Thursday, December 29, 2011

A New Face, A New Terror...

[caption id="attachment_1334" align="alignright" width="160" caption="Uh-oh! He found you!"][/caption]

Prepare for the arival of Suzanne Robb, who brings us a new vision of zombie mayhem with her debut novel, "Z-Boat".  It doesn't matter whether your buy the  book in Kindle format or traditional paperback, this is a must-read book.  Especially if you're tired of the tried-and-true formula that the zombie genre has stuck to for so long.  Robb delivers a fast-paced novel full of government and interpersonal intrigue, a submarine too decrepit for it's deep sea rescue mission, and a host of strange characters that is sure to delight.

It's difficult to give a basic summary of such an intricate book, but here goes!  The Betty Loo and her crew have been commissioned to go on a rescue mission deeper than they've ever gone before.  Along with the usual captain and crew, a few new people are assigned.  A quick check of the personnel files shows that these people are anything but ordinary - and that all is not what it seems.  As (bad) luck would have it, the second they leave the dock and begin the mission, everything goes awry in the worst way imaginable - from mechanical failures and dueling spies to accidental crew deaths.  The worst is yet to come - the sub they are going to rescue is crewed by...zombies.  Unfortunately they aren't the shambling Romero variety either.  Robb's zombies retain a little intelligence, and a nightmarish pack mentality.  Do they make it out alive?  Does the plague reach the surface and the unsuspecting world?  Read Z-Boat and find out!

If you haven't read any books by Suzanne Robb, now would be the time.  She's a promising up-and-comer who has already published stories in multiple anthologies.  "Z-Boat" is her first published full-length novel, and there is talk of a sequel.  Her greatest strength as a writer is her ability to weave interesting characters into an even more interesting story line.  She began the book with a Prologue detailing the current state of the world, a first chapter with a not-so-desperate S.O.S. call, and then went straight into the characters and story.  The zombies don't actually appear in full force until the middle of the book, but by then the reader is so deeply immersed in the political intrigue (and, let's face it, trying to guess who's going to make it out alive), they the zombies are an added treat, rather than the main focus.

If you happen to enjoy nitpicking books then I should warn you that there were a few grammatical errors along the way, but nothing worth getting in a tizzy over.  They didn't impact the ability of the reader to enjoy the story.

On a personal note, I found that once I got through the first few pages, I couldn't put the book down.  It drove me crazy trying to figure out who was going to die, where the zombies came from, and how the crew thought they were going to make it back to the surface in a busted sub.  And just to warn any prospective readers, I actually cried at the ending.  It was really sad, but really fit the book.  I think I'd have been really aggravated if the book had a different ending.

Now, stop reading this and go buy a copy of the book for yourself!  (And your friend!)

 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Down, but not quite dead!

[caption id="attachment_1329" align="alignright" width="180" caption="This is the car, moments after the crash."][/caption]

Sorry for the lengthy wait before the new post.  I'm finishing a semester in grad school currently, which I can't wait to end!  I'm only taking two courses, but one of them is considered to be the hardest class in the program.  I will be super glad when that class has come to an end.

This past Wednesday, I got into a car accident.  I rearranged the front end of my car on the back of a truck.  On it's tow bar, to be exact.  The car in front of the truck did a sudden stop, and I'd have had time to stop if it weren't for the slick road.  It had been raining for a few days, and that morning it was cold.  In any event, I have a concussion.  Last night was the first night that I was able to bear staring at the computer screen for any length of time.

Today, I figured I'd toss a post up real quick to let anyone visiting the site know that yes, it's still very much active.  Once my semester from Hell ends, you can expect many more posts, and certainly on a more frequent basis.

In any event, just wanted to let you know where I've been.

P.S. Upcoming posts include reviews of a few haunted house attractions, and books by Paffenroth and del Torro.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Since it's going to be a movie soon anyway...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="219" caption="Pretty steady reading."]The cover of World War Z[/caption]

I figured now would be a great time to stop whining, suck it up, and read "World War Z" by Max Brooks.  It's slated for theaters sometime in December, and I despise watching a movie before reading the book.  I'd stayed away from reading WWZ because, quite frankly, Max Brooks' zombie visions scare me witless.

Oftentimes while reading WWZ, I tortured myself mentally for passing up the chance to see Brooks live in Buffalo in October.  What the hell was I thinking?!  In any event, that won't happen again, if I can help it.

Back to the book though.  I read through it slowly, mostly because I wanted to really have time to think about what was going on, whether it could actually happen, and what it was saying about the human race.

In general, the book was pretty steady reading.  It wasn't overly crazy, nor was it boring.  It kept a decent pace, and was set in many locales.  Brooks did an outstanding job of writing from different perspectives - it was possible to believe he was actually conducting the interviews with different people.  There were locales in Korea, China, Russia, the US, and several other cities.  Brooks' focus wasn't really on the plight of the zombies - most likely because that niche has been thoroughly (and thankfully) flooded with material.  He chose to focus on the interactions between the people in different countries, and the impact of racial, religious, and cultural differences.  I tend to agree with him in that humanity's inability to occupy the sandbox peacefully will get us into trouble.  However, being the diehard cynic I am in that regard, I don't share his belief that we will overcome the threat.  I see us bombing ourselves into oblivion instead.  (Sorry folks, I've never been the sunny kind of person  when it comes to these things.)

One section had me bawling my eyes out though.  There is a series of interviews with a man who ran a K-9 team during the War.  He talks about the struggles of working with your canine partner, and of the tragedies that accompany the line of work.  For a few days, I had horrible dreams of my dog Lily and I being part of those teams.  Only instead of us being victorious, I always wound up seeing her disappear beneath a swarm of gray hands, the last vision always being her looking at me pleadingly.  I had to stop reading the book for awhile.  It still bothers me, even while I'm sitting here writing.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a casual or avid zombie reader, or is interested in history.  Again, read the book before you see the movie!  (While I was looking for a trailer, I got rick-rolled.  Oops.  Well, maybe later when the fake and fan-made trailers are done taking over I will find a decent one to link.)  In any event - stop reading this and go see the movie!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The End of a Heartbreaking Journey

[caption id="attachment_1305" align="alignright" width="300" caption="This picture was lovingly and respectfully pilfered from the author's blog. <<http://gotld.blogspot.com/>>"][/caption]

I finished Kim Paffenroth's "Dying to LiveLast Rites" a little while ago, but haven't gotten the opportunity to give it the write-up it so badly deserves.

**Pre-Review Warning: You will cry your eyes out so hard when you finish this book that your chest will hurt.  Actually, I lied.  There are a few sections where you will cry your eyes out.  Don't say I didn't warn you!**

It was a thought-provoking tear-jerker that left me thinking about the human race, and also introspectively about myself. It made me consider what I myself might be capable of under the right circumstances.  I'd like to think that I would be a good person, but when I think of what I'd do to save the ones I loved, my certainty wavers.  (So don't sit there smugly assuming you'd be any better either...)

