Category: Staff Picks
Judge a book by its cover - classic edition
If you know me, you know that I love to judge a book by its cover. I find it a fun and addicting way to ferret out some real unexpected gems. For this post, I cast my net back into the past and just looky what I found :) I don't even care what these books are about - plot summary - who cares? I think the covers speak for themselves. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read these!
-Trudi (a.k.a. The Cryptkeeper)
Review: FVZA: Federal Vampire Zombie Agency
Courtesy of the Graphic Novels Blog.
FVZA: Federal Vampire Zombie Agency by David Hine
May's Review: First, let's clear up any misconceptions you might have about me. Yes, I have read Meyer's Twilight as well as watched the movie in a theatre and read the graphic novel. Yes, I do read the occasional paranormal romance involving vampires. And yes, I enjoyed watching Buffy on TV. But no, I don't think Robert Pattinson is cute. Nor do I spend all of my downtime fawning over how cute vampires are, how misunderstood they are, etc. As far as I'm concerned, vampires are meant to be vicious bloodthirsty creatures of the night meant to horrify not arouse you.
With this sentiment in mind, Hine portrays his vampires in FVZA as cruel ferocious killers with little to no regard for humanity. Unlike what you see on TV, Hine's vampires are deliberately ugly. My favorite line in this book was when the head vampire points out once a vampire is turned, he or she loses his/her physical beauty--meaning that the hair falls out, the skin turns ashen, the head starts to shrivel, etc. Gross!
Aside from the scary portrayal of vampires which is aided immensely by the terrific artwork, this graphic novel is also strengthen by a well-thought out storyline. The book opens with a FVZA (Federal Vampire Zombie Agency) agent named Landra Pecos ready to shoot her grandfather who has just been turned. In a series of flashbacks, we see her upbringing, her training and subsequent entry into the field, and the tragic deaths of both her brother and her lover which have brought her to this point. Intermingled with these scenes is the return of the vampires who were nearly wiped out by the FVZA in the 60s. This new wave of vampires is now plotting to utilize a zombie plague to bring society's to its knees by unleashing the virus into a small town. Ah, nothing like a little mayhem and chaos thrown in to amp up the adrenaline.
The story is obviously well-paced with a number of terrific plot twists at the very end. I won't reveal what happens with Landra and her grandfather but suffice it to say, you will be surprised. This was an enjoyable read from start to finish. Since there doesn't appear to be a sequel, if you enjoy FVZA, you might also want to check out Scott Snyder's American Vampire and Steve Niles' 30 Days of Night for the mere fact that their vampires are equally scary, vicious and just a tad bit crazy as well. Enjoy!
Dog Blood - the Hater trilogy continues
Dog Blood (Hater #2)
This is turning out to be a great series, so if you're a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction with an original twist on the zombie theme, then don't miss out.
Dog Blood is not as strong as Hater but a decent sequel that achieves the necessary plot development to move the story along to what will hopefully be a rousing finale. By now, we know what's going on so there's no mystery there (even though we still don't know why and for what purpose).
Even though Dog Blood lacks the fever-pitch level of suspense that grabs you by the throat in Hater, it is a gripping read nonetheless in the way it shows how most humans are "dealing with" the crisis. Most are refugees locked behind a perimeter that surrounds their ravaged cities, existing under martial law, depending on the military for every basic human need. All the while government soldiers and pseudo-conscripted volunteers, wage a war on the Haters in their attempt to wipe them out.
Dog Blood also raises some interesting questions about the Hate, whether it is a disease, an alien influence, or a genetic malfunction in some humans triggering an evolutionary dichotomy between man and Hater. Other than the bloodlust and insatiable need to kill the Unchanged, Haters remain recognizably human. But cannot or will not co-exist with non-Haters. So my hope for Book 3 is that we learn the true nature and purpose of the Hate and that Moody will take a closer look at the Hater goal -- if they succeed in wiping out the Unchanged and in taking over the planet, what will that "new world" look like, and how will they choose to live in it with no one ostensibly left to hate?
