The Reading List, September 18, 2015

reading_listI know. It has been a while. Between the record company stuff (working on a Bandcamp store and helping with the prep for a new album), going through a massive decluttering binge and all my usual stuff, I have been busy.

I am going to get better about blogging more frequently, I promise. I have been busy reading though… In fact, I have read so many that this issue of The Reading list is actually going to be a two-parter.

Last time I told you about a an ARC of a spy thriller trilogy I REALLY enjoyed. The book, Shadow Agenda,   is now out in one volume and it is a fantastic read! Tight writing, a compelling story and non-stop action make this thriller a real winner.  The author is a talented writer and veteran journalist writing under the pen name of Sam Powers.

I finished all of Suzan Harden’s Bloodlines series and I am currently pining away because she hasn’t released the new one yet. If you like magic, romance and an little heat with a lot of humor, you will enjoy this series.

The second book in John Monk’s Jenkins Cycle series, Fool’s Ride, was a great sequel! If you enjoyed the first one, I think you will definitely like this one. And, the third in the series, Hopper House (The Jenkins Cycle Book 3), was just released! This is such a fun series; I am very happy that he is continuing it. Each book stands alone, but you will really get a lot more out of them by reading in order.

Liana Brooks’ The Day Before  was a really, really fun read that you will want to do in one sitting!. CLONES!!! Explosions! Quantum physics! Need I say more? I am doing to do an audio review on this one soon, so stay tuned for that. The series has a new title, A Time & Shadows Mystery. The next book, titled  Convergence Point,  will be out November 24, 2015 and is available for pre-order now.

Since April, I have been working my way through Val McDermid’s Tony Jill and Carol Jordan profiler series.  I started with the first book in the series The Mermaids Singing (Tony Hill / Carol Jordan Book 1) and have worked my way through The Retribution (Tony Hill / Carol Jordan Book 7). The books are compelling procedurals but very dark. I still have Cross and Burn (Tony Hill / Carol Jordan Book 8)  yet to go, but I am saving that for a little later.  Book 9 in the series, Splinter the Silence,   is due out in December. These books are a joy to read, meticulously plotted, and first-rate examples of what crime novels should be. Because they are a bit lighter in tone, I have also added the first books in her Lindsay Gordon  and Kate Brannigan   mysteries to my TBR list.

I have started reading Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series. I really enjoyed the PBS series with Derek Jacobi. This series is slow going–I have only read the first book so far. I do a lot of my reading right before bed and Peters is a tough read if you are tired and sleepy.. Her prose is lovely, but she writes very long sentences. (One I counted had 69 words!)

I read the first book in Melissa F. Olson’s new Boundary Magic series, Boundary Crossed. This series is set in the same universe as her wonderful  Dead Spots series, but with a different cast of characters. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as as the previous books but I liked it enough that I am still going to give book 2, Boundary Lines, a try. Book 2 will be released on October 13, 2015.

T. Frohock has released a lovely new urban fantasy novella, In Midnight’s Silence: Los Nefilim: Part One. The series is FANTASTIC! Okay, I was one of her beta readers, but it really is very good! Go read the feedback on Amazon and Goodreads and see for yourself. It has angels and daimons and all sorts of nasty things hiding in subways. I think you will like it. The second book in the series, Without Light or Guide: Los Nefilim: Part Two,will be out November 3, 2015.

Well, that takes me up to about July on the reading list, LOL! Part two to come shortly.

In other news, I am working on putting together some audio book reviews. Think of it as a mini-podcast with book reviews. More news on that next time….

The Reading List: March 19, 2015

reading_listYeah, it has been a while since I posted. I am finally recovering (somewhat) from a nasty case of the Shingles. FYI: Shingles is PAINFUL! PSA: GET THE VACCINE!  I couldn’t have it because of my autoimmune disease. Like all vaccines, it doesn’t work for everyone, but if you can minimize your chances of getting this, do it. Trust me on this one, okay?

The good news is that I actually have managed to get a little reading done. I finished a few of the books that were on my list from last time and discovered some really good new ones.

