The Girl With All The Gifts

 NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Oh my goodness, this is one creepy, thought provokingly brilliant book.  I’d heard good things about it but curiously I’d not heard much of what it was actually about.  I can understand that now.  The fall of civilization, apocalypse, zombie type creatures, are all part of it yes (or some time after the fall) but it’s actually about a young girl called Melanie who is very curious.

The focus is very narrow, kept to what Melanie knows in the beginning and doesn’t really spread out much further than that other than a couple of different POV scenes but all kept in close proximity.  I went through so many emotions, starting off as curious as Melanie but then feeling a bit uncomfortable led to dawning horror and then so much tension I couldn’t actually put the book down because I had to find out what was happening.  Almost like having to look at something awful, just to prove to yourself that it is actually that awful.  The pace is very much tied to the plot and as things progress, things speed up and get more intense and that does not stop until the end.  I actually finished the book with my mouth hanging open.

With a very small core cast, the obvious focus is Melanie who I loved, even with the creepy factor.  Secondly is Miss Justineau, her compassion and intelligence create for some very raw scenes.  The superb writing of Carey gave us the Sergeant who I loathed… then by the end I loved.  That’s a pretty impressive turnaround in not a lot of time and shows that what you see is very much not what you get.  Caldwell, the scientist, is cold but I’m stuck between necessity and hatred where she is concerned.  She may be the only one who can get the answer but her actions are abhorrent.  The lieutenant was just a bit a fish out of water and didn’t get in the way too much.

The answer to what is going on however is mind-blowing and so very horrifying.  Yet, it’s also fascinating and in an odd way, hopeful.

A brilliant yet creepy book that will leave you thinking.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: M.R. Carey
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Genre: Horror
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Darkhouse

 Perry Palomino is 20 something and stuck in a job she hates with a family who don’t understand her. She has always had weird things happening to her, but the nightmares she is having this time are much darker. Drawn to her uncle’s abandoned lighthouse, she starts seeing things that make no sense and meets up with a trespassing amateur ghost hunter – Dex Foray – which is when things go from bad to worse!

This is not my usual kind of book – not enough romance for one thing, but having said that, by the end I was enjoying it. This seems more like a young adult book even though the main characters are 22 and 30 something. They behaved  like a couple of teenagers at times with their decisions and actions.

I have to confess Dex annoyed the hell out of me. What a prat, and I don’t understand what Perry sees in him. I can tell he has lots of secrets which will no doubt appear in future books and will become more likeable, but at the moment he is not for me. Perry is also not the most likeable of characters, but she did make me laugh at times. I expect the romance between these two will be developed over future books but it was definitely lacking here.

Moving on to the story – I do not really read scary stories (I am a wuss) so to me this seemed quite scary! Probably very tame for people who read horror, but the descriptions and imagery were excellent.  I was scared at times – the creepy clown lady in particular made me shudder. It took a while to get going but I did get dragged into the story and was keen to find out what was going to happen next.

There were lots of unanswered questions at the end and I do not really feel the lighthouse story was fully explained, but I guess with ghosts there is more that is unexplained than explained. I also get the impression there is much more to Perry than we have seen so far. I note there are a number of books in this series so have no doubt the characters and their relationship will develop.

Overall If you are not big on romance and like scary stories with kooky characters you will probably love this book,  for me the story was fairly good but the lack of romance and my irritation with the characters made it only average.

Book Information
  • Author: Karina Halle
  • Series: Experiment in Terror (1)
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Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Flip This Zombie

Flip this Zombie follows directly on from the events in Married With Zombies.

Sarah and David have lived through the initial outbreak and not only survived but saved their marriage too.  They have even become rather good at the survival game, so much so, they set up as Zombiebusters Extermination Inc. and travel to different survivor camps, looking for jobs (no zombie too squishy!) and any news of the mythical MidWest wall.

David and Sarah are still brilliant characters, solid and realistic and I absolutely love their sense of humour.  With their world gone to hell, they still manage to hang on to their sanity although David struggles more in this book.  They still have their arguments and react like anyone would, but also realise extreme reactions could get them killed.  I have to point out as well that I mentioned the first book was told from the perspective of both of the main characters but it’s actually from Sarah’s point of view, and she is wonderfully snarky.

