The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Ever since I read My Best Friend’s Exorcism a few years back, Grady Hendrix has topped a very short list of Authors Whose Books I Instantly Buy Hardcover Copies of Upon Their Release, While Simultaneously Reading Their Backlist Books. The list of authors is shorter than the title… So, when the Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was released, I told multiple people I wanted it for Christmas. It was the only thing I asked for, last year. Thankfully at least one person listened to me, and the book didn’t disappoint!

Continue reading The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

A Modern Adaptation of a Gothic Classic | The Turning by Francine Prose

I am a slow reader. I mean, a slooooooooooow reader. I am also a distracted reader, so the fact that I even maintain a book blog is kind of a feat. Truly! I read about how other bloggers devour entire libraries in a year, and in five years, I could count the number of books I’ve read in a single day on one hand (The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, the Wrap-up List by Steven Arnston, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern, Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls by Victoria Laurie). Well, I’m happy to say, I have one more book to add to this list. Er…sort of happy, anyway.

the-turning-coverThe Turning by Francine Prose

Released: September 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
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Jack is spending the summer on a private island far from modern conveniences. No Wi-Fi, no cell service, no one else on the island but a housekeeper and the two very peculiar children in his care. The first time Jack sees the huge black mansion atop a windswept hill, he senses something cold, something more sinister than even the dark house itself.

Soon, he feels terribly isolated and alone. Yet he is not alone. The house has visitors—peering in the windows, staring from across the shore. But why doesn’t anyone else see them . . . and what do they want? As secrets are revealed and darker truths surface, Jack desperately struggles to maintain a grip on reality. He knows what he sees, and he isn’t crazy. . . . Or is he?

From nationally acclaimed author Francine Prose comes a mind-bending story that will leave you realizing how subtle the lines that separate reality, imagination, and insanity really are.

The first thing you should know about the Turning by Francine Prose is that it is an adaptation of the gothic novella, The Turning of the Screw by Henry James (this was assigned reading in high school, but of course I read Sparknotes instead). The second thing you should know is The Turning is an epistolary novel told through an exchange of letters between Jack and his girlfriend. The third thing you should know is the Turning has an absolutely promising first half…and then it all falls apart (sort of like Jack’s sanity).

What makes the first half of the novel so intriguing is the low-key creepy factor. Like the fact that Jack can’t shake the feeling that he’s being watched. Or the children, whose behavior is just ever slightly abnormal, hid a photograph of the last baby sitter with her face scratched out, and this somehow makes the children scarier than Regan from The Exorcist. Or the feeling that their other caretaker isn’t being 100% honest about the island, the house, or the children.

Eventually, the isolation of the island starts to drive Jack mad though. He becomes paranoid and accuses his girlfriend of cheating on him, which is annoying. Then he starts seeing the ghost of a young woman, and he falls in love with her. Aside from his madness being too over the top for me, I just didn’t buy into it. I mean, the story takes place in 21st century America, so that kind of isolation is far-fetched.

Still, I managed to read this book in one sitting, so I feel like that says something, right? Or else it just means that 250 pages is just short enough that even a distracted reader like me can make it to the ending.

A Spooktacular Coffee Table Book | Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse

Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse from The Lost Zombies Community

Released: September 2011
Publisher: Chronicle Books
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Synopsis: Post Secret meets World War Z in this chilling vision of the fallout following a global zombie pandemic. A gradual mutation of a virulent strain of super flu gives rise to millions of the undead, who quickly overwhelm treatment facilities and swarm cities around the world, leaving survivors on their own against a legion of the infected. This chilling story is told through the scraps of paper, scrawled signs, and cryptic markers left by survivors as they struggle to stay alive and find those they ve lost in a world overrun by zombies. Through these found notes and messages letters to loved ones, journal fragments, confessions, and warnings readers can uncover the story of what went wrong, and come to know the individual voices of those affected by the zombie crisis.

My Thoughts

When I was a pre-teen, I was a horror novel fanatic. Each trip to the library, I would bring home a stack of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books or Give Yourself Goosebumps (a choose your own adventure series) and devour them in one sitting. I’m not sure if I burned myself out or what, but I drifted away from this beloved genre shortly after puberty, and I haven’t looked back since (with the exception of Rot & Ruin and Dearly, Departed). This season though, I felt particularly festive and brought home stacks of spooky novels and two bags of candy corn (mostly untouched at this point and no, I don’t know why I thought two bags of candy corn was necessary). Not all the books I read gave me the heebie-jeebies, but they all succeeded in making me feel excited to celebrate October. Of course, all the 31 days/13 days of Halloween specials on teevee help, too (ABC Family has Hocus-Pocus and Casper on heavy rotation at the end of October, in case you’re a fan).