Teresa Frohock’s The Broken Road was delightful. A very interesting world in this one where singing and magic combine.Teresa somehow manages to use lovely, almost lyrical prose and still write creepy, scary stories. Best of all, she has hinted that there will be probably be more books to come in this series! 🙂

Who is Dell Zero? by Carol Ervin was absolutely AMAZING! I love dystopian literature and this one did not disappoint. If you like Bradbury, Orwell and Huxley, I think you will find this book very satisfying. The style is somewhat understated which adds to the ambiance of the story. The book is written with an incredibly unique voice. The voice in this one has stayed with me and I am hoping to see more books from her in this vein. Please?

I gobbled down Linda Welch’s wonderful new urban fantasy series:  Downside Rain and the sequel, Baelfleur.  I’ve written before about Linda Welch’s books here and here. I love her Whisperings paranormal mystery series and am ready for a re-read of that series, too, especially as she is currently working on a new installment. YAY!

I enjoyed the first two books in the Gideon and Sirius procedural mystery series by Alan Russel, Burning Man and Guardians of the Night.  Part of the attraction is definitely the police dog, Sirius. I have to warn you, though, this leans to grim and dark–it is not a fluffy dog story. Book three is supposed to be in the works.

I did  keep to my goal of re-reading the first two books in the Senyaza series by Chrysoula Tzavelas: Matchbox Girls and Infinity Key. I also read the latest, Wolf Interval, which turned out to be my absolute favorite in the series.  There is amazing world building here – this is definitely a thinking person’s urban fantasy!  Chrysoula currently has a kickstarter going for a new, feminist fantasy series called Citadel in the Sky. The tagline: Kicking butt in nice dresses: a new epic tradition. Don’t you love it?

I have mostly been clearing books from my TBR list off the Kindle, but have somehow also gotten myself addicted to Suzan Harden’s Bloodlines series. Nothing like paranormal romance with humor (and witches, vampires, werewolves and zombies). Honestly, my doctors are totally getting used to hearing me laugh out loud in the waiting room. :-)April will soon be here with more books! I have already pre-ordered the first book in Liana Brooks new SF Jane Doe series, The Day Before,  due out April 28th. The second book, Convergence Point, is due out on November 24, 2015.

And finally, I received an ARC for a new spy thriller trilogy coming out in April that is just fantastic! More on that one next time….

 

The Reading List November 23, 2014

reading_listI finally finished my marathon read of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. My reading binge was inspired by a snarky comment in The New Yorker piece,  The Percy Jackson Problem. I can definitively say that these books do not “repel” adults. 🙂

Last night I finally got to start reading Teresa Frohock’s new novella, The Broken Road. I have been looking forward to this as she is one of my favorite authors. Her Miserere never leaves my Kindle, I re-read it so often.

I have been trying really hard not to buy any new books — at least, not until I have cleared off some of the finished books off of my Paperwhite. Notice that I said trying. A few came my way that I just couldn’t resist buying and adding to the TBR pile.

Yes, that is me not buying books…. You should see me on a spree, LOL!

I am still trying to find the time to re-read the Senyaza series by Chrysoula Tzavelas. I just got her latest, Wolf Interval,   from her recent Kickstarter. Since it has been a while since I read the earlier books, I want to start with Matchbox Girls and re-read them all the way through.

 

Review: Kick by John L. Monk

kick

This is the first in a series where I talk about some of the best books that I’ve discovered and read in 2014.

Earlier this year, one of my favorite authors, Linda Welch, did a post on her blog about a book by John L Monk called Kick. John Monk was a delightful interviewee with a sense of humor and I know Linda has great taste in books, so I bought the book.

Well! I devoured the book, tracked Mr. Monk down on Twitter and basically said, “Please, sir, may I have some more?” In fact, I have to confess, several times, I have actually tried to sit down and write a review. But, every time I would start to skim over the book for talking points for a review, I’d find myself re-reading the whole book all over again. Yeah, it is that good.  So this time, I am just going to jump in from memory and not tempt fate.

The book is about a dead guy by the name of Dan Jenkins who takes over and “rides” the bodies of serial killers. There are a few rules: he has to stop the killers from hurting anyone and at some point, Dan gets kicked out of the killer’s body. In exchange, Dan gets to live for a bit in the body he is riding.  Who Dan is and how the rules get changed in the middle of the game are part of the mystery (and the fun) of this book.