If you've read the two previous books in the series, you have already been introduced to the four central characters.  Rachel and Will, two humans who are forced to leave their community because of their treatment of Lucy and Truman, two sentient zombies.  The community they were living in doesn't believe in executing zombies, but they don't believe in coexisting in the same house either.  In any event, the last installation of the trilogy finds the four companions on a boat, with Rachel seriously ill.  Will, Truman, and Lucy decide to seek medical help from a town they find.  What happens to each and every one of them will test the boundaries of what most readers think humans are capable of.  You will find yourself sickened, pensive, and deeply heartbroken by the end of this novel, I guarantee it.  And then you'll feel lost knowing that at this time Paffenroth has not announced any other additions to the series.

Probably the single greatest strength of this work is Paffenroth's ability to create new and complex characters that work seamlessly with his well-established characters while at the same time never losing sight of the importance of the message. While many messages can be found in the book, I choose to take away the idea that a life built on greed and egotism leads to nothing. Conversely, a life built on sharing, self-sacrifice, loyalty and love may not always give you what you expect, but it will be more fulfilling. The best part? Paffenroth isn't preachy about it. He sneaks up on you, his you over the head, and runs off into the darkness while you are left with a serious bump on your head and the echos of his laughter.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Buffalo Haunt's Inaugural Year

[caption id="attachment_1281" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="This photo was taken from the facebook page of District of the Dead."][/caption]

This past Friday, my friend Steve and I checked out a new haunt in Buffalo, NY.  It's called "District of the Dead", and it currently resides in the old Don Pablo's building on Elmwood Avenue, by the Regal Cinema.  You can check them out on the web here.  Now, when I review haunts, I take a few factors into account.  It's not fair to judge all haunts by the same standard.  It's important to consider:  How much did the ticket cost?  How many years has the haunt been in business?  What's the purpose of the haunt?  Who works there?  When I was in college, I used to run the Haunted Hallway with Steve and the other members of the Astronomy Club.  I know how hard it is to plan a haunt, purchase all the props, and convince people to come to the haunt.  There's a ton of work behind every haunt that people don't always consider.

The haunt itself was interesting.  It had the obligatory chainsaw - always welcome, as well as the claustrophobia section that is common in haunted houses.  I thought that the haunt was pretty good.  I went through it and screamed my guts out.  I went back in again, and screamed just as much as I did the first time.  The actors seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, which is a big draw for me.  If the actors and actresses aren't enjoying themselves, why should I?  The set design wasn't very extensive, and there were no animatronic props - but remember, it's their first year.  They still have time to build a larger and more extensive haunt in the coming years.  (Personal note:  I prefer live people to animatronics any day!  The stupid whirrr noise they make is very fake.  I don't like being able to predict what's going to happen next.)

The Old Don Pablo's building made a pretty good first-haunt space.  It's a small-ish building which added to the atmosphere.  Also, being small, the props and actors/actresses weren't stretched too thin.  They were able to mix live action with props and scenery.

My only worry is the location.  Elmwood is a busy street, but it isn't situated in a place where it can be easily seen all day long.  Competitor haunted houses in the area are on busier streets, and are more likely to be visited by a spontaneous crowd.  Next year they should opt for a more prominent place.  On a good note, they advertised on Groupon.com, and have a Facebook page.  The souvenir cups were a great idea - it will keep their haunt in the forefront of people's minds.  It's also something that sets them apart from the other attractions in the area.  They don't have a concession stand as of yet, but I believe that will be something they will incorporate later.

After going through the haunt, Steve and I spent some time chatting with one of the minds behind the haunt.  Already, they are thinking ahead to how to change their haunt and improve it.  As it is, the haunt runs about 15 minutes, and will set you back $11.00.  If you show your ticket at the bar after the haunt, you get a free soda and a souvenir black light reactive cup that celebrates the haunt.  What's more intriguing than an $11.00 haunt?  An $11.00 haunt that donates 10% of it's profits for the opening year to Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo of course!  The haunt is staffed by volunteers who also do their own makeup, and a company was on site taking pictures of people at a strategic point in the haunt, and you can buy them after you get out.  The makeup the volunteers did will give most attractions in Buffalo a run for their money.  Some of them even had prosthetic wounds and other gory details like slashed and believably bloody clothing.

District of the Dead is certainly a haunt to watch!  I'm excited to see what they come up with in the coming years of their operation, and I will most certainly add them to my list of yearly haunts.  It will be fun to watch them grow from a small operation to a larger one.  If you're in the area, I suggest you stop by.  In the meantime, bounce on over to Facebook.com where you can find their page, or just take this quick link.  You'll be in the loop about tickets, pricing, and hours.  You'll also be able to take a peek at the haunt in their picture section, and get updates on additional District of the Dead goings-on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Walking Dead - Season Opener



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by starbright31 via Flickr "]The Walking Dead - Comic-Con - July 22, 2011[/caption]


It started out so promising, it really did.  The survivors made it out of the CDC alive (most of them), and then they find themselves horrifically besieged on a highway by a bunch of walking dead.  Awesome!  They hide under cars and almost make it out undetected, until little Sophia decides to prematurely come out from her hiding place.  She goes running off persued by walkers.  Still doing pretty well.

Then what the hell happened?!

They survive the horde of zombies.  Fine.  They loose the little girl Sophia, also fine.  Shane talks about (read: whines) losing Lori and how he's going to leave the group.  Fine.  Then they find themselves looking for Sophia in a church, with a few faithful zombies inside.  The first thing I thought when I saw that was, "Oh boy - Danny Boyle anyone?"  That's right people.  It felt like a rip-off of 28 Days Later - where Cillian Murphy walks into the church and is chased by a few enterprising zombies.  Of course, they group easily overcomes this obstacle, but then they hang around a little bit while a few characters go through a pseudo-epiphany.

The ending cliffhanger did it's job and made up for some of the more ridiculous moments of the show.  I just wish they'd start working in some of the graphic novel material.  Unfortunately, I don't think we'll see "The Governor", and Shane is still certainly alive and kicking, so I'm not holding my breath.  I am hoping that the season stays away from kitschy moments - that would really kill the season.

The make-up effects were savagely on par with what I would expect some sun-dried zombies to be.  The actors were top-notch again, and the dialogue wasn't stuffy or over-bearing.

Overall - I'm pretty much in the same spot as where I left off.  Hurrah that there's a zombie TV show, boo-rah that it's not as awesome as it could be. (Oh, and I keep hearing rumors that there will be a video game based on the TV show.  Not thrilled about that at all.  Some things shouldn't be poisoned by a need to make money off of people who don't know a good zombie when they see one.)

As always - let me know what you think!

[polldaddy poll=5595984]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just so y'all know I'm not dead (yet)...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by Metal Chris via Flickr"]Haunted House[/caption]


Sorry for the hiatus!  My sociolinguistics class is going to kill me.  I've been walking around like a zombie.  Mrgh.

