January 26, 2013

Book review: The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

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Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks. 

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Part zombie story and part literary fiction, reading The Reapers are the Angels reminded me of reading books like Huckleberry Finn and Of Mice and Men in English class. In other words, the writing style didn't work for me. It's not what I want in a zombie novel.

Some reviews praised the writing, and while I can see why some people liked it, I personally found it to detract from the story. I've read books where the author misspells words or doesn't use correct punctuation on purpose. When it works, like in Moira Young's Blood Red Road, it's because the story is told in first person point of view and it sounds like the main character narrating to you. In this case, the story is told in third person point of view, and I didn't understand why the author chose to write this way except that he thought he was being clever.

The book wasn't all bad though. If you can get past the writing, there's an interesting story among all of the words. For zombie fans, there's some violence and gore that is typical of the genre. Temple was also a character that I could have liked if the book was written differently. She had some depth and nuances that made her compelling but not very sympathetic to me.

Overall, if you like literary fiction and want to try a zombie book, this might be for you. However, if you're looking for a straight-up entertaining story about zombies, I recommend Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin series or Mira Grant's Newsflesh Trilogy instead.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Die Trying by Lee Child.

January 19, 2013

Done with first draft

This week, I completed the first draft of my newest novel in progress! After a slow start, I made great progress over the Christmas holidays and finished ahead of my original goal of February. More so than with the first two novels I wrote, this story spoke to me while I was writing it. There were times when it felt like a voice inside my head was reading the story to me, and my job was simply to write it down as quickly as possible. Either I was in "the zone" as a writer, or I need psychiatric help. :-) Because of how easy parts of the book came to me, I was able to really churn through it in the last two weeks of December. That, combined with having a break from my full-time job, allowed me to write more than I'd ever done in a 2-week period.

I hope that my bouts of inspiration also meant that this book will be better than any story I've written before. There were certainly times when I felt that what I was writing at the moment was brilliant, but then there were other times when I looked back on what I wrote and considered it to be rubbish. So who knows? Now I start the unenviable task of (multiple rounds of) editing. I'll soon find out if what I've written is worthy of being read by another person. But for now, I'm glad to be done with the first major milestone in novel #3.

January 12, 2013

Book review: Feed by M. T. Anderson

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For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon - a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world — and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Feed started with a bang. I loved the world it took place in, the way the characters talked, what they did, and how they thought. It was a dystopian world that I could really get into. Without hammering it into our heads, the author showed us a world that we could realistically live in one day if we continue on the path we're on now. I thought it was almost prescient that a book published in 2002 predicted how wired our lives are and also how digital advertising tries to target every consumer in cyberspace.

Then, about halfway through, the author lost his way. The narrator started talking like a normal person, not the futuristic, shallow, Feed-controlled teen he was at the beginning of the book. Maybe the author was trying to show his character developing into a "normal" person? If so, it didn't quite work for me.

Feed tries to be a satire in the vain of A Brave New World or 1984, but in the second half of the book, I found the message to be too preachy. The interactions between Titus and Violet lost their charm, and their conversations sounded more like lessons than a story.

Taken separately, I'd give the first half of the book 5 stars and the second half 3 stars, for an average of 4 stars overall.

Note: there's a good deal of profanity in this book. Don't read it if you're easily offended by the s-word and f-word.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell.

January 5, 2013

Authors A to Z reading challenge

In 2013, I am taking on a reading challenge that I call "Authors A to Z." During the course of the year, I will read 26 books written by 26 authors, each of whom have last names beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, starting with an author whose last name begins with A and finishing with one whose last name begins with Z. (I'm nervous about finding an author with a last name starting with X. Any suggestions?) Some of them will be authors I know with books already on my TBR pile, but I expect to read new authors who I wouldn't have chosen to read if not for this challenge.

As I read each book, I will also post a review, so that's a minimum of 26 book reviews this year. Because I'm reviewing every book in the challenge, I will likely break my rule of only posting reviews of books that are 4 or 5 stars. The rule still applies to reviews for books that I read outside of the challenge.

Excited? Want to join me in your own Authors A to Z reading challenge?

Let's get started! The first book in the challenge is: Feed by M.T. Anderson.