Understandably, Dexter and Quantum Leap seem to come up a lot when people review this book. But that doesn’t mean that you can oversimplify this book and sum it up as Sam leaps into Dexter. John L Monk is an exceptional writer and there is a lot of subtlety and nuance in this story.

Several things made this book totally amazing. Dan Jenkins’ character was so solid, so interesting and very easy to relate to.  He had a moral center but he wasn’t always a nice guy. Sometimes he was whiny and sometimes he was an ass. Sometimes, he tried so hard to do the right thing that my heart ached.  Tight writing kept Dan Jenkins’ voice strong, clear throughout the entire book. No matter where Dan was, or whatever body he was in, we never allowed to lose sight of his character. And because of the nature of  Jenkins’ circumstances, the conflicts that arose were really believable. That made it impossible to predict where the plot was going, which of course, made this book a lot of fun to read.

And did I mention that this was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award manuscript ? This is definitely a book worth reading!

It turns out that the very talented Mr. Monk has now written the sequel, Fool’s Ride (The Jenkins Cycle Book 2). You can find out more at John’s website, john-l-monk.com or follow him on Facebook.  John is also on Twitter as @johnlmonk and has been known to occasionally haunt Goodreads. 🙂

This is a tough novel to categorize. Fantasy? Paranormal Mystery? Thriller? Suspense? Let me know where you think it belongs in the comments!

Breeds by Keith C. Blackmore – a review

Breeds cover Breeds is a really tough book to write about with no spoilers! This was also one of those books: at times I found myself unable to put it down. At several points I was sobbing. I have been hesitant to start reading another book because thoughts about this one keep popping into my head. In short, this book was pretty amazing.

When you open the book, the first thing you see is a warning from the author that if you are a dog lover, do not read the book. I am an animal lover, but I decided to ignore the warning. And actually, I was glad that I did because what I expected to happen when I saw that warning was not what the book was about at all.  I really would have hated to have missed this story because of what might have been.

I love stories that surprise me, and this one did! This is not your typical werewolf story that starts off with the protagonist camping out in the woods, gets bitten by a wolf and things get crazy from there. This is one of the most original werewolf stories I have ever read, totally unique. I would rate this one right up there with Stephen King’s Silver Bullet and  Whitney Strieber’s The Wolven.

Inherent in the werewolf genre is the exploration of man’s animal nature and the conflict between the higher and lower selves. Keith Blackmore’s approach to this is both unique and multi-faceted. It is not as simple as just tossing around some anthropomorphic themes. This book forces us to look at questions of identity and community, and challenges assumptions about fitting in. It makes us ask which part of ourselves is the animal and which part the human…. and I am still not sure how I feel about the answer.

And, just for the record, I really would like to see a sequel to this. There is a some great back story here that would lend itself to more exploration. I’d love to hear more from and about some of the characters in this book. And filmmakers, if you are listening, this would make a GREAT movie!

Keith C Blackmore is probably doing for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland what Stephen King did for Maine  — not sure I am up for a visit to the area, LOL! He writes horror, sci-fi and heroic fantasy. He is the author of the excellent Mountain Man zombie series and currently working on Mountain Man 4. You can check out his Amazon Author Page here for more of his books. You can also visit his website at keithcblackmore.com.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was given to me by the author with no expectation of a review.

The Strain Trilogy: A Review

strainThis has been on my TBR list for a long time. I used to love reading vampire books. Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot and Robert McCammon’s They Thirst are my two favorite vampire tales ever. (Don’t judge me, but I like dark, gritty vampires, so I totally skipped the Twilight books!) I stopped reading for a while, simply because the overwhelming numbers of vampire stories out there put me off the genre for a bit.But the premise of this one sounded really interesting. And co-written by Guillermo del Toro? Who could resist?

I moved this up on my list because I found out that they are making this into a TV series on FX, scheduled for the summer of 2014. I wanted to read the books and give it time to settle before the series came out.

The Strain (Strain Trilogy): Five stars. I really enjoyed this novel. The characters were interesting to me. I loved the approach to vampirism as a virus and the CDC team involvement was a nice touch that really sold the story for me. The story was exciting and  fast paced and I found it hard to put down.

