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….

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.

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.

 

Top 100 Books Meme

This is a meme that is making the rounds on LiveJournal:

According to The Big Read, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on their list.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

My list is somewhat skewed because I am not a fan of Russian literature. Nor am I a huge fan of Dickens, Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen. That knocks off a fair part of the list right there! There are classics like the Three Musketeers, Moby Dick and others that I have read portions of, but hadn’t finished the complete works. I didn’t want to change the meme to reflect those.

There are some books on the list that I question. Why is Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Aliceon the list but not his classic, On the Beach?  Some of the books are fairly recent “classics” like The Lovely Bones. And a  book like A Fine Balance is probably buoyed by being an Oprah Book Club selection.

Many of my favorites like Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon, simply aren’t on the list. A lot of them are also not available in Kindle editions.

What about you? How many of your favorites are on the list?

The Essential Zombie Book List

There is so much new, good zombie literature out there right now, keeping this a list to a managable length is tough. Because there are so many full length books available, I am concentrating on  them, which means no comics and no anthologies on the list. My sincere apologies to The Walking Dead fans!

I am also skipping books like Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry For Your…Brains by Ryan Mecum.  While I agree that there is a certain symmetry to zombies and haiku (zombies are notoriously “in” the moment), I must reject for this list books that have no real survival skill teaching value. (This book not available for the Kindle)

I am also rejecting books that are too advanced for this introductory study guide series like Jonathan Mayberry’s Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead. Although, I have to say that that since I am a big forensics fan, zombie forensics really sound intriguing!  (Unfortunately, this book is not available for the Kindle,  either)

Since there are such a large number of these books that are so good, I can’t, in all fairness, give them a ranking.  Therefore, I am listing the authors in alphabetical order.

J.L. Bourne:

J. L. Bourne is actually a military officer and his books are extremely survival oriented.  The first book started out self published on the web and developed a following from there.  The books have their own unique take on the zombie phenomenon and really strongly focus on survival methods and weapons. That means you are more likely to read a detailed description of an MRE or field stripping a weapon than gory descriptions of pus-filled zombies. But Bourne’s books are compelling, delicious reads.

And honestly, don’t you want to know whether an M-4, an MP5 or an M-16 is more effective at killing zombies? I thought so….

Day by Day Armageddon

Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile

Available for the Kindle.

Max Brooks:

Max brooks has become quite the zombie expert. The Zombie Survival Guide has sold over a million copies. It is not unusual to see Max Brooks’ World War Z listed at the top of any top zombie books list. And, it is being made into a movie staring Brad Pitt. Funny? Yes. Poignant? Yes. A must read? Absolutely!

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War 

Both are available for the Kindle.

Bonus Tool: The Zombie Survival Guide Deck: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.  These are flashcards to use with the Zombie Survival Guide.

S.G. Brown:

Civil rights for zombies? Yep!

This is a very different kind of zombie story. Imagine your child died. Then, he reanimates as a zombie. And, to keep him in your home, you have to have a license. And, he has to go to therapy. And, if he’s out after curfew, he gets picked up by animal control. And, you have to pay a fine to get him back. And, did I mention that they have absolutely no rights? This is an extremely thought provoking look that makes you see things from an unusual point of view.

Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament 

Available for the Kindle.

David Dunwoody:

Empire is a different kind of zombie novel, with its own twists and turns. The book has been hailed as “A macabre masterpiece of post-apocalyptic zombie goodness.”  In an unusual move, the book is set 100 years after the zombie outbreak begins. The reasons for the outbreak have a different explanation.  There are several kinds of zombies and they range from slow to fast.  The appearance of the grim reaper add an interesting twist to the novels, as does an antagonist who wants to use an army of the undead to create an empire. According to the reviews, this book tends to polarizing; people wither love it or hate it..

Empire (Zombie Novels)

Available for the Kindle.

Rhiannon Frater:

This series started out self published. Just a few pages in, I was absolutely hooked. This book has really interesting  women characters and I would love to do a feminist critique on these books! It is another one of those books that takes you from laughing hysterically to helplessly sobbing and back to laughter again. Plus, I learned so many new ways to kill zombies! 

As The World Dies: The First Days: A Zombie Trilogy

As The World Dies: Fighting To Survive: A Zombie Trilogy (Volume 2)

As The World Dies: Siege: A Zombie Trilogy

Currently available for the Kindle. Note that these books will soon be published by Tor.

Additional Untold Tales are available on the forum at the author’s website.

Seth Grahame-Smith:

This was the first of the now many literary mashups. Grahame-Smith has admirably truly captured Jane Austen’s “voice.”  The zombies are actually a nice addition to the story. This book spawned a large number of mashup adding zombies to classic works of fiction.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

   There is also a prequel available by Steve Hockensmith: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, but I haven’t read it yet.

Available for the Kindle.

Brian Keene:

Another very different take on the zombie story, both for the nature of the zombies and the origins of the outbreak.   Zombie bunnies?  Zombie goldfish? And, fast moving, thinking zombies?  Definitely thought provoking.  This is a series that, like David Dunwoody’s Empire, people either love it or hate it. 

The Rising

City Of The Dead

Available for the Kindle.

David Moody:

These books were originally self published. In fact, the author gave the first one away for free on his website to build a following for the book.  While not your typical Romero-esque zombies, these books are interesting and I feel are an important addition to the zombie canon. The series will be reissued by St. Martin’s Griffin starting in October, 2010

Autumn

Autumn: The City

Autumn: Purification

Autumn: The Human Condition

At least the first in the series is planned in a Kindle edition.

And of course, I have a  To be read zombie list that includes the following:

Monster Island: A Zombie Novel (Available for the Kindle.)

Plague of the Dead: The Morningstar Saga (Available for the Kindle.)

I, Zombie: Tomes of te Dead Series (Available for the Kindle.)

Brains: A Zombie Memoir Available for the Kindle.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Available for the Kindle.)

The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead  (Available for the Kindle.)

Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel  (Available for the Kindle.)

36 Hours by Anthony Barnhart (This does not seem to be available on the Kindle and I am not sure if it is still in print.)

So, did I miss anyone’s favorites?

Next up: A new seminal zombie dictionary and personal training seminars for the Zombie Apocalypse!