What I did find totally engaging here is Danny McCoyne's quest to find his five year old daughter, also a Hater. The ramifications of child Haters, and their possible role in the on-going war against humans, is chilling. What's remarkable is that McCoyne is no less sympathetic now, as a blood-thirsty full-on Hater, then he is in Book 1 as a normal Joe Blow underachiever trying to protect his family from the exploding violence. That's good writing. ::::::::::::::::::::END SPOILER:::::::::::::::::::::
Don't miss out on David Moody's Autumn series
The online zombie sensation that has been downloaded more than half a million times is finally available as a novel - including brand new material available for the first time!!!
Autumn (Book 1)
Autumn: The City
Zombie fans rejoice! One of the original zombie novels is back from the grave to remind us all why the walking dead are so scary, and what it means to have a front-row seat for the end of the world. AUTUMN is genuinely creepy, an atmospheric study of what happens when the dead come back--and what we have to do just to survive. -- David Wellington
In less than twenty-four hours a vicious and virulent disease destroys virtually all of the population. Billions are killed. Thousands die every second. There are no symptoms and no warnings. Within moments of infection each victim suffers a violent and agonizing death. Only a handful of survivors remain. By the end of the first day those survivors wish they were dead.
Then the disease strikes again, and all hell breaks loose. Read more here!
He is legend
He is Legend
An Anthology Celebrating Richard Mateheson
Richard Matheson, the New York Times bestselling author of I Am Legend, has inspired a generation of storytellers. Now an outstanding cast of top writers pays tribute to his legacy with an all-new collection of original stories set in Matheson's own fictional universes, including sequels, prequels, and companion stories to I Am Legend, Hell House, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Somewhere in Time, Duel, and Button, Button. (Product Description)
Featuring new short stories by:
Nancy A. Collins
Joe R. Lansdale
William F. Nolan
F. Paul Wilson
Richard Christian Matheson
...and collaborating together for the first time, Stephen King and his son, best-selling novelist Joe Hill.
Review: The Fall
The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
May's Review: In the follow-up sequel to Del Toro's and Hogan's The Strain, The Fall chronicles the aftermath of the vampiric infection as nations slowly crumble and the Master sets his nefarious plans for world domination into motion. Amid this backdrop of suspended disbelief and gradual decay, our heroes led by vampire hunter Blade tries...Whoops! Sorry, wrong hero. What I means to say is that our heroes led by vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian and his band of followers, including former CDC member Eph Goodweather and exterminator Vasiliy Fet, struggle to save mankind only to find themselves drawn into a deadly war between two deadly vampire factions.
What I like about sequels is that the reader doesn't have to wait around for the main characters to catch up. None of this, "I wonder why my supposedly dead husband is now walking around and seems to be fixated on my neck" business. Instead, the reader is plunged right into the storyline that is filled with break-neck action sequences and plenty of suspense. The interludes are probably my favorite portions of the book because they reveal more of Setrakian's character, especially his all-consuming drive to kill the Master. I particularly liked Vasiliy's character in this book, especially when he reveals his hidden heritage and why he is helping Setrakian.
Overall this is a good vampire book with some moderate scare scenes. Enough to make me want to read the third and final book in the series which should be coming out this month.
The Body Farm
“There is a patch of ground in Tennessee dedicated to the science of death, where human remains lie exposed to be studied for their secrets. The real-life scientist who founded the "Body Farm" has broken cold cases and revolutionized forensics . . . and now he spins an astonishing tale inspired by his own experiences.” (Description taken from “Carved in Bone”)
About the Author(s):
Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. Dr. Bass, a world-renowned forensic anthropologist, founded the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility—the Body Farm—a quarter century ago. He is the author or coauthor of more than two hundred scientific publications, as well as a critically acclaimed memoir about his career at the Body Farm, Death's Acre....
Jon Jefferson is a veteran journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. His writings have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, and Popular Science, and broadcast on National Public Radio. The coauthor of Death's Acre, he is also the writer and producer of two highly rated National Geographic documentaries about the Body Farm. (Taken from “Bones of Betrayal”)
About the Books: Although the story and the characters are fictional, the forensic details, methodology and the Body Farm itself are factual (three such farms are currently operating in the United States for those of you interested) and are taken from Dr. Bill Bass’s personal experiences.
Disclaimer: Just a note for you sensitive readers out there, evidently we are dealing with some pretty gruesome issues (i.e.: the very graphic decomposition of dead bodies, mayhem and murder) so this series may not be for everyone.