I was actually a little weary when I started this project. I’m such a moody reader, so I wasn’t sure how well I would be able to stick to my plan. Fortunately, my library book choices are usually a win. Plus, I had a diverse mix of novels/graphic novels/genres to keep me entertained. The first book I cracked open was Dead Inside: Do Not Enter. In my post title, I’ve called it a coffee table book, although I’m uncertain of the type of person that would feature this on their coffee table. I would say myself, but I don’t have a coffee table, so it just sort of sat on the floor until my next library visit. Goodreads calls it a graphic novel. It’s both? Anyone could be entertained as they flipped to random pages to find photographs of notes scrawled on napkins or cardboard scraps. Yet, the artwork in this book is sequential, and it does tell a grim and heartbreaking story about humanity falling apart one zombie bite at a time. This book contains artwork and inspiration from the Lost Zombies website– a social media site that encouraged users to set up a profile and upload audio, video, and photographs to contribute to the Lost Zombie timeline. Unfortunately, the Lost Zombies community is more dead than the antagonists in this book (ie. the website is defunct). Dead Inside: Do Not Enter was a fun read though, and although it is brief to the point where I almost felt guilty adding it to my Goodreads Challenge, it would be a spooktacular gift for the zombie lover in your life (even if they don’t have coffee tables).

What are your favorite zombified books, games or movies?

Book Report: Hollowland by Amanda Hocking


Hollowland by Amanda Hocking (The Hollows #1)
October 2010
Publisher: Self Published
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“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.” Nineteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way – not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.

My Thoughts

I had to get through the first couple of chapters before I could decide if Hollowland was a book worth reading. On one had, I was already intrigued by the beginning of the storyline. Apocalypse. Zombies. Butt-kicking female main character. How could I resist? On the other hand, I found myself disappointed by the prose that seemed rough around the edges. It’s not the typos that bothered me. I can look past that considering the book was self-published, and I don’t think Hocking had the opportunity to have professional editors revise her work. And it’s not like the errors were glaring. Honestly, I didn’t even notice most, and the ones I did notice didn’t take me out of the story. But, her writing did seem inconsistent. Some scenes were vivid, and I could see what was going on inside my head as though it were a movie. Other scenes were lackluster or they jumped around too much, and I found myself backpedaling so I could understand what was going on. However, the further I got into the story, the more difficult it became to put the book down. What kept my attention was Hocking’s perfect pacing and her ability to create suspenseful and tense situations.

There is never a dull moment in this book especially since Hocking’s zombies are not your standard zombie. They do not schlep around the wasteland in hopes of accidentally stumbling upon a fresh brain to munch on. Instead, these zombies are more advanced, more brutal, and more organized, and this makes them all the more terrifying. When Hocking writes her human vs. zombie scenes, she doesn’t shy away. Hollowland is a little more gory compared to other young adult zombie books. There is zombie blood splatter and the occasional zombie head crushing, but it doesn’t really cross over into a realm that would be more appropriate for adults. Battling zombies throughout a book can become redundant, but Remy (the main character) and crew found themselves in different predicaments each time, which made the book exciting. The first time I found myself really on edge though was not when Remy was mowing down zombies; it was when she and her companions found themselves among a potentially dangerous cult of very much alive and healthy humans. The situation was believable and chilling, and it showed that there may actually be worse things out there than the infected.

While I found the plot line addictive, I couldn’t jump on board with the characters. Their development was kind of weak. Remy kicks butt (which is really awesome), but she’s so devoid of emotion. She spends her entire journey convincing the reader that she has the emotional range of a rock, so when she tries to express her feelings at the end of the book it comes across as unbelievable. Then there is Blue, who I thought would have a bigger role in the apocalypse simply because he is a medic, he’s rational, and he knows how to take down zombies alongside Remy. But, he takes the backseat in most scenes which makes me wonder if Hocking only created him to make sense of the events at the end of the book. Harlow is the only character that gives the reader a good, consistent sense of who she is. She starts off as an obnoxious brat, but over time her positive attitude and childlike outlook on the post-apocalyptic world (as well as her zombie stomping combat boots) grew on me.