There were a couple of minor problems. There were a few typos. One was the repeated use of the word agonal. It is an unusual word to use repeatedly in a book. I also noted that sometimes the descriptions were a little stilted and didn’t flow. But since the story was so interesting, these were minor and I was really looking forward to the next book in the series.

The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy: 3.5 to 4 stars. I liked this book much less than the first. The authors spent way too much time rehashing material from the previous book. Much of the rest of it was spent in backstory. It  drug the pacing of the narrative down and made some parts extremely boring. And that repeated work use and stilted language I was saying was minor in the first book? There was a lot more in this one.

The Night Eternal (The Strain Trilogy): Three stars, tops, if I am being kind. By the last book, I was ready for this series to end. In fact, I think the only reason I finished this one was that I had invested all the time reading the first two books. But by the time I got to this last book,  I did not like who some of these characters had become. And, without giving anything away, I absolutely hated the ending.

The weakest parts of the books were the plot and the exposition. From a reader’s perspective, the overuse of words in the novels really bothered me.  Seriously, how many times can you use the word “agonal” in a series? It came up in each and every book. I found myself asking, “What was the editor of this series thinking?” Poorly written phrases. Typos. And here’s one for the bad writing textbooks: the author referred to the sky as “the troposphere over Manhattan.”  Technically correct, but… ugh. For a book from a major publisher (Harper Collins), the errors in this book were, IMHO, pretty amateur.

So, do I still want to watch the TV series based on these books? Yes, actually I do. I honestly think that the storyline for this would be much better suited for a movie or an ongoing TV series than it was for a book series. Done correctly and with the right casting, this could be a visually stunning post-apocalyptic TV show.

FX is hoping that fans’ recent interest in zombies will translate into viewers for The Strain. Here’s the teaser that ran during an episode of The Walking Dead:

Here’s a look at the trailer for the series:

Who’s for dinner? All those fine young cannibals in post-apocalyptic fiction

Cannibalism is one of those subjects that is a little touchy to talk about, at least in real life. As a culture, we have a dark fascination with real life stories involving it, whether it is the historical account of the Donner Party or the the real life events of the famous 1972 Andes Plane crash. Yet it is a subject that we seem to be more comfortable discussing in fiction rather than in fact…. In mainstream films, the topic is rare: One of the few films on the subject is the 1989 film Parents, a creepy, detached, understated piece set in 1950s suburbia,  where a young boy begins to suspect that his parents are cannibals.

Fiction seems to do a little better at tackling the subject. And, in science fiction particularly, cannibalism is not new at all. In fact, it is such a common trope in the genre, it has its own mention on the Cannibalism in Popular Culture Wiki page.

We see the trope in its traditional sense in the Time Machine, H.G. Wells’ classic novel which was published back in 1895. Wells describes two groups, the Eloi and the Morlocks. In the novel, the Eloi are presented as almost angelic lotus eaters and the Morlocks, who practice cannibalism, are portrayed as evil monsters.

Science fiction master Robert Heinlein used the concept in his Hugo award-winning novel, Stranger in a Strange Land(1961). This book was particularly noteworthy because he challenged the usual stereotype and the moral view that cannibals are bad by having his hero, Valentine Michael Smith, practice cannibalism.  He also mocked traditional religion by comparing the ritual of the Eucharist to cannibalism in the same book.

And, don’t forget about Soylent Green, the film based on Harry Harrison’s book,  Make Room! Make Room! While the focus of the book is overpopulation, not cannibalism, the movie gave birth to a pop culture catchphrase with that unforgettable scene in the film where Charlton Heston shouts: “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!”

Recently, we’ve been seeing a lot of cannibalism in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, in both the Young Adult and Adult fiction categories. I must note that for the purposes of this discussion, like the expert in George A. Romero’s 1978 film, Dawn of the Dead, I do not consider zombies themselves cannibals (cannibalism is an intraspecies activity; zombies do not eat each other…).

Max Brooks deals briefly with the issue and its aftermath in one section of his book, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. In the book, the absence of food and a harsh North American winter forces a group of survivors into cannibalism. It is a very emotional and memorable section of the book.

