Category Archives: 5-Great

White Trash Zombie Unchained by Diana Rowland

The White Trash Zombie series is one of my favorites in audio. Rowland’s writing and McLemore’s narration are a perfect match. In this sixth installment, Angel Crawford pits herself against the ambitious and narcissistic scientist, Kristi Charish, to stop the spread of a zombie epidemic and find a cure. And along the way, she makes herself some new pets—zombie gators!

Title: White Trash Zombie Unchained
Author: Diana Rowland
Series: White Trash Zombie, Book 06
Publish Date: September 4, 2017, Audible Studios
Genre: Urban fantasy
Narrator: Allison McLemore
Cover: Tony Mauro
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Angel Crawford has finally pulled herself together (literally!) after her disastrous dismemberment on Mardi Gras. She’s putting the pieces of her life back in order and is ready to tackle whatever the future holds.

Too bad the future is a nasty bitch. There’s a new kind of zombie in town: mindless shamblers, infectious and ravenous.

With the threat of a full-blown shambler pandemic looming, and a loved one stricken, Angel and the “real” zombies scramble to find a cure. Yet when Angel uncovers the true reason the plague is spreading so quickly, she adds “no-holds-barred revenge” to her to-do list.

Angel is busting her ass dealing with shambling hordes, zombie gators, government jerks, and way too many mosquitos, but this white trash chick ain’t giving up.

Good thing, since the fate of the world is resting on her undead shoulders.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

OMG, I love this series! Listening to it makes me giddy. I feel a series reread coming on. 🙂

Angel Crawford has come a long way from the pill-popping loser she was at the beginning of book 1. She’s drug-free, has a good relationship with her dad, excels at her job, is going back to school for a degree, has made some true friends, and is instrumental in protecting the zombies in her community.

So when it appears she accidentally creates a new batch of mindless, shambling zombies, she feels pretty bad about it. The whole town seems to be turning into shamblers—including Nick, her co-worker, friend, and perhaps more. In order to save Nick and everyone else, Angel has to figure out what the evil Dr. Charish is up to and help her own scientists find a cure.

I love that Rowland has Angel still battling with her self-esteem. Behind the zombie science and outrageous situations, Angel’s story is really one of reclaiming herself, working hard to drag herself up from poverty and substance abuse to have a full and productive life and role in her community. When a person’s life starts in poverty and tragedy, there’s a mentality that never really goes away, regardless of how far they may have come. Rowland doesn’t let it dominate the story or beat the readers over the head with it, but it’s there in Angel’s thoughts about herself and her limits. It’s great to see her work through it productively in this book, and it makes her a role-model, of sorts.

Unchained gets top marks from me. This installment seems to be a turning point in the series, and I’m very excited to see what happens next (particularly with the zombie gators!). I can’t recommend this series enough, especially if you enjoy audiobooks. The narration is such a treat.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Check out the Adventures of Owl and Kincade Strange series by the real, and not evil, Kristi Charish. If you haven’t read it yet, the Sookie Stackhouse series is about another Southern gal put in outrageous situations.

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American Gods 10th Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman

I’m going to make a confession: I’ve never read a Neil Gaiman book before now. I’ve purchased several of his books with the intent to read them, and I’ve seen several movies based on his work, including his Dr. Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife”, which I absolutely adore.

I was super excited when Starz announced it would be reimagining American Gods as a series. I’ve watched it, and it’s fantastic. So when season 1 ended, leaving viewers halfway through the story, I decided I needed to read the book. I’m not patient enough to wait a year to hear what happens to the characters!

Title: American Gods 10th Anniversary Edition
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publish Date: June 21, 2011, HarperAudio
Genre: Urban fantasy
Narrator: Full-cast production
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

When I went looking for the audio of American Gods, I discovered there is not only a 10th Anniversary edition (print and audio), but the audio is done by a full cast. It’s not a dramatic production; there aren’t sound effects or background scores. It’s still unabridged, though I suspect some dialog tags may have been removed for the reading. But each character has a different voice, brought to life by several fantastic voice actors. I would swear some of the voices were done by the TV series actors, but that doesn’t appear to be the case (cast list).

Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle in American Gods (2017)

Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle in American Gods (2017)

The full cast audio recording is wonderful! Multiple voices really enhance the listening experience. Gaiman himself voices not only an introduction and conclusion, telling the listener about the experiences that went into the writing and how the tenth-anniversary edition came about, but he also narrates the Coming to America segments of the book—historical vignettes describing how many of the old gods traveled to the new world. Gaiman has a great voice for the narration.

Since I had watched the show before reading the book, I was looking for the similarities and differences between the two, as well as more depth and explanation than a series can typically go into. There is certainly more depth—a lot more. I’d love to hear a world religion or theology class discuss this book. There are also differences between the two mediums, but they all seem to fit into the same universe, and I enjoyed them all.

American Gods seems to be a good urban fantasy if you want to approach it casually, and a very interesting look at people and religion if you want to dig into the imagery and metaphor. It’s certainly worth more than one read, as there is so much to the book that I’m sure I didn’t absorb it all. I will say that if you are not at all familiar with the myths of a few world religions, you’ll want to have the internet nearby to Google some of the references.

Other recommendations…

David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Good Omens (2018)

David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Good Omens (2018)

It is very easy to see the influence American Gods has in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, so it’s likely if you enjoy one, you will enjoy the other. Gaiman has also breathed new life into the myths of one of the world religions in American Gods in his book Norse Mythology. I’m super excited about the upcoming release of the TV version of Good Omens by Amazon/BBC in 2018. I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to read the book first or not. Sometimes I find it makes for a better experience to read the book after, so that I’m adding richness to the show instead of taking it away from the book. 😉

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Miss Audrey Rose is back at it again in this delightfully creepy mystery that will have you wondering what goes bump in the night.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Hunting Prince DraculaTitle: Hunting Prince Dracula
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #2
Publish Date: September 19, 2017; Jimmy Patterson
Genre: YA Historical Fiction Mystery
Source: Provided by Publisher

Publisher’s DescriptionFollowing the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna_Lovebooks_100Luna Lovebooks says…

Maniscalco has done it again!

 I cannot stop gushing over how much I loved Staking Jack the Ripper. Seriously if you haven’t read it go do so right now. I will wait! …Read it yet? …GOOD! Now pick up Hunting Prince Dracula, with its whispered lore and beautiful snow covered scenery marred by blood, and fall even harder for Maniscalco’s writing!

I feel like a lot of research went into this book, not only when it came to the Romanian folklore but also the brutal history of Vlad the Impaler and Countess Dracula. The plot is complex and had some slower points, but the action and beautiful settings that make you feel like you are actually in a drafty old castle or walking snow covered forest paths more than make up for them.

I love that Miss Wadsworth is still reeling from the events in Stalking Jack the Ripper. But I was a little disappointed to see her worrying more about what society would think, particularly when it came to Mr. Cresswell (who, by the way, I am becoming a huge fan-girl of) than in the previous novel. But once Audrey deals with her personal demons and throws the incessant worrying about society’s rules out the window, things pick up speed. I was also pleasantly surprised by who the culprit really is. I did not see it coming AT ALL!

badge5v5It is a rare event when a sequel is on par with the first installment of a series. This novel will be taking its rightful place next to Stalking Jack on my shelves and I will shout praises from the rooftop until I am blue in the face. For its complex mystery, beautiful writing, and life-like characters, I give Hunting Prince Dracula 5 leather wings (I’d say Romanian Tarantula, but I hate spiders and that chapter made me itchy!) and eagerly await the third installment!

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Check out these other historical fiction reads: The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Silver Bullet by Josie Jaffrey

Josie Jaffrey has done it again!

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

35658853Title: The Silver Bullet 
Author: Josie Jaffrey
Series: Solis Invicti Book 04
Publish Date: August 5, 2017
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Urban Fantasy
Source: Provided by author

Publisher’s DescriptionThe truth is out, and Emmy is faced with a choice she dreads: surrender her mortality, or allow her frailty to threaten the nascent society the Silver are building. With exile the only reasonable alternative, she struggles with feelings she can’t define and a duty she’s reluctant to accept.

