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The Girl In Red by Christina Henry

Christina Henry’s series of reimagined fairy tales continues with The Girl In Red, a post-apocalyptic version of Little Red Riding Hood.

Title: The Girl In Red
Author: Christina Henry
Publish Date: June 18, 2019 by Berkley
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic fiction
Narrator: January LaVoy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods…

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Invested Ivana says…

After a deadly virus wipes out most of the population, Red—the only surviving member of her immediate family—travels overland toward her grandmother’s house, hoping Grandma has also has survived. Along the way, she encounters packs of ruthless scavengers, the military, some children, one good person, and a possible mutation to the virus that is even scarier and more deadly than the original strain.

Many characteristics of The Girl In Red are familiar for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, particularly The Walking Dead (but without the zombies). However, there are several novel elements and some really good characterization that keep it from feeling stale. For example, Red has a prosthetic leg. Imagine what it would be like to travel 300 miles overland through wooded areas with a prosthetic leg.

In flashbacks, the reader gets a good feel for Red’s life before the apocalypse and her family’s dynamic. They serve as great contrasts to her post-apocalypse experience and demonstrate her resilience.

There is one element I thought particularly fun. Red attributes her knowledge and preparedness for the apocalypse to her love of post-apocalypse genre fiction and movies. Henry doesn’t make the mistake of making Red unrealistically capable—fiction is just fiction after all. Red makes her fair share of mistakes, but she is slightly more prepared mentally because she has some idea of what to expect in a post-apocalyptic situation. One role that fiction entertainment plays in our world is allowing us to mentally “practice” in situations that we have never encountered in real life. Red’s actions in this book are a great example of this.

In contrast, Shakespeare appears often in this book. Red’s mother is a professor of Shakespeare, and so some of his work is embedded in Red’s mind as well. Through her, the reader gets just a small taste of “Compare and contrast the relevance of literary Shakespeare and genre fiction in today’s world.”

I like it when characters in a book are readers themselves. It’s a nod from authors to their fans, an acknowledgment of shared interest and inclusion in The Club of Readers.

There are actually lots of themes that could be teased out of this book for a discussion: family dynamics, race (Red is mixed-race), physical disabilities, human behavior during crises, skills necessary for survival, the material nature of modern life. But the strongest theme has to be that of resilience and its ability to see you through difficult times.

My one complaint about this book is that there isn’t more. The story is told from Red’s point of view exclusively, and she’s not a major player in the apocalypse event, just a victim of it. But things happen in her world that I want to know more about, such as where the virus comes from and how widespread its effects are. And what about the possible mutation? A want to know a LOT more about that mutation! And, as always, I want to know what happens to Red next, after this book ends.

But that’s not the story Henry is telling, darn it. I completely understand why those things aren’t explained in detail—they aren’t part of Red’s story. But my curiosity doesn’t care; I want to know more.

Despite the fact that this book appears to be a stand-alone and not a full-blown post-apocalyptic series, it is an enjoyable read. I felt very invested in Red and some of the characters she interacts with. January LaVoy’s narration for the audiobook is excellent, which makes it that much more enjoyable. If you can stand the “not-knowing,” aspects of this book, I recommend it highly.

Our reviews in this series…

While not quite a real series, here are the books in Christina Henry’s retold fairy tales so far along with our reviews:

Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson

In a tech enhanced, post apocalyptic world, there are so many games coming into play.  In order to keep control of your little part of the world, there will be political take overs, territorial disputes and if that’s not enough, is the person you trust a mech clone or whole organic?  Does it matter?

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

Title:  Wanted and Wired
Author: Vivien Jackson
Series: Wanted and Wired #1
Publish Date: April 4, 2017
Genre: Post Apocalyptic Fantasy
Publisher’s Description:  Now that Texas has seceded and the world is spiraling into chaos, good guys come in unlikely packages and love sprouts in the most inconvenient places…

Rogue scientist • technologically enhanced • deliciously attractive

Heron Farad should be dead. But technology has made him the man he is today. Now he heads a crew of uniquely skilled outsiders who fight to salvage what’s left of humanity: art, artifacts, books, ideas-sometimes even people. People like Mari Vallejo.

Gun for hire • Texan rebel • always hits her mark

Mari has been lusting after her mysterious handler for months. But when a by-the-book hit goes horribly sideways, she and Heron land on the universal most wanted list. Someone set them up. Desperate and on the run, they must trust each other to survive, while hiding devastating secrets. As their explosive chemistry heats up, it’s the perfect storm…

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In some cases…spoilers. *BEWARE*

Nervous Nellie says…

I still think you’re crazier than a sack of weasels.” Mari folded her fingers to a fist. “You got somethin’ against weasels?””

