a city.  An alien Thing terrorizing people in a god-forsaken wilderness of ice and snow.  A ginormous shark cruising beaches during the 4th of July.  Bring it on!  But, in spite of all of that, I do love my zombies.  I love those pus-filled, shambling wrecks.  I love the runners and sprinters, the spitters, and the groaners.

Why choose when I can have both?  Severed Press just released The New Ecology of Death, written by James Robert Smith.  It combines all the terror of a standard zombie apocalypse with the excitement and innovation of a monster story, and then he goes one step further.  Smith taps into the body horror genre, adding the right amount of classy gore.

The New Ecology of Death begins with zombie Alex Wenzler recovering his consciousness – one might go so far as to say that the fog of death was lifted.  Alex is drawn inexorably to his son Mark, and begins a dangerous trek that brings him ever closer to the living.  Meanwhile, Alex’s widow Beth has remarried and moved on with her life.  She, her son Mark, and her new husband Davis now live in a mansion surrounded by an iron gate.  Her new husband works for the CDC as a statistician.  It’s largely a comfortable life, marred only by the possibility that Alex might stagger hungrily back into it at an inopportune moment.  Alex’s journey will bring them all to a train wreck of epic proportions, one that will set in motion a horrible second  apocalypse that will bring new and more frightening threats to everyone.  Lives will once again be at stake, and it will leave readers begging for a sequel.

I couldn’t have hoped for a better cover for this story.  The pulp fiction style cover (even sporting an out-dated price of 10 cents) speaks to the retro roots of this tale.  It also gives readers a peek at what’s to come – hinting at the zombie transformation concealed within the pages of the book.  Fans of classic body horror movies such as John Carpenter’s The Thing and classic zombie movies such as Romero’s trilogy, will be thrilled with Smith’s literary skill.

The New Ecology of Death by James Robert Smith should be on every horror fanatic’s bookshelf, and likewise in every horror fanatic’s Kindle.  The way Smith ends his book suggests a strong possibility of a sequel.  Grab The New Ecology now, so that you’re not stuck playing catch-up later!

Shambling Up The Ranks…

It’s the time of year again!  Time to bundle up, grab a hot apple cider, and hit the road to your favorite haunted attraction.  Every year I’m thankful to be living near Buffalo, New York, where there are plenty of haunted houses to visit.  Last year, District of the Dead opened its doors for the inaugural year.  It was a small house, run partly for profit and partly for charity.  I was excited to see what the new year would bring for them, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

District of the Dead made many smart changes for the 2012 season.  First – they moved to a better location.  They are now at the corner of Sheridan Drive and Eggert Road, near Yings Wings Things & Bar.  This new location is prime – they are at a busy corner and surrounded by well-established businesses.  The second smart change they made was their overall expansion.  There are now two haunted houses:  District of the Dead, and Lake Effect.  While both houses are smaller than most in the area, they are jam-packed with scares!  The actors and actresses are literally laying for you in wait around almost every corner.  The team also used clever distractions and props to divert unsuspecting eyes away from their attackers.

Where District of the Dead really shines is in the pure zest of their workers.  Every blood dripped, drooling, gargling zombie on the property seems genuinely thrilled to be there.  I’ve been to enough haunted houses – trust me, when the cast and crew aren’t into the house, it shows.  Don’t be surprised if you’re eating next door at the local Mighty Taco and a freak in bandages and bloody drool comes bursting through the door – they’re just doing their job.  Scaring you senseless and inserting themselves into your nightmares.

I highly suggest you visit the District of the Dead this year.  The admission is reasonable ($13), the cause is worthy (they support local charities including The Food Bank of WNY), and the scares are plentiful.  Did I mention they also had chainsaws???  I can’t wait to see what next year will bring!

Long overdue praise…

Cover of "Down the Road: On the Last Day&...

Cover of Down the Road: On the Last Day

There are multitudinous zombie books on the market.  They fill every shelf, nook, cranny, and niche that exists.  You can bake them, cook them, sew them, crochet them, knit them, take social and business advice from them, wear them, and draw them.  Apparently, there’s even a matching pillowcase and bedspread set for your bed replete with reaching zombie hands.  There is a veritable horde of cutesy zombie books for children.  Its plain to see that zombies can be enjoyed by a variety of different people.

It would seem that even the authors are no exception.  Bowie Ibarra, for one, certainly doesn’t pass up his chance.  In the second of the Down the Road Trilogy, titled “Down the Road: On the Last Day“, he gleefully butchers and terrorizes his way through the book.  I got the distinct impression that he had a hell of a time while writing the book – and that’s not an impression I get very often.  I could imagine him sitting at his computer, laughing hysterically at the antics of his characters.