While the Silver city hangs in the balance, Emmy must remake herself to redeem it and save her friends. Her reinvention forces her to choose sides, threaten alliances and risk becoming like those she fears: inhuman.

The Silver Bullet is the final book in Josie Jaffrey’s Solis Invicti paranormal romance quadrilogy, set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic London where a deadly infection threatens to wipe out humanity. The only people who can stem its advance are the Silver, a vampiric race who offer a simple exchange: protection in return for blood and subservience.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna_Lovebooks_100Luna Lovebooks says…

Ms. Jaffrey has done it again! The Silver Bullet is full of action, betrayal, and just the right amount of steamy.

The action picks up right where Bound in Silver left off. It doesn’t let up from there. In all actuality if life hadn’t have gotten in the way I probably could have finished it in a day. I didn’t want to put it down! There are a few slower parts but they blend in well and never last long.

I do not want to give too much away, so all I will say on the betrayal front is this: I never saw it coming! Jaffery has a way of making me want to throw her books across the room (trust me this is a good thing). I was so surprised and hurt right along with Emmy that it felt like a personal betrayal. On a side note, I think I may be safer getting these books in paperback before re-reading them all. 😉

I love the love between Sol and Emmy! He truly loves her and wants her to choose even if it means losing her. It is refreshing from the “I’m gonna make you mine” attitude in many romance novels. True to life Emmy realizes that she has loved Sol all along. The tid bit where Drew pinned Emmy while training her felt true to life as well. It would be slightly awkward given their history.

The ending holds possibilities for more to the series or even the potential for spin off series. Either way it was an explosive ending to an amazing series!

badge5v5I will shout my love for this series from the rooftops! I give this book 5 cures!

 

 

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Here are some more post-apocalypse reads to check out: Blackwing by Ed McDonald, Pandemic by A.G. Riddle, The Bone Gatherer by Jennifer Adele

Q & A time with Kristen Simmons

LunaLovesBooks2Simmons is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Here she shares some of the inspiration behind The Glass Arrow and a sneak peak at the novel.  

Q: Please introduce us to Aya and share some general background on THE GLASS ARROW.

A: Aya has been one of my favorite characters to write. Born into a world where women are endangered, where girls are condemned as breeders and misogyny is the norm, she’s learned to adapt and survive by flying under the radar. With her family – a small group of free women – she hides from those who would see her sold into domestic slavery. Aya is tough: she hunts, fishes, defends her family. When she’s captured and brought into captivity at the Garden, a training facility for girls, her life is turned upside down. All she can think about is reconnecting to the people she loves, and reclaiming her freedom, but she has to be smart in order to escape, and that may involve trusting a very unlikely ally.

Q: What inspired you to write THE GLASS ARROW?

A: A few stories on the news, and some social issues that seem to continue rising, but mostly my own experience. The transition into high school was difficult for me, as it is for many people. Before that time, I remember feeling like I could do anything, be anyone. I was valued because I was creative, and interesting, and smart, but once I stepped foot into high school, things changed. It didn’t matter what kind of person I was; all that was important was if I was wearing the right clothes, or had my hair done the right way. If I was pretty. Boys judged us based on a star system – “She’s an eight,” they’d say, or “Her face is a nine, but the rest of her is a four.” And worse, girls began sharing that same judgment, trying to raise these numbers to be cool, and popular. They’d compare themselves against each other, make it a competition. This, as I quickly learned, was what it meant to be a young woman.

That experience transformed into Aya’s existence – her journey from the freedom of the mountains, where she was important for so many reasons, to the Garden, where she is dressed up, and taught to be, above all things, attractive. Where she has to compete against other girls for votes come auction day. On that auction stage, Aya’s given a star rating based on her looks, which is what her potential buyers will use to determine their bidding. It bears a direct correlation to my life as a teenager – to the lives of many teenagers.