Carved in Bone
Renowned anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death at the Body Farm. Now he's being called upon to help solve a baffling puzzle in a remote mountain community. The mummified corpse of a young woman dead for thirty years has been discovered in a cave, the body bizarrely preserved and transformed by the environment's unique chemistry. But Brockton's investigation is threatening to open old wounds among an insular people who won't forget or forgive. And a long-buried secret prematurely exposed could inflame Brockton's own guilt—and the dangerous hostility of bitter enemies determined to see him fail . . . by any means necessary. (Product Description)
My Review: Not bad for a fictional debut. I did find this book a little too detail oriented and not in a Patricia Cornwall or Kathy Reichs kind of way…it was more like being lectured at in a university setting, which I guess makes sense given the author’s background. However, there was enough plot and action that carried the mystery and held my interest. At any rate, I thought highly enough of this book to continue on with the series…
Flesh and Bone
Anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton founded Tennessee's world-famous Body Farm—a small piece of land where corpses are left to decay in order to gain important forensic information. Now, in the wake of a shocking crime in nearby Chattanooga, he's called upon by Jess Carter—the rising star of the state's medical examiners—to help her unravel a murderous puzzle. But after re-creating the death scene at the Body Farm, Brockton discovers his career, reputation, and life are in dire jeopardy when a second, unexplained corpse appears in the grisly setting.
Accused of a horrific crime—transformed overnight from a respected professor to a hated and feared pariah—Bill Brockton will need every ounce of his formidable forensic skills to escape the ingeniously woven net that's tightening around him . . . and to prove the seemingly impossible: his own innocence. (Product Description)
My Review: I enjoyed this rendition of the Body Farm much better than its debut. Bass corrected many of what I felt were the shortcomings from Carved in Bone to make this book on par with some of the other forensic mystery writers out there. The forensic details were just interesting and grisly enough to be interesting but not too “teachy” and the main characters were much more fleshed out. Suspenseful and entertaining, this book was the clincher for me to continue on with the series.
The Devil’s Bones
A burned car sits on a Tennessee hilltop, a woman's lifeless, charred body seated inside. Forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton's job is to discover the truth hidden in the fire-desecrated corpse. Was the woman's death accidental . . . or was she incinerated to cover up her murder?
But his research into the effect of flame on flesh and bone is about to collide with reality like a lit match meeting spilled gasoline. The arrival of a mysterious package—a set of suspiciously unnatural cremated remains—is pulling Brockton toward a nightmare too inhuman to imagine. And an old nemesis is waiting in the shadows to put him to the ultimate test, one that could reduce Brockton's life to smoldering ruins. (Product Description)
My Review: The devil was in the details with this one, as in too many details and plotlines not enough momentum to propel the story. I found myself just waiting around for something to happen which should not be the case in a thriller especially since there was three main subplots all occurring at the same time. Unlike the previous novel, this one was not tightly written or well planned. Bass seemed to have too many balls juggling in the air and thus was unable to fully develop and conclude any one of them satisfactorily. Despite its glowing reviews from all over the place I found this title to be the weakest one in the series.
Bones of Betrayal
The latest Body Farm novel finds forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton looking into an unusual death. A man’s body is pulled out of a swimming pool in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The autopsy reveals that he appears to have died after ingesting a highly radioactive pellet. When Brockton discovers that the victim was a key player in the Manhattan Project—that, in fact, he designed a reactor that was instrumental in the creation of the first atomic bomb more than 60 years ago—he realizes that to solve the crime, he must penetrate the secrets-laden history of the Manhattan Project itself. (From Booklist)
My Review: Bones of Betrayal is by far my most favorite book in the series. Brockton’s wry humour and Miranda’s (his research assistant) quiet insightfulness captures the reader from the very first page. The raw emotions and the unknown danger the characters find themselves in made me empathize with them that much more. I’ll admit, I found myself rooting for a happy ending.
The details in this book not only supplied the reader with the usual forensic information, but unknown historical facts regarding World War II as well. The very, very descriptive autopsy was...well umm…interesting...I could almost smell it! Overall, this forensic mystery was a captivating read with a very unpredictable ending.