In one of the most culturally significant of these recent books,  Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a man must protect his child from being eaten by cannibals. The film adaptation caused a controversy of its own by showing a human baby being roasted on a spit, a scene that was later cut from the film but survived in some of the trailers.

There is no denying that this book is considered culturally important.  Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize, this book has spawned academic treatises discussing its significance. Look at Styles of Extinction: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Adventures in Reading Cormac McCarthy and see what I mean.

A disclaimer here: Due to descriptions of its totally depressing nature, I have not personally read The Road. As a parent, the idea of trying to protect my child against cannibals is more than I can bear to think about and is certainly more than I can handle as entertainment. I prefer a dash of hope with my apocalypse….

I recently talked to two of my favorite authors who have used cannibalism (quite effectively) in recent novels.  Mike Mullin is the author of Ashfall. This award winning novel shows what happens when society falls apart after the eruption of the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park. In the sequel,  Ashen Winter, groups of cannibals known as flenser gangs endanger survivors .

Keith C. Blackmore is author of Mountain Man and its sequels, Safari (Mountain Man Book 2) and Hellifax (Mountain Man Book 3)The Mountain Man series is set in Canada two years after a zombie apocalypse has destroyed civilization. In the latest installment, Hellifax,as  food becomes scarce, a vicious group of cannibals emerges.

As they talked about their approach to using cannibalism in their novels, I noticed that there were some striking points of similarity and differences.

According to Mike Mullin, “Cannibals crept into Ashfall without much planning on my part. I wrote the scene in which Alex encounters an escaped convict, Target, roasting a chunk of mystery meat and realized that many would assume he was eating human flesh. That seemed cool in a slightly disgusting way, so I purposefully left that scene open-so that the reader can interpret it however she wishes. But writing that scene did spur me to do more research on cannibalism, and, ultimately, to include more explicit cannibalism in Ashen Winter.

Keith Blackmore, on the other hand, deliberately chose these characters for their villainy.

“Well, cannibals,” according to Keith, “that is to say, folks who kill other folks solely for pleasure and then devour them–represent an evil, a base savagery, which I find terrifying. Killing a person and eating them is fucked up (can I say that here?) er… screwed up and a person’s instinctive reaction is to be horrified by the act or even the willingness to carry out such an act. It triggers a primeval revulsion, of something gone way too far. It’s not a wild animal, but a person willing to devour another person for sustenance, and at the very worse, you probably won’t realize it until it’s too late. In a zombie story, it fairly easy to spot a zombie and avoid it. Not so with a living, breathing, honest-to-gawd person who’s reverted to cannibalism. Having a character in a story who is capable of such an act is damned frightening, so having several characters should be terrifying… or so I hoped.”

The two authors differed in their approach to researching the flesh-eaters as well:

Blackmore admitted that since he chose them for the fear factor, he really didn’t do a lot a research into his cannibals at all. “I’ve read some articles on Jeffery Dahmer and the guy who actually posted an ad online seeking out a person to kill and then eat, and there was a more recent Russian (Ukrainian?) who was executed for it. It’s the stuff of nightmares.”

The process was different for Mullin: “After I wrote the scene with Target, I read epidemiological research on the Donner party and the book Alive by Piers Paul Reid. But the book that was most influential to my portrayal of cannibalism in Ashen Winter was Collapse, by Jared Diamond. It examines what happens when whole societies break down, rather than localized, temporary disasters like the Donner party or the Andean plane crash. That case-ecological disasters that ended whole societies like the Mayans or Easter Islanders-is a better analogue to the aftermath of a supervolcano.”

Both Mullin and Blackmore agree that there is a tremendous difference between eating those who have died for survival purposes (such as the Donner Party and Andes plane crash scenarios) and overtly attacking people for the purpose of eating them.

According to Mullin, “Yes, there’s a huge ethical difference. If you eat my carcass after I’m dead and it helps you to survive, I’m totally fine with that. If I’m still kicking as you try to carve off a flank steak, then you and I are going to have a problem.”

However, he goes on to say, “I attempted in Ashfall and Ashen Winter to portray the full range of ethical behavior that would follow a collapse of our society-from groups who won’t even cannibalize the dead (a couple of the people in the Andean plane crash died for their ethics in exactly that way) to groups who are totally self-interested and will do absolutely anything to survive.”