The story is based on a host of characters trying to fend of zombies, which is essentially the story of most zombie novels.  Ibarra adds an extra element of on-going stress by introducing a few United Nations crazies into the mix.  One in particular, is hell-bent on the subjugation of every person he comes across.  Not exactly fitting company for a town full of people who are just trying to survive.  The resulting clash is one of the greatest endings that I have read to date.

If you get this book I promise you three things.  The first is that you should probably be prepared to cry.  Often.  The first chapter sucked me in, and then had me bawling like a baby.  There is also an unconfirmed rumor that the last fifty pages or so may have had me bawling.  Again, unconfirmed.  The second thing you should know about this book is that you will laugh yourself silly.  Ibarra has a knack for knowing when the subject matter gets too heavy.  A little bit of humor goes a long way to letting the reader know that the people in the book are multi-dimensional.  Yes, it’s the zombie apocalypse, and yes that sucks.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have a few laughs while you’re waiting for your number to be up.  My last promise to you is that you are sure to lose sleep.  Some of the images and scenarios are so disturbing that it was all I could do to lay down and not see them play across the dark of my eyelids.  I’m talking about truly horrific stuff, not just the usual “oh it’s a zombie – watch it eating guts” kind of thing.  Ibarra seems to be able to reach into your subconscious, take the most terrifying aspect of the zombie apocalypse, and drag it screaming into the light where it follows you into your dreams.

“Down the Road: On the Last Day” sees the return of characters Alex and Red, who were friends of the central character of “Down the Road”.  Alex and Red are back in all their conspiracy-theory glory, and having a great time with a host of new characters.  I’m hard pressed to find a favorite character, because each member of the cast is interesting, unique, and important in their own way.  They have very tangible weaknesses and strengths.  What makes them even more special is the fact that they are relatable.  They suffer our same perils.  They have affairs, get into arguments, fall into irrevocable lust, and learn to forgive.  Each character is so real that I couldn’t help but relating them to people I know in my own life.

“Down the Road: On the Last Day” ends just as it should, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fair.  If you’re looking for the zombie feel-good book of the year, you should probably look somewhere else.  If on the other hand you’re looking for a fast-paced and entertaining read, then you need this book in your hands right this minute!  I liked it so well that before I had even finished, I went over to amazon.com to pick out the next book, “Down the Road: The Fall of Austin“.  If pass this by, I guarantee you will regret it!

Don’t forget to hop on over to YouTube.com to see the exclusive book trailer for “Down the Road: On the Last Day”.

 

Zombie 5K ?!

Original caption from American army: "Cam...

Image via Wikipedia

As none of you are probably aware, I am on a kick trying to lose some weight.  I find it hard because there really isn’t a goal other than “stop being unhealthy and big”.  Pretty nebulous, isn’t it?  Today my boyfriend showed me a website that has me thinking in terms of a reachable goal: survive a 5k populated with zombies, that also happens to be attached to an obstacle course.

If you’re like me, those last few words most likely dropped your heart into your stomach, and your stomach somewhere in the vacinity of through the floor and out the other side of the world.  The website with all of the information is http://runforyourlives.com/.  It posts information on when the run is, and where it will be.  This year’s run is October 22 in Baltimore, Maryland.  I live in New York State, so I won’t be present.  However, don’t give up hope!  The website states that “the infection is spreading in 2012”, so maybe I will be able to drive to the nearest location.  Let me know what you think !

Another Moody series…

Autumn leaves

Image by hichako via Flickr

Almost immediately on the heels of reading “Hater” I started the other series I own by David Moody, “Autumn”.  I had read about it in the back of one of my other books and had been anticipating it for some time.  I was anxious about reading it because I wasn’t a fan of “Hater”.

At first, “Autumn” really delivered.  At first.  There was gore, screaming, people dropping dead for no apparent reason.  There was absolutely no logic to the survival of the characters – and I loved it.  Then something else happened.  Moody tends to get his characters together and spend time building them up, which is good except that nothing happens while the characters are chatting.  The zombie bodies stayed prone while the characters squabbled, when the zombies rose they didn’t do much (not unlike the living characters), and finally the violence started.  My biggest complaint was the inconsistent pace.  There were sections of the book when my heart was pounding, and then there were sections I couldn’t stay awake.

I will say the David Moody has a great ability to create realistic characters who show organic growth.  By organic I mean that when Moody writes about his characters, it’s almost as if they’ve come alive and taken over their own story.  They do things that seem natural under the circumstances based on their personality, but they aren’t stereotypes or caricatures either.  That alone saves the books from being terrible.

I bought the second book, “Autumn: The City” and now while checking some information on amazon.com I realized that the third book “Autumn: Purification” is now out as well.  Blast!  Looks like I’m officially two books behind.  Anyway, as always, I’m advocating that all three books are read.  I don’t believe in judging a series solely on one book.  In other words, you can look for my further reviews when I get around to it – after I’m finished with the two I’m currently reading.  In the meantime – grab the book, read it, and let’s chat!