The characters have a tendency to be one-dimensional, but Hollowland‘s nicely paced plot, suspenseful moments, and surprise ending make it a book worth reading. I just learned that Hollowland, which I thought was a stand-alone novel, is the first book in a series. Part of me is bummed because I thought this book had a great ending that allowed the reader’s imagination wonder about the state of the post-apocalyptic world. Does it survive and flourish? Does it slowly die out? The other part of me is kind of excited. Hocking really does know how to write a good zombie book!

House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo

When I downloaded House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo, I had the wrong impression of it.  I thought it was just a horror story.  I hate horror movies, but I love horror novels.  I thought I’d give it a go since I haven’t read one in ages.  But, I was wrong about House of Dark Shadows; it’s far from being just a horror story.  It’s a page-turner filled with time travel, adventure, spookiness, and suspense— the kind of suspense that made me subconsciously start reading faster.

When Xander and David found themselves traveling through a portal in their linen closet to a locker in their new school, I thought I had everything figured out.  I thought I knew exactly who the perpetrator was, who left the big, bare footprints in the dust.  But, goodness was I wrong!  This novel has so many twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing all the way through.

I loved the family dynamics in the story.  Reading about the interactions between Xander and his younger brother, David, was a joy.  The Kings have a healthy and realistic relationship with each other; they’ve just gotten in the habit of keeping some important secrets from each other, but what family doesn’t? Sometimes I did have trouble keeping track of the two brothers.  I thought more could have been done to develop the two characters, but perhaps this will come during the second book of the series.  I also found the father’s logic troubling.  Without it, there wouldn’t be much of a story, but it’s kind of unbelievable.

I also loved the descriptions; they were so vivid in this novel.  I had a movie rolling in my mind the whole time as I read.

The book also makes several pop culture references.  I mean a lot.  A few seemed relevant, even humorous.  But, after a while, I felt like there were far too many, and I didn’t think they were adding anything to the story.  I can’t imagine reading this novel many years from now since I think many of the references will be lost on readers.

Overall, the story was great!  It’s perfect for reluctant readers because it’s fast-paced, full of action, and a relatively short read.  I think young readers will want to grab a copy of the second book of the series, Watcher in the Woods (out now) to find out what happens next!

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings #1) by Robert Liparulo

Released: May 2008
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Age Group: Young Adult

When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land. But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into–as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house. They soon discover there’s something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong direction. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school. Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places–in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen’s dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry was an interesting twist on zombie lore. It wasn’t the typical hack and slash story I expected. Instead, Maberry humanized the zombies and penned downright deplorable characters, which highlighted the man vs. monster dilemma. I never thought it was possible to feel sympathetic toward a creature that hungers only for brains, but this novel proves it is.  The one thing I appreciated most is Maberry’s ability to keep me guessing all the way through; there were so many twists and turns! And there were so many cliffhangers that kept me saying, “I have to read just one more chapter…”.

I thought the characters were a “mixed bag” though. Tom was a little too good to be true, and Benny was a tad bit annoying. Some of their dialogue was a little hokey too, and every once in a while I would think, “Did he really just say that?” Nix and the Lost Girl, on the other hand, were amazing! Both were butt-kicking heroines. Maberry also cooked up some deliciously vile baddies; Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer were two characters that I loved to hate. I wanted to tie those two guys up and feed em’ to the zoms!

Overall Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry was an enjoyable book filled with adventure, butt-kicking, blood and rotting flesh, a budding romance, and dreams of a better future. This book is definitely worth a read!

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Released: September 2010
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction,
Age Group: Young Adult

[add to goodreads | IndieBound]

from goodreads:

Benny Imura is 15, and now he must find a job or his food rations will be cut in half.  But what kind of opportunities are there in a world that’s nearly been run over by zombies?  His job search seems fruitless until his brother, Tom, invites him to join the family business– zombie hunting.  For the first time in his life, Benny will go beyond the fence that keeps him safe in Mountainside to land claimed by the zombies known as the Rot and Ruin.  Any preconceived notion Benny may have had about his brother, fellow bounty hunters, zombies, and the way the world works will be completely shattered.