There are a couple of additional characters in this book who stood out;  ‘The Kid’ is obnoxious but smart as hell and provides a great counterpoint to David and Sarah,  Jimmy No-Toes who has them collecting Zombie heads and finally Barnes, the not-mad scientist who gives them their biggest and most dangerous job to date. There are others but those three stood out the most for me.

The pace and story are very similar to the first book and since I read Flip this Zombie straight after, it felt like I was just reading a much larger book.  This one does have a slight twist at the end that almost had me in tears and I thought both twist and the repercussions were very well done.

I meant to mention book length in the first review – Although the books are short and a reasonably quick read, you still have time to get invested in the characters. I think they are both the perfect length for a light fast read.  With teeth and squishy bits.

As entertaining, funny and macabre as the first book and a worthy sequel!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jesse Petersen
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Married with Zombies

Married with Zombies is a fresh, fun, and very gory look at the Zombie apocalypse!

It’s told from the perspective of David and Sarah, a normal Seattle couple, and how the arguments and annoyances of everyday life have left them on the brink of divorce. When they turn up for their next marriage counselling session, they find their therapist literally eating her favourite clients.

What follows is an often funny, and extremely squishy tale of how they survive. Surviving the outbreak, and neighbours arriving to snack on them, leads them to work together for the first time in a long time.  Killing zombies might just save what six months of counselling hadn’t; their marriage.

The tone of the book flips back and forward between very funny and very macabre in very few words, and that is a huge part of the charm.   In amongst that are moments that made me want to cry and their timing had maximum impact (no pun intended).

The characters are so realistic and well written, you instantly like them, even when they are bickering about all the usual things that couples do.  When they finally realise what is going on, I felt the shock, the surreality, and the laugh or you-will-go-stark-raving-mad situations right along with them and they didn’t let go of me until the end of the book.

The zombies themselves were unsurprisingly a major part of the book and some of the descriptions were very entertaining;  messy with quite a major ick factor.  I liked that Petersen used the ‘accepted’ rules for them and also didn’t attempt to explain ‘how and why’ other than the inital ‘where’.

The plot is actually very simple and follows what I think a lot of people would do in this scenario.  First and foremost, survive the initial outbreak, then attempt to contact or find relatives.  Try to remember everything you can from zombie movies you’ve watched,  you never know when it comes in handy and finally, everything can be a weapon if used creatively enough!

A very entertaining zombie rom-com, that I think a lot of fans of different genres will enjoy.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jesse Petersen
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Feed

The Rising was a time of horror, a realisation that in mankind’s arrogance  to assert control over nature’s most basic forms, it almost annihilated them.  Those that died didn’t stay dead, they rose and the deadly and infectious virus urged them on, an insatiable need to feed.  Twenty years on, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are offered the chance of a lifetime, to follow a political campaign and report the truth as they see it.  Some truths hide behind dark conspiracy and sometimes it’s worth killing for.

Having literally just finished reading Feed, I’m still in a bit of a state of shock.  The book itself shows an amazing in-depth look at how the world would be if there really was a zombie outbreak and the ramifications for everyone.  What caught me though is how well written and emotional the main story was.  The characters of Georgia and Shaun especially; I felt like I knew them and perhaps some of that is because we already live in a blogging world where people post their innermost thoughts.  It’s not written from the point of view of a blog – but it is the background from where the story comes from.  Bloggers are the ‘modern’ world’s news givers and the pieces you do get are almost familiar.

Georgia and Shaun were wonderfully real, practical and determined, and their bond as siblings was very touching.  I loved how the sense of danger the world lives with every day was portrayed, with the virus inactive in everyone until they die, or are encouraged into converting.  Then they come back as something else, something highly infectious, deadly and with only one mandate: Feed.

The book itself is so much more than just another zombie apocalypse story.  The apocalypse has already happened, not because of any supernatural or mystical means but due to human error and a combination of events.  It’s set after the ‘Rising’ for one thing and while it starts off being a survival story it then adds in crime, horror, intrigue, heroism and sacrifice.  A heady mix and a wonderful story.  Highly recommended if you like to read any of those things.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Mira Grant
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Cursed

At 12 years old, Cheyenne Clark’s life was changed forever when she watched a werewolf devour her father.  Traumatised yet lucky to have escaped the same fate, she drifted through life, unable to forget the gleam of the monster’s unnatural green eyes.  Now 24, a chance meeting leads Chey being offered the chance and training for revenge, some closure and help prevent it from happening again.  All she has to do is travel into the arctic alone.