Be careful who you slight
Slights by Kaaron Warren
After an accident in which her mother dies, Stevie has a near-death experience, and finds herself in a room full of people - everyone she's ever annoyed. They clutch at her, scratch and tear at her. But she finds herself drawn back to this place, again and again, determined to unlock its secrets. Which means she has to die, again and again. And Stevie starts to wonder whether other people see the same room...when they die (Product Description)
First of all, can I just say how much I love this cover? A bunch of new paperbacks arrived at the library a few months ago, and this immediately caught my eye for its supreme creepiness. For some reason it reminded me of that movie Jacob's Ladder, but I digress.
This is an exceptionally well-written book, with an original premise that's solidly executed, but reader beware: it is a dark, depressing, claustrophobic read that never lets up. It is a richly textured novel, quite literary, but also ruthless in its barbarity. This book will shock you and make you squirm, of that I am certain. It is a mystery wrapped up in devastating family secrets.
Stevie is a villain like no other I've read in a very long time. Getting inside her head is akin to cracking open a log on the forest floor and having all sorts of creepy crawlies come pouring out -- beetles, centipedes, maggots, you name it. The ick factor is off the charts. I wanted to feel sorry for her, find some reason for empathy, but she is just so completely rotten to her core that you can't. I'm telling you, you can't! Just when I felt myself starting to soften, my burgeoning empathy was squashed by a cruel or selfish word, thought or deed.
And it's not just Stevie: no one is likable in this book. There is no one to root for and I struggle with that kind of post-modern existential reading experience. I need a hero, or at least an anti-hero, someone with one redeeming quality to hang my hat on. But everyone is horrible. Maybe it's because they're seen through Stevie's eyes, but it doesn't matter because the end result is the same.
The first half of the novel reads like a coming-of-age story with lots of jagged edges. It's a slow build, but Stevie's reminisces are painful, ugly and uncomfortable to read because Warren's language is graphic, brutalizing, and scalpel sharp. Certainly not for everyone, but an intriguing and impressive debut.
Judge a book by its cover (December 2010)
Even though we're told we never should, I love judging books by their covers, and here's one that caught my immediate attention! When I first saw that antique "English" carriage, all I could think of was Rosemary's Baby. When I read what it was about -- changelings and the dark underworld called "Gentry" I was reminded of the film Labyrinth. Either way, I definitely want to read this!!
The Replacement (2010)
by Brenna Yovanoff
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.
Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs
RPL wishes you a very scary Christmas!
A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter (2010)
by Peter Straub
Young Keith Hayward idolizes his charming, charismatic Uncle Till. When Keith's mother asks Till to talk to Keith after the boy is found dismembering a dead cat, Till recognizes a kindred spirit and begins to instruct Keith on smart, secret ways to pursue his evil endeavors. As the years pass, Keith grows older and bolder in his sadistic pleasures, and when Till comes back into town, Keith finds the perfect way to impress him. Vivid but never overly graphic or grotesque, Straub's words paint horrific pictures of two depraved men. The violence is minimal, but understood in the most subtle of ways. This beautifully horrifying, delightfully disturbing tale of a family tree of evil will stay with the reader long after the last page is done (Publisher's Weekly Starred Review)
by Mira Grant
Large, sprawling, detailed world building delivered with a punch to the solar plexis. If zombies are your thing, then don't miss this above-average romp that distinguished itself from the pack this year.
The good news: we survived. The bad news: so did they.
The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.
Full Dark No Stars (2010) by Stephen King
The master of the macabre is back with this chilling collection of four spine-tingling novellas that downplay the supernatural and focus on the jagged edges of real world fears. Ordinary people forced to make extraordinary choices and the horrible consequences that follow ... curl up tight under a warm blanket with a mug of hot chocolate ... you are in for a holiday treat you won't soon forget!!!
by Jack Ketchum
Ketchum is not for the faint of heart. His books are white-knucklers that go straight for the jugular. But if you like your horror horrific, then you simply must give Ketchum a try. Joyride (2010) was previously published as Road Kill (1995)
Hoping to escape from her abusive ex-husband, a woman and her lover successfully carry out their plot to murder him, only to find themselves at the mercy of an obsessive, twisted stranger who witnessed the crime.
The Killing Kind (2010)
by Bryan Smith
In the tradition of a 1980's slasher flick, Bryan Smith offers up a truly grisly tale that will keep you reading long after midnight. Fans of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum will not want to miss this thrilling ride of terror and carnage!