This book is a combination of I, Robot, Mad Max, and Firefly with a little Pretty Woman thrown in.  It does have sex in it and some dirty talk heavy with innuendo.  It’s got death too.  ‘Cuz, the protagonist is a paid for hire killer.  It takes place in a world full of robots that are basically clones of the original person. There is a lot of technical speak that even if you don’t speak geek, it’s ok because Mari doesn’t either.  There is not a cliffhanger but I’m very glad there is a book #2 in the series called Perfect Gravity.  I’m going to my local ebook seller and get that next book as soon as I’m finished here.

I was engaged from beginning to end.  I always know it’s a good book when I can’t wait to get back to it if I have to put it down.  There was an emotionally-damaged woman falling in love with a man who was less human and more mechanics.  There was a murder, conspiracy, tech espionage, political games and a look at what the Earth could be reduced to if things all went kablooie.

This was not a cheesy book.  It wasn’t a Star Wars wannabe, it was a Wanted and Wired best seller.  I felt like I had truly delved into another world.  I felt very comfortable there.  There were descriptions of this world’s objects and processes that could be overwhelming but the author wrote it all in such a way that it all fell together and I could imagine exactly what she was describing.  And the best part?  The inner Mari dialogue was incredibly authentic.  Mari is a rough-and-tumble woman, she swears like a sailor and she’s a Texan so you can really hear her accented voice when reading.  It just clicked. Another best part?  When Mari finds out that she is very smart even though she didn’t think so.  She is the only one that can save her partner from losing himself in the internet which is, in the future, named the “Cloud”.  Appropriate, right?

Dr. Farad doesn’t go by Dr. Farad when he works with Mari.  To Mari, Dr. Farad is only Heron, her operations planner that talks her through every job with details of who, what, where and how to get out in a hurry.  What Mari doesn’t know is that Dr. Farad is enamored with her and wants to be more than partners in work.  He’s not a military super god but he is very well equipped in the brain department.  He can decipher odds, monitor the law enforcement channel and run multiple scenarios all at once.  Useful, that.

This tale was a page-turning ride.  I enjoyed the “wild west” feel in a post-apocalyptic world that is laced with robots who are clones, humans that are tech-enhanced and also those humans that are whole-organic, meaning like you and me.

Other recommendations…

…you might try Dark Sky series by Amy Braun, Cursed series by Amy Braun and Immortal Vegas series by Jenn Stark.

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

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The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn

A chilling yet redemptive post-apocalyptic debut that examines community, motherhood, faith, and the importance of telling one’s own story.

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

Title: The Rending and the Nest
Author: Kaethe Schwehn
Publish Date: February 20, 2018, by Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic
Source: Provided by the publisher

Publisher’s DescriptionWhen ninety-five percent of the world’s population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: she cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can’t afford to lose. Four years after the Rending, Mira has everything under control. Almost.

Then Mira’s best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first in this strange world and a new source of hope for Mira. But Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and soon other women of Zion do, too—and the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new world begins to fray. As the community wrestles with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world outside Zion. He lures Lana away, and when she doesn’t return, Mira has to decide how much she’s willing to let go in order to save her friend, her community, and her own fraught pregnancy.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Agent Annie says…

Hmmm, I’m not sure what to say about the book. It feels like all the pieces were there for me to think this was amazing. It took place in a post-apocalyptic civilization, the main character was gritty and brave, there were interesting supporting characters, a really creepy bad guy, and something new—the birthing of inanimate objects.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t quite get into the story. The story had some graphic descriptions that seemed jarring in comparison to the rest of the book. The main character, Mira, mused about religion and the god her Christian father used to preach about. There were some very deep conclusions that Mira comes to, for instance: “The problem with love is that it craves an outlet. Love is a verb, as my father said, and so love makes us act: notes scribbled, roses purchased, hair brushed, ointment administered. Simple acts and tremendous ones.” Normally, this would really affect me, and I would connect with the characters and draw something from the story that would stay with me. This just wasn’t the case, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Perhaps, it was the speed in which the narrative moved. I expected something really terrible to happen, and it never did. Everything seemed to be not quite as bad, not quite as creepy, not quite so much loss as I would have expected. The stage was set for incredible emotional growth out of the depths of horrible circumstances, but it just seemed so average.

I would give this book an average rating, 3 stars.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, I recommend Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (one of my favorites) or California by Edan Lepucki.

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

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