While Blackmore agrees that there is “a huge difference” between the two extremes, he says that he really didn’t factor those ethical considerations into Hellifax. He does note, however, that “in those survival stories I imagine there was a huge amount of reflection upon a person’s spirituality, not to mention the reluctance of actually going through with the deed in order to survive, followed by the self-revulsion/loathing (or so I expect there would be some self-loathing) and having to live with that knowledge thereafter.”

In both authors’ books, certain people seem to turn almost gleefully to cannibalism as a source of food. So, I asked both authors how realistic they thought that scenario is, given our cultural taboos against it. Surprisingly, their answers were very different.

Blackmore replied, “To gleefully turn to cannibalism? Realistically, no, I don’t think such a scenario would happen. It’s a work of fiction, meant only to entertain, if not frighten (just a little). Real cases of gleeful cannibals freak me out like old Cronenberg movies.”

Mullin, on the other hand, had a less optimistic view. “People (a tiny minority) gleefully turn to cannibalism even now, despite our cultural taboos and laws. If you have a particularly strong stomach, check out this link or this one. The flensers in Ashen Winter are a minority-but a particularly vicious and (temporarily) successful minority.’

Not having a strong stomach, I will have to trust him on that one.

I was trying to decide if cannibals in fiction are an up-and-coming trend, like vampires and zombies in fiction, or if it is just a brief, temporary interest. Then, I found this story on CNN that tells of a police officer accused in a plot to abduct and cook women. I think I may need to think about this a little more seriously…. How about you?

Many thanks to Keith C. Blackmore and Mike Mullin for stopping by and chatting with me!

Keith C. Blackmore writes heroic fantasy and horror and is currently teasing his fans with the possibility of a Mountain Man 4. You can find out more about him at his website, KeithCBlackmore.com, and follow him on Twitter at @KeithCB1 and on GoodReads.

Mike Mullin is busy working on the third book in the Ashfall series, Sunrise. You can connect with him on the web at mikemullinauthor.com, on Twitter at @Mike_Mullin, and on Google+, FaceBook and GoodReads.

Miserere: An Autumn Tale – A Review

Teresa Frohock’s Miserere: An Autumn Tale was an absolutely amazing book!

And, ironically, I have actually had it on my Kindle since it first came out. Why did I wait for so long to read it? I am still kicking myself over that one….

Truth is, I am much more of a straight sci-fi fan and I have to confess that Dark Fantasy is not exactly my favorite genre. It is generally…. well, dark and then there’s all that evil.  And usually, lots of swords and hard to pronounce names, too. So, generally, I have to be in just the right mood to read it.

But I realized that this book might be more than I thought it was when I read this review on GoodReads and the review’s opening lines had me totally enthralled:

From the start, I went into this expecting it to be a fantasy novel. I mean, the cover? Fantasy! The name? Fantasy! The blurb? Fantasy! So I was a bit shocked when, after a gripping and very fantasy-esque intro, we are plopped right down into a conversation between some teenagers leaving a ballet class and walking home. Wha…? Color me intrigued, and excited, and totally, totally hooked!

So, I read the book. It was sooooo good, I immediately started over and read the whole book again, this time slowly savoring. And I came to the conclusion that the cover and the blub for this book simply don’t do it justice. Seriously, that is the only reason I can think of for why this book is not a runaway best seller! The description only covers maybe the first chapter anyway….

So what can I say about this book? As a writer, Teresa Frohock has a lovely voice; the beauty of some of her prose is just stunning. Doubly amazing for a debut author! The characters?  Rich, fully developed, interesting. Lindsay’s character is so real, I can see why some people (erroneously) tried to classify this as young adult.  I wanted to meet her. I felt protective of her. I want to read more about her. (That’s code for she better be in the next book, LOL!)

Despite what the blurb might suggest, this isn’t a romance in the usual stereotypical or genre sense of the word. It does have an element of the feeling of a medieval romance: In the Middle Ages, a romance meant an adventure, a quest, one with themes of honor and/or redemption. This one fits the bill perfectly!