Cursed is a book I would not normally have picked up.  While I might like to think my reading range is quite broad, the truth is I’m a bit of a wuss.  Blood, guts and gore don’t particularly bother me but emotions are what get me every time and horror is a very emotionally and psychologically charged genre.

Having said that, when I was directed to David Wellington’s online stories, I was intrigued and once I’d started reading one, that was it, I had to work my way down the list.  Cursed is the result of one of those stories being expanded upon and released as a novel; and it deserved to be.  David has a very easy to read style of writing but that in no way lessens the impact the story has.  It’s gritty, raw and at times disturbing but I had to keep reading, I had to know how it turned out.

It’s not a werewolf story in the current and popular mold of wolf and human living symbiotically.  It looks back to the older stories of the wolf half being pure predator and the human side having to live with they find after they change back.

Wellington adds in his own twists to the lore which I found fascinating and he really manages to convey a heady dose of mixed emotions, from one end of the spectrum to the other.  By the end I felt a bit wrung out, but also that I’d read something different and really, quite special.

If you like your werewolves fluffy, funny and tamed by their human half then this book isn’t for you.  If you like a gripping horror/thriller that has a unique look at an ages old myth with some truly emotional scenes then read Cursed.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Cursed has been published in the US as Frostbite and you can also read more fiction by David Wellington on his website.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Wellington
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The Price

District Attorney Will Sullivan once had the dream and potential to become the next Governor of Massachusets.  Now his dreams are for his terminally ill daughter to live.  His wife Joanna, refuses to deal with that reality, clinging to any hope she can and Will is afraid of losing them both.  When miracles seem to happen to patients around them, Will is approached by an odd counsellor who says he can help but something about him seems off.  With his political career about to collapse around him, his only concern being his wife and his daughter, Joanna begs him to continue campaigning.  When his daughter makes a full recovery, Will is certain all is not right and his wife begins disappearing at night.  Miracles might indeed happen, but there is a price.

What price would you pay to save the life of someone you loved?

I found this book much spookier than The Harrowing, even though its supernatural elements were less evident.  I can only put it down to clever writing, a well laid out setting and a good tale.  I always knew where I was in relation to the story and everyone you meet, even briefly,  felt well rounded.  Sokoloff’s easy to read style of writing was again very much present and the smooth flow meant I had to keep the pages turning.  I really had to restrain myself from jumping ahead and see what the answers were and again, was glad I didn’t.  The main characters were excellent and I found I empathised with Will the most, as Joanna was emotionally closed off for a lot of the book.  There were a few scenes that made the hair on the back of my neck prickle and I really found it hard to put it down, needing to find out what was happening next and what the ultimate resolution would be.

A very intriguing and engaging second book from Alexandra Sokoloff.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Alexandra Sokoloff
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The Harrowing

Already lonely, Thanksgiving is hard on Robin Stone when Mendenhall, her residence hall at Baird College, empties out for the holiday.  To her surprise she finds that four other students have also chosen to remain at the hall, and while very different to each other they become bonded by their choice to remain for the long weekend.  As they entertain themselves, they become aware of another presence slightly oppressive, persuasive and they play a dangerous game thinking they know who it is.  Five at the hall at the start of the holiday.  How many will be left when the hall fills once more?

I’d heard good things about Alexandra Sokoloff’s work but I do like to make my own mind up about an author that is new to me.  The Harrowing is the first book she released and is a mild horror/suspense.

The first thing that struck me is that she has a very fluid and easy to read style of writing, something that is always a treat to find.  The second is she has a knack for getting you right into the story and in tune with the characters right from the start.  My third and final impression was, while the story wasn’t overly complicated, it had plenty of twists and turns to keep me turning the pages and enough tension that I wanted to peek at the back to find out if it was all going to come out OK.  I managed not to and am glad I didn’t, as I would have missed out on a lot of the build up.  The characters were well created, I could empathise with them easily and I cared and worried about what the outcome would be for them.

Considering it was a debut novel, it was an extremely engaging, enjoyable and tense read.  I definitely look forwards to reading more by Alexandra Sokoloff.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Alexandra Sokoloff
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)