In any event - I wanted to review a haunt that I went to last weekend.  My friend Steve and I have a tradition that we've kept up for the last five or more years.  We both love Halloween and we both love going to haunted houses.  Every year, we go camping with the Astronomy Club (we're in the alumni chapter at the college we both went to) in the fall and in the summer.  Well, this fall we happened to be at camp during Columbus Day Weekend - which just happened to be the biggest weekend at Nightmare Hayrides.  Neither of us had ever been to this particular haunt before, but that made even more exciting.

Nightmare Hayrides boasts a haunted hayride, haunted barn and a corn maze.  When we got there, it was packed!  If you buy your ticket by 9:30 pm, they will continue to run the attractions until everyone who paid has gone through.

After buying tickets, we went through a haunted barn, and arrived at the hay ride.  After the ride, we had to go through another maze/haunted barn before we were done.  The set-up was pretty good.  It meant that there wasn't much waiting and down-time, which seems to plague most haunted attractions we've attended.  There was always something to do and see.  The first half of the barn had the spinning tunnel with colored lights that you go through on a metal bridge.  As usual, I got gleefully disoriented and sort of fell out of the other side.  In the haunted barn sections (which turned out to be a barn that was sectioned into two parts), people in masks followed you, or jumped out at you.  In that way it was pretty standard.

The hayride left something to be desired.  I found out that weekend that I prefer not to be touched by the actors at haunted attractions.  They didn't do anything wrong - but I think that the idea of almost being grabbed by a ghoul is scarier.  There were a few stops along the hayride path, where we watched a vignette, or someone jumped on the hayride and "attacked" us.  My favorite part was the tractor.  This huge tractor came after the hayride and tried to ram us on both sides.  For an added touch, there was a body attached to the front of the tractor.  Sheer awesomeness!

Overall, for $15.00 it was a great time.  It was a clear and cool night, and the apple cider afterward was the perfect ending.  It's worth going through, and it took longer than most haunted houses, which Steve and I have noted only take about 20 minutes to complete.

If you've been to Nightmare Hayrides - let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A spot of news...

For those of you who may not know, my life changed rather drastically last week.  On Monday, I began Graduate School (I'm again studying Foreign Language Education).  On Tuesday at 11:30 am, I received a call from a school that had interviewed me for a Spanish position.  As it turns out, the position became part time and the other teacher quit.  I accepted the position.  So far so good.

Wednesday morning, I went to school to have a meeting with the other teachers.  I was wondering why we would be meeting again that night for "orientation".  Silly me, it was actually parent orientation, or "Open House" as we said years ago when I was little.  Oops.  Luckily my room is off in a corner and nobody could find it, so I spent the night hanging up paper on my bulletin boards and worrying about how to arrange the desks.

 

All of this good news for me means that I will be swamped with work and unable to write posts with quite the frequency I was.  Don't worry - I'm not giving up, I just won't be on here as much for this semester.  (Oh - and also because I'm having to maintain a blog in Spanish for my linguistics class.)

Wish me luck and I will see you on the Dark Side of the Moon !

Monday, August 29, 2011

Not Your Average Joe



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia --> Author Joe Hill at a book signing."]Joe Hill at a book signing.[/caption]


I have now written this review three separate times.  I started with an anecdote about how I came to possess 20th Century Ghosts and Heart-Shaped Box, but I think that what I really want to tell you about is the author himself.  To be brief, I kept running into references about Joe Hill and what a master storyteller he was, but had neglected to add anything of his to my collection.  While in Maine, Chris picked me up 20th Century Ghosts, and afterwards a copy of Heart-Shaped Box arrived in my mailbox.

20th Century Ghosts is like no other book I've ever read in my entire life.  Reading it can be likened to an out of body experience.  From the very first page I got the strangest sensation.  I kept imagining myself sitting in a dark theater, just Hill and I, only he isn't there at first.  He miraculously shows up just as the beginning of the movie comes to life on the screen.  He's slouched down in the chair with a huge box of popcorn which he crunches noisily, eyes wide like saucers.  He is wearing a black knit sweater with a white undershirt and jeans, just a regular patron at a movie theater.  He leans over and tells me how excited he is and how he can't wait to see what will happen next.  As we continue to watch the movie (living depictions of the stories) I gradually forget he's with me.  Out of nowhere, he leans forward and says reverently through a mouthful of buttery popcorn, "Can you believe it?  I never saw that coming!"  Then he leans back in his seat and we continue watching, his eyes glued to the screen with a look of ecstasy on his face.  I'm sitting there slack-jawed, unable to tear my eyes away long enough to blink for fear of missing one little exquisite detail.

The entire book gives off this feeling.  The stories are written so naturally that the reader can't help but feel more like a spectator.  Each story seems to have a life of it's own, and just when you think you know the ending, it changes into a totally different scenario.  The stories are all wildly inventive, yet somehow plausible.  I think H.P. Lovecraft would have liked Joe Hill's stories - they are all based in a very real and vivid world, with just enough of the absurd as to make them heavily unsettling.

Joe Hill is more than a writer, he is a master puppeteer.  He knows just which strings to pull to strip away his reader's defenses.  With a few words he can pierce any reader straight to the heart.  When I first started reading 20th Century Ghosts, I thought I was in for the usual: the searching ravenous dead, or the unsettled dead that won't leave the living alone.  What I found was far worse.  Ghosts come in every shape and size, and there are none more terrifying than those that inhabit every human's conscience and soul.  Somehow Joe Hill knows exactly where to find those ghosts and how to bring them to light, often without the reader noticing until the pivotal moment.  Hill can elicit an emotional response over the weirdest and most absurd things, including an inflatable boy named Art, who just wants to live a normal life ("Pop Art"), or an idiot-savant who builds forts out of boxes that tunnel to different dimensions ("Voluntary Committal"), or a boy whose magical cape gives him the power to fly ("The Cape").

Every story is wonderful and worth reading, and any story that I did not understand I attribute to my being naive.  My favorite story is "Abraham's Boys", about the famed vampire-hunter Abraham Van Helsing.  I have always taken it for granted that Van Helsing was a vampire hunter, but Hill explores a darker side.  What if Van Helsing were crazy instead?  How would his children react to his old world ideas and superstitions?  Meanwhile, Hill introduces a question that I still find troubling to this day, How is no proof somehow proof that something exists?  It's like having a worm in your brain day after day, eating away at you.

Joe Hill is a peerless author.  He keeps a very interesting and informative website which can be found by following this link.  If you aren't currently reading his stories, you are cheating yourself of an irreplaceable experience.  Personally, I have only read 20th Century Ghosts, but I can assure you that I will be following Joe Hill very closely in the coming years.  His stories and visions are classics in the making.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm a traitor.



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="182" caption="Cover of The Dead Zone"]Cover of "The Dead Zone"[/caption]


I vehemently refused to go to another bookstore after Borders started it's closing.  I wouldn't go - none of them appealed to me.  I complained to everyone I knew about the "loss of my favorite place on Earth"...and where was I yesterday?  Barnes and Noble.  Looking for a specific book (incidentally, they don't have it and I very well may be returning to another location of the same store in a few hours).