When it all comes down to it, I wanted to write a story where worth is determined by so much more than the value other people place on your body.

Q: A lot has happened in the “real world” since the novel first came out in 2015. Does it feel surreal looking back at the book now?

A: Ah, I wish it did! Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of these issues are still very, scarily relevant, not just for young women, but all people. It seems like every time I see the news there is another incident of someone being measured by their looks rather than their internal worth, of women being degraded and disrespected, and of advantage being taken of someone’s body and mind. It frightens me that these issues persist, but I never claim that THE GLASS ARROW was a look into the future. To me, it was always a way of processing the present.

Q: Congratulations for the surge of attention the book is receiving, thanks to things like the Hulu adaptation of THE HANDMAID’S TALE. What do you want readers to take with them after reading THE GLASS ARROW?

A: Thank you very much! I am delighted by the mention, and honored to be included in the same thought as the great HANDMAID’S TALE. If people do find their way to my book as a response, I hope they take away that they are so much more important than the sometimes superficial and careless values other people assign to them. As Aya says in the book, I hope they know that there are not enough stars in the night sky to measure their worth.

Q: Besides other classics like Margaret Atwood’s book, do you have any recommendations for readers wanting to explore more dystopian fiction and speculative fiction works?

A: How about METALTOWN by Kristen Simmons? That’s a great dystopian! Or the ARTICLE 5 series, about a world where the Bill of Rights has been replaced by moral law… Ok, ok, I’m sorry. That was shameless. I always recommend LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow, THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin, Marie Lu’s Legend series, and of course, THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy. Those are all thrilling, and excellent looks both at the present, and the future.

Q: What are you working on now, and when can readers expect to see your next book?

A: I have two books coming out in 2018, and can’t wait to share both of them. PACIFICA will be released March 6, 2018, and is about a world after the polar ice caps have melted, and a pirate girl and the son of the president find themselves in the middle of a building civil war. It’s a story largely informed my my great grandmother’s internment in World War II. In the fall, I’ll have a new series starting. THE PRICE OF ADMISSION, first in the Valhalla Academy books, is about a girl accepted into an elite boarding school for con artists. I hope readers love them both!

Q: Where can readers find you online?

A: I’m always available through social media – Twitter and Instagram at @kris10writes, and Facebook at Author.KristenSimmons. I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and remember, you’re worth more than all the stars in the night sky.

Kristen Simmons is the author of the ARTICLE 5 series (ARTICLE 5, BREAKING POINT, and THREE), THE GLASS ARROW, METALTOWN, PACIFICA (coming March 2018 from Tor Teen), and THE PRICE OF ADMISSION (coming Fall 2018 from Tor Teen). She has a master’s degree in social work and loves red velvet cupcakes. She lives with her family in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Links

Website: http://kristensimmonsbooks.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.kristensimmons/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kris10writes
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kris10writes

Read on for an exciting excerpt from The Glass Arrow!

“Run, Aya! I feel them! They’re coming!”

I know a moment later what she means. The horses’ hooves are striking the ground, vibrating the gravel beneath my knees. I look to the brush beside us and quickly consider dragging Metea into it, but the horses are too close. If I’m going to save myself I don’t have time.

“Get up!” I am crying now. The salty tears blend with my sweat and burn my eyes.

“Leave me.” “No!”

Even as I say it I’m rising, hooking my arms beneath hers, pulling her back against my chest. But she’s dead weight and I collapse. She rolls limply to one side. I kiss her cheek, and hope she knows that I love her. I will sing Bian’s soul to the next life. I will sing her soul there too, because she surely is doomed to his same fate.

“Run,” she says one last time, and I release her.

I sprint due north, the opposite direction from the cave where I hope Salma has hidden the twins. I run as hard and as fast as I can, fueled by fear and hatred. My feet barely graze the ground for long enough to propel me forward, but still I can feel the earth tremble beneath them. The Trackers are coming closer. The Magnate is right on my heels.