The exploration of Christian religious myth in this book fascinated me. The book never proselytizes.  But, as you might expect from a reality that exists to keep the fallen angels from taking over earth, the religious themes permeate both the world-building and the world view. It adds an additional delightfully authentic “touch of medieval” flavor to the book.

This book should be definitely be made into a movie – the story (and Teresa’s writing) really lends itself to a visual interpretation.

Okay, enough fan gushing! You: Read this book! Tell everybody you know about it! As for me, I want to read the sequel… now is good…. I’m waiting….

You can learn more about the author at her website, Teresa Frohock.com.  She is also on FaceBook and Twitter.

 

It’s 10 minutes past the apocalypse. Do you know where your children are?

I started reading apocalyptic fiction at a very young age. I have to admit that it had its effect on me: I like to be prepared. Add in some real life experience with blizzards and power outages. The result: a tendency to stockpile certain things.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t buy things that I won’t use in the normal course of events. I wouldn’t buy a generator, for example. Eventually, the things I buy do get used. I mean, I have almost used up all the stuff I stockpiled for Y2K.

But all those things I keep on hand—the food, water, flashlight batteries, etc—well, I keep all of them at home. After all, that’s where I am going to need them, right?

Wrong.  ASHFALL blew all that out of the water.

In ASHFALL, 15 year old Alex is left at home alone in Iowa while his parents visiting family in Illinois. The supervolcano underneath Yellowstone Park blows; Alex’s home is destroyed. And that’s just chapter one!

This wonderful book, the first in a planned trilogy, follows Alex’s struggle to not only survive but to try to find his family.

These characters are incredibly well-written. As the mother of two sons, I can tell you that Alex is a very believable character with a lot of nuance. Yes, Alex has some serious martial arts skills. Alex has a good heart. But Alex is also inexperienced and makes some really dumb decisions. As a mother reading this book, I could totally buy Alex as a real kid with all those mixed qualities – that he could be that difficult, that kind, that fierce, and, sometimes, that naive….

Darla also is an incredible character. She has great survival skills. I loved the fact that she was actually better at a lot of things than Alex was. She also tended to be more practical than Alex and, in many ways was a much more suspicious character, fiercely protective. And in the world after Ashfall, that just may be a very good thing.

As a mother, I would be incredibly proud of both of them.

This really isn’t a book just for boys nor is it a just for girls book. The fact is, Alex and Darla were both strong characters that any reader, boys or girls, men or women, could identify with.

There were a lot of things about this book that disturbed me and that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since I read it. This is not one of those post-apocalyptic books where the main characters seem to magically find everything they need in an abandoned convenience store. There are real problems in the world of Ashfall and the characters must solve problems, endure real hardships and make hard choices.

Animals do not fare well in this book. (Indeed, they don’t in most apocalyptic fiction.) And the government? Well, you need to read that one for yourself, okay?

There are a lot of unanswered questions, too, that I am eagerly looking forward to hearing more about in the sequel.

I started to tell my youngest son about the book. He happens to live in New Mexico. He listened, then said to me, “Yeah, there’s one of those underneath Albuquerque.”

Talk about hitting where you live…. I think I am going to be hoping for apocalypse by zombie instead….

You can read more about author Mike Mullin and ASHFALL at his author website. Check out some of the great interviews and an awesome fan-created book trailer while you are there!

The sequel to ASHFALL, ASHEN WINTER, will be out in October, 2012.

Disclaimer: I won a ARC of this book in a charity auction, but my review is based on reading the Kindle edition which I purchased.

The Flame Alphabet

On January 17, 2011 there is a new apocalyptic novel coming out. Named one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Month for January, 2012,  The Flame Alphabetby Ben Marcus is certainly getting some attention.

The premise is pretty straightforward: Society is is collapsing from a terrible pandemic, a toxic disease that kills adults exposed to the words of children.

While the premise is mildly interesting, it is not exactly original. It calls to mind Pontypool, the 2008 Canadian film where language is the source of a viral outbreak that turns the townspeople into zombies (of a sort). The movie is based on Tony Burgess’ book, Pontypool Changes Everything.

Much of the buzz about Marcus’ book is centered around a decidedly creepy book trailer. The advance reviews on this one are mixed. But make up your own mind. Read the reviews. Watch the trailer. What do you think?