I fell from grace over a discussion of  a Patrick Wilson film.  Apparently, he survives an accident and upon waking, discovers he has a connection to the world of the dead.  My dad started talking about Stephen King's "The Dead Zone" which had a similar plot.  I was surprised that my father was going on about what a great book it was, because he isn't as much of a reader as my mom or myself.

So now begins my feverish hunt for "The Dead Zone".  My mom has a copy in hardcover, but I don't want to read hers because I read in all the oddest places, and if something happens to her book I'm dead meat.  Plain and simple.

This may also be the start of another Stephen King hitch.  I have read tons of his books, but there are several (including the entire Dark Tower series) that I haven't read yet.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gadzooks !



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia --> Yarn !  OMG !"]K├Ątzchen[/caption]


Ha ha !  Chris and I just came back from a stroll among the shops and I saw my first yarn bomb!  For those of you who don't know what a "yarn bomb" is, it's a random piece of knit or crochet that covers something.  This particular yarn bomb was a bit of crochet around a pole.  The pole was part of a gate, and the yarn bomb covered the bottom.  It made the pole look like it had a claw foot.  So cool!  If you're unfamiliar with the results of yarn bombing, then check out this link to my google.com search: yarn bomb.

We tried Moxie - the much maligned soda of Maine.  It was touted by our Duck Boat tour guide as a mix of "dirt and cough syrup".  Apparently us Buffalonians are more resillient - it tasted like thin root beer with a hint of anise.  Not bad.

I thought I would throw that out there - just saying.

P.S.  Here is a link to some other Maine Monster Foot Yarn Bombing. The pictures are from Freeport, Maine, where I was staying.  Maybe next year I will yarn bomb my own city.  :)  Thanks for the comment, Rose !  I never would have looked that up if you hadn't mentioned the holiday.

Brian Keene - part 2!



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="186" caption="Cover of City Of The Dead --> This is the cover of my book as well :)"]Cover of "City Of The Dead"[/caption]


I finished "City of the Dead" on the car ride to Maine the other day, and I figured I should write about it now.  In another week or two things will get very hectic.  I will hopefully be returning to school to get my master's, and I will have other things taking up my limited time.  Therefore, while it's still fresh in my mind, I'm going to write as many reviews as I can remember (I'm fairly behind in my reviews).

"City of the Dead" is the thrilling conclusion to "The Rising", both of which are written by Brian Keene.  I'm not going to go into detail, since the last book ended so abruptly, and this book starts right away with the story.  What I will say is that we lose some good characters, and we gain a few along the way.  Character growth for those still (un)lucky enough to survive continues at a natural and realistic pace.

This book finds the demon-lord Ob continuing to amass his forces for the war against all life forms and their Creator.  He continues to have dry, morbid, and sarcastic humor.  I'm not going to lie - I really do enjoy his quips.  Some people have criticized Keene for it, but I have to admit, it really does enrich the story.  I wouldn't figure that a timeless demon-lord would always speak in an older style, especially when you figure that the bodies these demons are possessing are full of our current language and skills.  It stands to reason that they would update their language as well.

This book finds a group of survivors trapped in an impregnable New York City skyscraper.  The skyscraper was designed to withstand any kind of biological, terrorist, or natural attack/disaster that could ever happen.  The designer, Ramsey, has locked himself up inside the skyscraper, and he sends out forces to look for survivors daily.  Unfortunately for everyone else in the tower, he has a messiah complex, which I guess isn't unusual since his building is named Ramsey Towers.  He fancies him their ultimate savior, and comes to think that they adore him.  Most of the people living in the skyscraper are very diverse, with their own tales of woe and their own characteristics.  It's fun to guess who will be a main character, and who will become zombie fodder.  Keene writes so convincingly and with such back story that it's hard to decide who is a main character and who is not.

The climax of the story is truly unforgettable.  The zombies pitch and epic battle, and humanity's last struggle is no less epic.  The stories of all the characters intertwine, and you find yourself rooting for almost everyone.  Since the situation has become more dire in this book, there are virtually no rape scenes, which makes it an easier book to read.

Again, the book is a work of pulp fiction, so please don't expect it to be a classic for the ages.  "City of the Dead" is highly entertaining and worth reading, and I suggest it to anyone who wants to read something that isn't the usual zombie book.  Take nothing for granted, and make sure you have a few hours to spare - once you pick this book up you won't want to put it down!

Since I'm on a roll...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="293" caption="Image via Wikipedia --> This is the cover of my book.  :)"]Recent paperback cover[/caption]


...I figured I'd write a review.  Before leaving for Maine, I decided to start Brian Keene's "The Rising".  It was recommended to me by a patron of the gym where I used to work.  Unfortunately it's taken me some time to not only find decent copies of the books, but to read them.  The person that recommended them to me said that they weren't a typical zombie story, and that I should have an open mind.  That was certainly the understatement of the year!

"The Rising" is the story of a man named Jim who sets out to save his son from sentient zombies.  The zombies are just human bodies inhabited by the Siqqusim, a  special type of demon with a vendetta towards God.  Apparently they were upset about being thrown out of Heaven and wanted to make God pay by wiping out all of creation.  At the outset, that seems like a really difficult undertaking.  However, the Siqqusim are led by a stylish leader named Ob, who happens to have two other brothers in the Void who are dying to get out and wreak havoc.  The destruction of the Earth is supposed to happen in three waves: Ob comes along and possesses/wipes out humans and animals, when that is done his brother Ab is free to take over plant and insect life, and after that their third brother (forgive me for forgetting his name) and his demons walk across spreading a killer fire.

It's alright that I've spoiled the demon take-over plot for you, as there is plenty of excitement to be gleaned from the characters themselves.  There's Jim and Danny - father and son, but also the main driving characters.  Danny is locked in an attic and his father is rushing to save him.  Jim meets Martin the preacher along the way, and Martin serves as his companion and spiritual guide along the way (but in a good sense - not annoying).  Baker is a scientist that was responsible for the scientific experiment that let loose the demons from the Void.  Along the way Baker becomes the guardian of a deaf man named Worm.  Frankie is a hooker trying to kick a heroin habit, and she's plagued with memories of her still-born child.  There are some rather sick military men that the characters run into, but in keeping with my usually PG-rated reviews, I will leave it at that.  There are many other interesting characters, and nobody seems superfluous.

I enjoyed the book overall, however there were a few things I could have done without.  Keene seems to go out of his way to showcase just how many bad men appear to be left after the initial zombie rising.  There are far too many rape scenes and general abuse scenes.  I understand that it was commonplace in the universe he created, and it certainly gives an added emotional aspect, but I think in some ways it wasn't necessary.  To be honest, that is my only criticism of the book.  (I read the second book, and it didn't continue into "City of the Dead").