I dodge in my zigzag pattern. I spin around the pine trees and barely feel the gray bark as it nicks my arms and legs. My hide pants rip near the knee when I cut too close to a sharp rock, and I know that it’s taken a hunk of my skin, too. No time to check the damage, no time for pain. I hurdle over a stream-bed and continue to run.

A break in the noise behind me, and I make the mistake that will cost me my freedom.

I look back.

They are close. So much closer than I thought. Two horses have jumped the creek. They are back on the bank now, twenty paces behind me. I catch a glimpse of the tattered clothes of the Trackers, and their lanky, rented geldings, frothing at the bit. The faces of the Virulent are ashy, scarred, and starved. Not just for food, but for income. They see me as a paycheck. I’ve got a credit sign tattooed across my back.

I run again, forcing my cramping muscles to push harder. Suddenly, a crack pierces the air, and something metal— first cold, then shockingly hot—winds around my right calf. I cannot hold back the scream this time as I crash to the ground.

The wire contracts, cutting through the skin and into the flesh and muscle of my leg. The heat turns electric, and soon it is shocking me, sending volts of lightning up through my hips, vibrating my insides. My whole body begins to thrash wildly, and I’m powerless to hold still. The pressure squeezes my lungs and I can’t swallow. I start to pant; it is all I can do to get enough air.

A net shoots out over me. I can see it even through my quaking vision. My seizing arms become instantly tangled.

“Release the wire! Release it!” orders a strident male voice.

A second later, the wire retracts its hold, and I gasp. The blood from my leg pools over the skin and soaks the dirt below. But I know I have no time to rest. I must push forward. To avoid the meat market, to keep my family safe, I must get away.

I begin to crawl, one elbow digging into the dirt, then the next. Fingers clawing into the mossy ground, dragging my useless leg. But my body is a corpse, and I cannot revive it.

Mother Hawk, I pray, please give me wings.

But my prayers are too late.

My voice is only a trembling whisper, but I sing. For Bian and for Metea. I sing as I push onward, the tears streaming from my eyes. I must try to set their souls free while I can.

Out of the corner of my eye I see the boney fetlocks of a chestnut horse. The smooth cartilage of his hooves is cracked. This must be a rental—the animal hasn’t even been shod. An instant later, black boots land on the ground beside my face. Tracker boots. I can hear the bay of the hounds now. The stupid mutts have found me last, even after the horses and the humans.

I keep trying to crawl away. My shirt is soaked by sweat and blood, some mine, some Metea’s. It drips on the ground. I bare my teeth, and swallow back the harsh copper liquid that is oozing into my mouth from a bite on the inside of my cheek. I am yelling, struggling against my failing body, summoning the strength to escape.

“Exciting, isn’t it boys?” I hear a man say. The same one who ordered the release of the wire.

He kneels on the ground and I notice he’s wearing fine linen pants and a collared shirt with a tie. If only I had the power to choke him with it. At least that would be vengeance for one death today. His face is smooth and creaseless, but there’s no fancy surgery to de-age his eyes. He’s at least fifty.

He’s wearing a symbol on his breast pocket. A red bird in flight. A cardinal. Bian has told me this is the symbol for the city of Glasscaster, the capitol. This must be where he plans on taking me. He’s ripping the net away, and for a moment I think he’s freeing me, he’s letting me go. But this is ridiculous. I’m who he wants.

Then, as though I’m an animal, he weaves his uncalloused, unblistered fingers into my black, spiraled hair, and jerks my head back so hard that I arch halfway off the ground. I hiss at the burn jolting across my scalp. He points to one of the Trackers, who’s holding a small black box. Thinking this is a gun, I close my eyes and brace for the shot that will end my life. But no shot comes.

“Open your eyes, and smile,” the Magnate says. With his other hand he is fixing his wave of stylishly silver hair, which has become ruffled in the chase.

I do open my eyes, and I focus through my quaking vision on the black box. I’ve heard Bian talk about these things. Picture boxes. They freeze your image, so that it can be preserved forever. Like a trophy.

I’m going to remember this moment forever, too. And I don’t even need his stupid picture box.