A group of college friends are ready for a week of partying at their rented beach house. They didn’t count on a pair of homicidal maniacs crashing the party.
by Douglas Clegg
...a southern gothic tale of family secrets and games of innocence turned to darkness.
Neverland has a secret history, unknown to the children....The rundown shack in the woods is the key to an age-old mystery, a place forbidden to all. But Sumter and his cousins gather in its dusty shadows to escape the tensions at their grandmother's house. Neverland becomes the place where children begin to worship a creature of shadows, which Sumter calls "Lucy."
....It begins with small sacrifices, little games, strange imaginings. While Sumter's games spiral out of control, twisting from the mysterious to the macabre, a nightmarish presence rises among the straggly trees beyond the bluffs overlooking the sea.
In the dark with Stephen King
Full Dark, No Stars
by Stephen King
... in the dark with Stephen King ... there ain't no place I'd rather be!!
If you really want to give the gift of the heebie-jeebies this holiday season, then you really want to make sure your loved one has a copy of Stephen King's four new novellas waiting for them under the Christmas tree.
The title really sets up the collection well -- make no mistake, these are dark tales, in places gruesome and hard to read. All of these stories feature ordinary characters forced to make awful choices. What choices! And this is why I love King -- he'll find the horror -- the real, true, white-knuckling, knee-buckling horror -- in the most ordinary of places amongst the most ordinary of people. His scariest stories are often the ones you know could really happen.
In the Afterword, King writes:
I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers. Making them think as they read is not my deal...if the tale is good enough and the characters vivid enough, thinking will supplant emotion [only] when the tale has been told and the book set aside.
If that is his goal, he succeeds brilliantly here because when in the fierce, unrelenting grip of these stories you are not thinking, but feeling -- terror and repulsion mostly. It's a visceral experience all right. In places I was sucked into an almost fugue state where I forgot to breathe, because I was in the story, as if it were happening to me rather than as a third-party voyeur safely removed from the action. These stories will haunt me, as will the choices contained therein.
1922: Beware the Conniving Man!!! This story has lots of gooshy parts and if you have a rat phobia, it may just land you in a straight jacket. What is it with King and abandoned wells? ::shiver:: So how far would you go to get your way? To maintain your life as you know it? When is someone worth more to you dead than alive? What I love most about this story is that it shows getting what you want often comes with too heavy a price tag -- it's the Monkey's Paw conundrum.
Big Driver: This was my least favourite of the four, if only because of the subject matter -- rape and vigilantism. It's a simple story, with a fairly predictable ending. Where the story's strength lies is in King's exploration of rape victim psychology. How Tess feels and reacts to what happens to her is how I imagine a lot of women think and feel in that situation. I hope I never have to find out. This one is a real nail-biter though, total edge of your seat stuff.
Fair Extension: The shortest of the four, but wicked and horrible. It's the classic Deal with the Devil scenario, but unlike you've ever seen it. What if all the things you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, suddenly befell them at your behest? I think the most shocking part of this story for me isn't that Dave Streeter makes the deal, but that he becomes so gleefully accepting of the fallout. Not once is there a twinge of guilt. What does Streeter do? Pull up a front row seat and watch it all unfold up close and personal.
A Good Marriage: While Lisey's Story will remain King's final, beautiful, haunting word on marriage, this novella shares some worthy insights too, both soft and jagged. You can know someone, but you can never really know them. Is it possible to keep a secret from the one person who knows you and loves you best? You bet. This is my favourite of the four novellas, and I think the perfect choice to end the book. It's archetypal horror - Pandora's Box and Bluebeard are mentioned in its pages and with good reason. Is it better to know, or not to know? When presented with a secret, do we snoop or let sleeping dogs lie? When we snoop, and what we find is so horrific, what is our moral duty? Legal responsibility? To our children? To our society? I don't know what I would do in Darcy Anderson's position. Even when she went poking into that box, my heart was pounding. I was truly terrified by what she was going to find, and since I was feeling and not thinking, I was totally shocked by what she did find. In the moments leading up to the revelation, I was in no position to guess. I had to keep remembering to breathe!!!
-Trudi "The Cryptkeeper"
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