On the good side, Keene's characters are well constructed, and show a natural growth progression.  Each character develops as the series goes on, some in good ways, and others in bad ways.  In other reviews that I have read, the dialog has been criticized as being juvenile and predictable.  I have spent the last few days listening closely to those around me and have come to the conclusion that there isn't really that much original language.  Most people seem to have communicative patterns, phrases that they repeat or words that they use often.  People who are around each other tend to pick up on that language.  My boyfriend Chris uses "Riight?!" all the time.  When we were first dating, I thought I would go mad if I heard it one more time.  Guess who also says it now?  Keene picked language and phrases that fit the characters.  For instance, there is a scene where the pimps are chasing Frankie through a zombie zoo (literally, all the animals are dead).  Of course the pimps aren't going to be yelling, "Wherefore art thou, o strumpet?"  They're going to be using regular old language from our current century, and befitting their status as pimps.

"The Rising" was very much in the pulp style.  Using the definition at TheVintage Libarary, it is "entertainment for the masses".  That's right people - it's not meant to be used in a college class.  The average reader is supposed to be able to pick up the novel and enjoy it - and that's just what I did.  If you're looking for an deep and meaningful look at human nature in a time of stress, pass this book on.  However, if you're looking for a book that's pure zombie-bashing fun, pick up Brian Keene's "The Rising" today!

P.S.  At the end of this book, I wound up yelling, "What?!  You can't end a book like that!  That's not fair!" (even though I had the sequel on the table next to me).  Just be warned.  It's one of the most gut-wrenching endings I've read so far.  It's also the reason why I wait for multiple books to come out in a series before I read them.

Hello from King-land!



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia --> Freeport, Maine"]The Street in Freeport, Maine[/caption]


I'm writing this post from Freeport, Maine.  The Harraseeket Inn, to be exact.  I'm on a few day vacation with my boyfriend Chris and his parents.  I figured it would be blasphemous not to write a post from the state that spawned the great Stephen King.  In a totally personal side note, I have wanted to visit Maine my entire life.  When I was a kid, I dreamed that I would move to Maine, live in a house by the sea, and write.  I would also speak loads of Spanish and wear cable knit sweaters year 'round since it's always winter in Maine.  (Ha ha - it's about 78 degrees out today, and I keep hearing French - proximity to Canada has that effect.)

The first stop of the trip was Portland, Maine.  According to my internet research, Portland is the city in which King was born.  During the amphibious Duck Boat tour, they pointed out an island that King frequents, and has used as his muse for some time.  Other highlights of that particular city include the house of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and of course, the ocean.  The city is really beautiful, and unlike my hometown of Buffalo, New York, there aren't very many chain stores.  The streets are populated by independent shops, one of my favorites being Fetch - where you can find unique dog and cat items.  We had burgers at Silly's, which boasts a "Zombie Burger" - vegan burger with a boat ton of spicy sauce, pineapple, and assorted veggies.  (Sorry folks - I'm a wuss when it comes to spice, so I had the regular burger and the to-die-for sweet potato fries).

Our next stop was my current location - Freeport, Maine.  According to the maps, I am 117 miles away from Stephen King's current residence in Bangor, Maine.  The Harraseeket Inn offers an afternoon tea service, and pristine rooms.  Chris and I took advantage of the indoor pool last night - which was heated, thankfully.  This morning while walking the streets we came across a dog parade heading into the L.L. Bean's store.

Maine has been everything I wanted it to be, and even a little I wasn't expecting.  I didn't expect to find a place that was virtually untouched by chain stores.  Don't get me wrong - I do like my Tim Horton's, but it's nice to see new places and try new foods as well.  Being an avid plant-watcher, I noticed the roadside bushes are different here.  They are heartier, and look more like pine trees.  Speaking of which, this place is covered in pines!  I think I prefer it to my own state, which is populated by scruffy looking trees during the summer.

On a horror note, last night I ate the peach and raspberry crisp at the tavern in the Harraseeket Inn.  It tasted divine, but I had trouble swallowing the crisp.  I kid you not - it looked like it came straight from the special effects department that had worked on Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive".  Egads!  Also on the topic of food, there is an ice cream shop down the way that serves authentic lobster ice cream.  Worth mentioning, but I'm afraid I lack the stomach to be able to try it (for once having an allergy to milk and all milk products seems to be worthwhile).

Maine is a great place to go if you have food allergies.  They are very accomodating to those suffering from gluten issues and also from milk issues, like me.  The menus here offer a plethora of gluten-free and vegan options.  It would be nice if some of the other states would catch on to this idea.

The Borders Bookstore up here is well-stocked.  While Chris and I were perusing the shelves, I found a few items that I didn't know existed.  Chris picked up a few items for me - "Songs of Love and Death" (a star-crossed lover's anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois), and "20th Century Ghosts" (a Joe Hill anthology - also fitting as he is the son of Stephen King).  I miss Borders already.  At an independent bookshop in Freeport, Chris gifted me "Henry the VIII, Wolfman" (an A.E. Moorat tale).  Apparently he's aware that the way to his lady friend's heart is through the bookstore.

Maine is a city I recommend everyone visit at least once in their lifetime.  Where it feasable for myself and for Chris to move here and take up permanent residence, I would certainly pack today.  Unfortunately, I need to get a master's degree soon, and neither Chris nor I have any interest in moving so far away from our families.  It was about an 8 hour ride up here.  I'm glad to have been able to scratch the "visit Maine" article from my bucket list.  Now on to the next one - become a writer!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jewelry people, I did not forget you...

Industrial Blood Stone Choker

In continuing with my creepy crafting series of posts, I would now like to offer up one for the jewelry makers.  Again, if you know of any other books, please feel free to post on the comments or message me directly !

Again, I will post more on here as I see them.  It may also be of interest to check out general crafting books, as they will no doubt offer some jewelry patterns as well.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Zombie 5K ?!



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Original caption from American army: "Cam...[/caption]


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 !

Those bewitched...

Harry Potter Box Side

Those of you with a flair for the witchy will find the following books intriguing.  As with all of the other craft posts, feel free to drop me a message or add another book via the comments section.  Links are added for amazon.com so that you can peruse them, although that isn't the only place to find them.

For the knitter...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - Knitting needles, aka things I don't know how to use yet."]Description: Photograph of knitting needles So...[/caption]


Here are the creepy knit pattern books that I have come across.  Links to amazon.com provided so you can peruse the books.  If you know of any others, please let me know!

Sorry, again, not many suggestions here that I have found.

Scary crochet patterns...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Homemade Cthulhu, adapted from pattern in Cree...[/caption]


This post does not include the many patterns you can find for free online.  I don't want to post those just yet, because I want to make sure that I give proper credit to those brave men and women who came up with them.  Again, links to amazon.com are provided.

Not too many of these types of books out there yet, but let's hope!

For the cook...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="261" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "Ghoulish Goodies: Creature Feat...[/caption]


Here is a list of cook books that cater to the macabre.  If you know of any others, please feel free to message me or use the comment option to share with everyone.

I added links to the pages on amazon.com, but as always you can find them at other stores and retailers.

 

 

 

 

 

For the Frankenstein in all of us...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia -   Aaah, the Cthulhu crochet pattern.  <3"]Homemade Cthulhu, adapted from pattern in Cree...[/caption]


Today I'm going to do a series of posts that cater to the crafting crowd.  I have noticed that the subject of the macabre has come up in various art forms and is now readily available for the artsy person to create.  This should help you with any parties you are throwing this coming October.  (Or if you're just creepy year-round like I am, you could do these crafts just for giggles).  If you know of any other books, please share them with me!

All of the following posts will be categorized by type of craft, and filed away under the "Arts and Crafts" section of this blog.  Enjoy !

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Moody series...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="160" caption="Image by hichako via Flickr"]Autumn leaves[/caption]


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!

Monday, July 25, 2011

"The Walking Dead" - TV Series



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by gluetree via Flickr - From left to right Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Jon Bernthal from Comic-con's The Walking Dead panel.  The season 2 trailer debuted this year at Comic-con."]Walking Dead panel[/caption]


AMC debuted it's highly anticipated zombie series last year on Halloween.  My family and I huddled together in the darkness of our living room, staring in rapt attention at the TV as zombie after zombie shuffled across the screen.  It was sheer brilliance.  The zombies were so real you could almost smell their foul putrescence, each one more gruesome than the last.

I had high hopes for the season, but it didn't pan out.  In retrospect, I think it was my fault.  I had hoped that the show would follow the books.  They were such a wealth of ideas it would be crazy not to use the material.  Instead, the show saw survivor Rick Grimes dragging his wife, son, and other survivors to the Center for Disease Control.  There they found some interesting facts about the zombie virus, and we got to see an x-ray movie of a zombie.  Cool, but not as awesome as some of the scenes in the book.

On the other hand, my gripes aside, the casting was beyond perfect!  Hero Rick Grimes is played to perfection by Andrew Lincoln, who seems to not only portray Rick's strength but simultaneously bring an air of unspoken uncertainty and insecurity.  After all - he's not Superman.  He's a man who is lucky to have his wife and son still alive, and he's fully aware of it every moment that they survive.  His guilt-stricken and confused best friend Shane is played by Jon Bernthal, who leaves nothing to be desired in the role of friend-turned-foe.  Unfaithful wife Lori is given life by Sarah Wayne Callies.  The other characters are perfect to the point of being creepy.  They look almost identical to their characters, right down to their facial expressions.

Thankfully, AMC chose not to inundate the series with cheesy celebrity cameos.  I can't speak for other viewers, but I know I'd rather have people starting their careers.  I don't want to watch and say, "Oh wait, I know that person".  To me, that ruins the apocalypse because you know that actor or actress as someone else.  The one exception is Norman Reedus, of "Boondock Saints" fame.  It had been so many years since he was in that iconic movie that he was not immediately recognizable to me.

As the debut of "The Walking Dead" Season 2 gets closer I find myself excited.  The trailer for the new season can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OZ0mu8Ey6A and you NEED to watch it right now.  It's going to be amazing.  I'm back on board fully and counting down the days.  When the season debut is televised, I will be right there, glued to my chair and devouring every frame.

"The Walking Dead" - Graphic Novel



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by Walt Jabsco via Flickr - The sword-wielding woman would be Michonne.  She's a wild one who makes some questionable decisions in the series, but remains an interesting character altogether."]The Walking Dead[/caption]


Almost a year ago I read "The Walking Dead: Compendium 1" which was books 1-48).  I read it in anticipation of the beginning of the AMC show of the same name.  Incidentally, "The Walking Dead" was also the first graphic novel series I had read, so it was a new experience for me all the way around.  As with almost everything that becomes a TV show or movie, I wanted to experience it first in print.  I didn't want to be

I immediately fell in love with the story of "The Walking Dead".  The people were realistic, you could almost expect them to walk right off the page and into your life.  There were characters that fit specific stereotypes, but not so much that it caused them to be one dimensional.  The story never lagged - character conflict kept the story going when the zombies weren't present.  There was never a superfluous moment.

The artwork in the book is fantastic.  The angle from frame to frame changes enough to give you an almost panoramic feel.  There are moments in the book when you can close your eyes and almost imagine a 360 degree view of where the characters are standing.  Moore and Aldard have created characters that look different enough that it's easy to tell from frame to frame who is speaking.  In later non-"Walking Dead" graphic novels I've read, I have found it almost impossible to figure out who is who.  Moore and Aldard have also created terrifying frames.  They seem to know just which moment to depict, whether it's a lone zombie sneaking up on someone or a horde descending on something.

I am currently waiting for Compendium 2 before moving onward.  Each book is so exciting and written so well it's easily to fly through it in a few hours (after all, books 1-48 only took me a weekend).  I would have happily paid more money if they would have included the covers for the individual books in the Compendium.  They do distinguish between the individual books, but I don't want to have to go back and buy the covers separately.  I'd rather have them where they belong, which is with the main book.

AMC's "The Walking Dead" will be back in October - I heard on October 16th, but that may change.  Do yourself a favor and go out and get the Compendium.  It's a great book in and of itself, but it also makes a great companion for the show (warning - the show doesn't follow the book).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bird brained over Twitter



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Image via CrunchBase"]Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...[/caption]


I am sorry in advance.  This post has absolutely nothing to do with horror cinema, literature, art, food, or culture.  It's just something I was ruminating on while laying in bed last night.  I had the urge to say it somewhere, if only just to get it out.  Bear with me.

I withheld the urge to join Twitter for awhile.  Really, I did.  When I joined, it was at the behest of a communications guru at one of my jobs.  She said it would improve visitor numbers at my blog.  Needless to say - I joined toute de suite and here I am on Twitter.  I did my thing - found a bunch of celebrities and other people to follow, and I write my own messages.

Last night I had the craziest epiphany.  I know nothing about Twitter and the Digital Age, despite having lived through the inception of the internet and the rise of the home computer.  Or should I say, the rise of the ubiquitous computer?  Anyway, I thought that with Twitter, one was supposed to be out living their life, occasionally posting a message about what they were doing, or had done.  It seems I am beyond gravely mistaken.  While reading several accounts I follow, it dawned on me that I'm supposed to be living my life around my Tweets, and that life is what happens while you're updating your status.  Apparently, Ed from "Shaun of the Dead" had the right idea.  Who knew?

 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eh...the jury is out.



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - A pub - pictured since the family witnesses a fatal stabbing in a pub one night."]Vernon Pub, Liverpool[/caption]


I resisted the urge to buy David Moody's "Hater" for awhile.  Truth be told?  It just didn't seem that interesting.  The description on the back of the book about violent people didn't really make me want to pick it up - which was a terrible shame because the cover of the book rocks.

However, I finally caved in, purchased the book (and its sequel), and read "Hater".  "Hater" begins with a series of vignettes about different people suddenly becoming afraid of those around them, and in self defense, they kill whoever happens to be the momentary source of the paranoia.  Interesting and engaging beginning.  But then something happens - you meet the guy who will become the main character, and the book seems downhill from there.  He's a henpecked nebbish with two (literally) screaming brat children who don't ever seem to stop nagging, and a wife whose every appearance is sure to be stomach-turning.  As the reader, you are drug through this poor sod's life as he encounters the beginning of the end of civilization.  On the news, more and more violent attacks are occurring, until he and his wife start to see things happening in their own neighborhood.

The premise isn't bad, the execution isn't bad, it's the family that kills "Hater".  By the time the main character becomes one of the haters and turns on his family, the reader is left all but wishing he'd do something to shut the kids up.  Every single time the children make an appearance, they are whining, sniveling, or clamoring for something the main character doesn't have the money to buy for them.  His wife is an unhelpful partner who often asks him just why he doesn't have the money to go out for ice cream, or the other costly extras of life.  As far as I'm concerned, he gains so much more from turning into a hater than he ever had as a normal person.

The book isn't really a zombie book as such, and I'm more than a little peeved that it has been marketed as such, but it is what it is.  I bought the second book, "Dog Blood" and fully intend to read the third book when it's published (I haven't read "Dog Blood" yet).  When I read a series I generally try and read all of the books, if only because the author has more to say on the subject.  I don't feel that it is fair to judge a whole series based on a book or two.

As a positive, I'm interested in seeing where Moody decides to take the plot, especially since he reveals the reason for the sudden and violent turn that everyone in the world has taken.  No - I'm not spoiling it for you!  Go read the book!

 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Moving...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Aloe aristata[/caption]


Just a head's up to everyone...my family and I just moved into a new house yesterday and we're still unpacking and such.  The internet is not up yet - I'm using internet pirated from my boyfriend.  Hopefully within a week or two I will be up and running again.  I can still get e-mail via my phone if anyone needs me.  Ciao!

 

P.S.  The 17 houseplants moved without incident as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Before "The Walking Dead"...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - not quite "DEADWORLD" but better than I can draw !"]Zombie[/caption]


...there was "DEADWORLD" (or so they tell me).  I bought the DEADWORLD OMNIBUS a few months ago based on the strength of the cover - it looked awesome.  There are a horde of water color zombies whose features are just barely recognizable.

Immediately "DEADWORLD" distinguishes itself from the typical zombie story.  King Zombie is free from Hell and looking for a specific man and a specific book that can help him to open wide the gates of Hell.  When that task is complete, all the horrors of Hell will walk the Earth and they will kill everything in their path.  Each book in the series adds new characters and new plot twists that keep the story engaging, and the reader guessing.

"DEADWORLD" really shines in its different artists.  Each book has been inked and created by a different mix of people, and the vast differences in styles are strangely complementary.  Some drawings are frantic and sparse and others use more contrast between stark white and deep black.  The different drawings assist the reader in switching from viewpoint to viewpoint within the story.

King Zombie is drawn mostly the same in each book, but with enough differences to fit in well with the overall art.  My favorite part of King Zombie is his attitude: fully badass and cheeky.  He hides beneath shades, and rides around on a motorcycle with a bandanna on his head.  His lines are occasionally amusing - yet I found myself feeling guilty for chuckling along with him.  Admittedly, sometimes I wound up rooting for the old sack of bones (oops - I know I should have like the survivors more, but King Zombie definitely has more interesting moments).

The zombie formula is also different in "DEADWORLD".  The zombies have added power and a definite hierarchy, in part from their book, and also in part from their direct link to Hell.  They are able to transfer into different bodies, mind-talk from far away, and all heed the call of King Zombie.  Definitely good stuff (from a literary point, anyway).

"DEADWORLD OMNIBUS" is a fairly quick read (named OMNIBUS because it contains all the DEADWORLD books to date), so if you like graphic awesomeness you need to add this to your collection.

 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Severe story withdrawal...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - Throughout the book series I kept reading about a "balaclava" but had no idea what it was.  Apparently the versatile piece of headgear in these silly pictures is a "balaclava".  "]Different ways of wearing a balaclava.[/caption]


I don't know which is worse - waiting for a new book to come out in a series, or having a great book end and wishing for more.  I guess it all depends on how close you are to the release of the next book, doesn't it?  I was lucky enough to find Joseph Talluto's "White Flag of the Dead" series early enough to not be too far behind, but late enough to get in two volumes before the third came out.  (Another caution:  If you bought the self published version - you're waiting for the second book.  If you're like me and you own the Severed Press editions, you are going to read "White Flag of the Dead", then progress to "Taking it Back", then progress to nail biting and anticipating until the third volume comes out.)

I finished "Taking it Back" a few days ago but haven't gotten a chance to really post about it until now.  "Taking it Back" continued the story of survivor John Talon and his band of allies as they try to establish a network of surviving towns along a train track.  Talluto surprises and delights with several close-calls and the usual band of miscreant survivors who seem hell-bent on causing as much additional misery as they possibly can.

Talluto's growth as a writer is heavily evident in this section of the book.  Not only does he expound on previously created characters, but introduces an interesting array of other survivors.  I was pleased to see the addition of a femme fatale, just because it avoids the usual stereotype of the woman as the helpless wench that just gets in the way.  Sarah, John's closest female ally, is also another nice stereotype killer.  Along the way we lose a few established characters - not too many, but just enough to make the story believable, which is always a good thing.  (Relax - it's nobody you've probably become terribly attached to anyway...or is it?)

The action begins and doesn't stop.  My favorite part is the roaming, ravenous, grey cloud that comes sweeping towards an unsuspecting town.  What is it?  A hoard of dead.  When do they reach the town?  TOO SOON.  The obstacles that the townspeople and other survivors concoct for the dead are really fascinating - I'm absolutely positive that I'm doomed if there is a zombie apocalypse.  I am bereft of certain common sense, let alone using boxcars to create a fence!  Let alone having the skills to operate heavy machinery...

"Taking it Back" is by no means devoid of creepy moments.  I chuckled out loud when John went walking with (Tommy I think?) through a recreation center that was turned into a first aid station.  Obviously there would be zombies...but still they continue deeper into the building.  They find about a hundred or so cots and a mess of blood, and they respond by flashing their lights around...only to illuminate about 100 starving ghouls who proceed to give chase.  Thrilling scene, but by no means the best!

If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon and started reading these books, you really need to!  They are fascinating and intriguing.  Joseph Talluto is a great story teller that never ceases to surprise.  Any self respecting zombiephile needs to add "Taking it Back" to their collection.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Abounding Disappointment



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Anthony Hopkins[/caption]


I have been looking forward to "The Rite" since I saw the first commercial.  Anthony Hopkins doesn't make bad movies...nor does Alice Braga (loved her in "Predators" and "I Am Legend").  This will be the first time I completely give away everything about a movie.

Based on the previews I thought it was going to be amazing.  Terror, possession, deep soul rending spirituality...the actual movie?  Not so much.  It took absolutely forever for the movie to get rolling.  I never thought it would end.  At first, I thought it was the kind of movie that you put on while cooking or doing homework, then I decided there wasn't enough plot to actually do that.

Here's the plot - kid with baggage grows up in his father's house which is attached to a funeral home (the family business).  His mother died when he was young, and he decided he didn't believe in God anymore.  He doesn't want to be a mortician - so he becomes a priest.  His lack of faith and an accident cause him to go to Rome to study to be an exorcist.  He is introduced to Alice Braga (a journalist in his exorcism class) and Anthony Hopkins (the best and most prolific exorcist in all of Italy.)  There, he apprentices with Hopkins and sees a variety of phenomenon (strange bites, horses with red eyes, demon infested individuals telling the unknown).  In short order, Hopkins becomes possessed and it's up to the unbelieving rookie to exorcise him.  The unbeliever finds faith in what is probably the best ten minutes of the whole film, and then...wait for it...wait for it...he becomes a regular priest post-exorcism.  Seriously?!  You regain your faith, become an awesome exorcist - and that's what you do with yourself?!  (Oh - and Hopkins recovers, and Braga writes an article on exorcism.)

Oh, it should be mentioned that Rutger Hauer had a hand in the movie (he starred in it).

Overall, it wasn't that great of a movie.  The ending was good, but not enough that I want to buy the movie.  The special effects were ok, but the crew overlooked many opportunities for a cheesy jump from the audience.  To be fair, Colin O'Donoghue was pretty good as the unbelieving priest-in-training.  "The Rite" certainly wasn't the worst movie I have ever seen, but it was by no means the thriller I was expecting.  Better luck next time!

 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Zombie Pulp (fiction - not puree)



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="198" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "Down the Road: A Zombie Horror ...[/caption]


It seems to me that while teachers may not garner the respect they deserve in every arena in life, they are standouts in the zombie genre. Bowie Ibarra gives us yet another tale of an educator surviving the apocalypse long enough to be the main character of a book.

I had heard about Bowie Ibarra's "Down the Road" awhile ago, and it had been on my list to read.  It kept getting pushed back (I'm not sure why) until one day when I was looking at my e-mail.  Low and behold !  There is a second book.  My first thought was:  Damn.  I'm behind on yet another series.  Then I figured it didn't matter and purchased it - and I'm super glad I did !

The story follows the trials, tribulations, and heartbreak of George - a teacher desperately trying to reach his family.  The fact that he's stuck in a zombie apocalypse in the first place is at once unfair considering he has just lost his fiancee to a brutal murder a few months prior.  Things only seem to get worse just when they get better.  Eventually he gets stuck in a FEMA camp when he comes to a checkpoint in the road and is told if he doesn't comply he will be "neutralized".  At the FEMA camp, the people segregate by race and create gangs.  Amidst the chaos, several soldiers who were supposed to protect the people actually begin killing them as "examples".  It seems there are no end of tragedies in this camp, including rape, murder, massive fights, and the obvious - zombie outbreak.  (Apparently nobody in charge is smart enough not to admit those who have bites.  Go figure.)

I should also note that the sex in this book didn't seem out of place or unneccessary.  It fit the story, especially considering that according to David Moody on the cover it's "zombie pulp fiction".  The book isn't overly showy with scenes of daring kung-fu or anything like that.  It's simple and resonates with the reader.  If I were good with a gun, I could almost see myself in a similar situation (clumsiness and end-of-the-world panic aside).

One of my favorite aspects of Ibarra's writing I can't even really write about as it gives away too much of the ending.  What I can tell you is that the ending of the story is very unusual in that it looks at two different character's perspectives almost simultaneously.  If I wanted to recreate the same effect, I know I could't do it.  Ibarra has absolutely perfected the technique.  Another unique trait was the speed of the book.  Most books in the zombie genre either have a frantic pace or they change paces from relaxed to the-horde-is-on-your-doorstep panic.  For the most part, "Down the Road"  was evenly paced, with a few curve balls thrown in to remind the reader it was still the zombie apocalypse.  If I didn't know better (and maybe I don't) I would say Ibarra was using the zombie genre to critique human nature, and our priorities during a crisis.  A prime example would be the FEMA camp and the drug infested safe zone in which George is later invited to take shelter.  Honestly - who has time for drugs when the world is crawling, shambling, and slavering at your doorstep?

I was pleasantly surprised with "Down the Road" and I look forward to purchasing the next book and reading it soon.  I'm also looking forward to reading any other material Ibarra puts out on the same subject.

Death falls



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Cover of Empire: A Zombie Novel"]Cover of "Empire: A Zombie Novel"[/caption]


I finished reading David Dunwoody's "Empire's End" a few weeks ago but haven't been able to post anything because I've been so doggone busy writing exams.  I feel rather bad about this because it really is a great book.

The first book, "Empire" was an impulse purchase at a local bookstore.  When I saw online that the second book had come out, my eyes bugged out and I immediately bought it.  It arrived in the mail pretty soon and I was able to start it tout suite.

I was surprised at how easily I was able to pick up on the story again, after having read the first story so long ago.  In many ways, "Empire's End" feels more like a prequel than a sequel.  There is more background on Eviscerato, the circus ringleader who becomes infected, as well as on the plague itself.  My edition of the book also included a story about how the plague began and a re-print of Grinning Samuel.  I think the coolest part was how the supplemental material connected to the first and second books.  Everything made sense.

Dunwoody explores the origins of Death and what happens when it becomes more than an anthropomorphic personification, as well as what happened to some of the original survivors.  There is a boat-ton of gore and zombies (just how I like it!) as well as some new interesting characters.

If I were to pick the scariest thing about the book - Eviscerato's band of miscreant circus performers turned zombie horde.  Think Left 4 Dead - only worse.  There's a flame-thrower, a petrified man, and all sorts of others.  Scary stuff - especially considering that head honcho Eviscerato is a sentient zombie, capable of consciously amassing a zombie army and laying siege to a city.

There was one problem, however.  At the end of the book, I didn't understand Lily's relationship to Death.  (I'm sorry, Mr. Dunwoody - sometimes I miss things.)  That didn't deter me from enjoying this book.

On the other hand, I really loved how easy it was to transition from one set of characters to another within the story.  Dunwoody wrote about the characters long enough to advance the plot, and then when he reaches a cliffhanger - it's off to another set of characters.  In some books it's hard to keep track of who people are, and why I should care about them, and by the time I know it's time to read about other forgettable characters.  This certainly isn't the case with "Empire's End".

I haven't heard any news yet about a third "Empire" book, but I'm really hoping that one is written.  And soon!  I think even though the loose ends were tied up, there is still room to move within the "Empire" world.

"Empire's End" was a fitting and natural continuation of the first book, and I highly recommend reading both (and then joining me in bugging the author to write a third!)