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Book Review: The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Fred Berman)

June 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Silhouette of a woman running down a dark, misty, spooky road.Summary:
Lilly Caul’s father shoved her into a bus escaping town just as the doors were closing. They closed on him and zombies ate him while she watched.  Haunted by the feeling that everyone caring for her puts their own lives in danger, she’s struggling to survive among a rag-tag group of survivors, including her high school friend, Megan.  Slowly her small group of friendly survivors, headed by a big strong black man, Josh Lee, who has feelings for her, breaks off from the main group and find their way to Woodbury.  There, the sinister side of the town gradually reveals itself.

Review:
My understanding of this print companion series to the graphic novel one was that it was going to follow the life of the villain The Governor.  The first book told the backstory of The Governor and brought him to Woodbury, so I was expecting a book showing how he came to rule the town with an iron fist.  Instead this entry covers the backstory of Lilly Caul, and how she comes to Woodbury.  Although it’s always fun to visit this post-apocalyptic land that Kirman and Bonansinga have created, this entry just didn’t have the energy and appeal of the first book in the series.

I have to admit, although I recognized the name Lilly Caul, I couldn’t for the life of me remember who she was at first, so I spent quite a bit of time scratching my brain trying to figure out why we were following her around.  I finally remembered that she’s one of the gang of Woodbury folks who go head-to-head with Rick Grimes’s gang in the graphic novels.  A check of the wiki reminded me that she’s the one who shoots and kills Lori and Judith.  Eh, this explains why I have no strong feelings about her.  I hated Lori and felt nothing about Judith, so I certainly didn’t view her as a memorable villain.  I now get it that the series is trying to show how all of Woodbury happened, not just the tale of The Governor.  But the thing is that if you could tell the story of a compelling figure like The Governor why talk about the girl next door?  It made for a boring book.  There is nothing extraordinary about Lilly.  She’s just a cowardly girl trying to survive an apocalypse, and she does it by leeching on to people who care for her but she seems to be lacking the ability to truly care about anyone besides herself.  She also spends a lot of time slut shaming her “best friend” Megan, which pissed me off to no end.  So we have a woman playing with people’s hearts for protection but simultaneously judging Megan for sleeping with people for protection.  Yuck.  Given all of these aspects of her character, I also found it really unbelievable  that she would *spoiler warning* lead a rebellion against The Governor. *end spoilers*

When we finally do get to Woodbury, The Governor is already in charge, although he has yet to call himself The Governor.  We do get to see what led to the establishment of the gladiator-style arena with the zombies, and we also see more reasons as to why the town folk trust and respect him.  But we see all of this through Lilly, Megan, and Bob’s eyes.  I honestly wanted to know more of the inner workings of The Governor, so I found this third person perspective disappointing.

There’s nothing new or ground-breaking in the horror.  There is one massive swarm of zombies that is clearly supposed to be terrifying, but it did nothing for me.  Maybe I’m just getting acclimated to this world, but neither the characters nor the level of horror increased the intensity enough for me.

That said, even though I didn’t enjoy which characters were focused on or how the plot was constructed, we do learn more about the world of Woodbury, and the post-apocalyptic world in general.  We learn how and why the gladiator ring started, how The Governor won people over, and more about how the weather impacted the survivors on that particular winter.  Long-time fans will find value in reading this book, even though it is by no means a thrilling or thought-provoking entry in the series.  Skim it quickly to get the important bits and move on.  For that reason, I would recommend the print over the audio, in spite of Berman’s talent as a narrator.  He was better than the book he was given.

3 out of 5 stars

Source:  Audible

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Previous Books in Series
The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, review

600 Follower Freebie Celebration!!

March 6, 2013 5 comments

Silhouette of woman and cat.Hello my lovely readers!

To celebrate my blog reaching 600 followers, I’m offering up ebook copies of my novel, Waiting for Daybreak, for FREE for three days!  And that’s an unlimited number to everyone who wants one!!

What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

Still not sure if you want this bad-ass free book?  Check out the reviews from the blog tour, on Amazon, and on GoodReads.

In order to get your FREE ebook, go to this page, add it to your cart, then put in the coupon code at checkout for 100% off.  You may choose a version compatible with any ereader, computer, and many phones.  That’s right, read it for free on your kindle, iPhone, Kobo, and more!

I’m so excited to have so many followers, and you all definitely deserve some special access to my work.  So are you ready to grab the coupon code and check it out?

Your coupon code is……

LC57W

Again, just go to this site, add the book to your cart, then enter the coupon code at checkout for 100% off!

Feel free to share the coupon code with your friends.  It will expire on Sunday.  And thank you to one and all for being my followers!

<3

Book Review: Valley of Death, Zombie Trailer Park by William Bebb

November 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Red tinted image of a desert valley.Summary:
When Josey arrives a secluded trailer park near Albuquerque to empty their septic tank, it soon becomes apparent that not all is right in the park.  In fact, most of the residents have turned to zombies.  As Josey’s fight for survival goes on, we meet a quirky cast of survivors, bystanders, perpetrators–and zombies: illegal immigrants who call the valley home, their exploitative factory boss, a WWII veteran and grandpa, his young grandson, a paraplegic Vietnam Vet, a boa constrictor, bicycling missionaries, and many more. Will anyone survive the valley of death?

Review:
I have finally found the exception to my don’t-take-book-recommendations-from-other-people rule: my daddy.  My dad texted me and told me he was reading a book about a zombie trailer park and asked if I’d like to borrow it when he was done.  I couldn’t turn that down, so he sent his kindle loan to me as soon as he was finished reading it.  I knew within the first few pages that my dad had picked a winner.  That really shouldn’t surprise me, because, well, it’s my dad, and we’re very similar, but I had been burned a few times with book recommendations recently. Anyway. On to the review!

Bebb’s book is a fresh, engaging take on a zombie outbreak.  The origin is a factory error, which is decidedly different from the more usual government experimentation or voodoo approach.  It’s great commentary on the exploitative practices of factories, not to mention the exploitation of illegal immigrants, without ever being too heavy-handed or preachy.  The zombies are a mix of the rage virus and traditional undead. Before dying they are inexplicably full of rage and will eat almost anything but also when they die they reanimate. It’s a cool mix, and I enjoyed it.

The cast of characters is incredibly imaginative, diverse, and even-handed.  People are truly just people (or zombies) regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.  And, really, how many books can say they have a WWII vet, a sewer truck worker, a mechanically talented Latina, a wheelchair-bound obese meth chef, a loyal dog, bicycling missionaries, and a pot-growing paraplegic Vietnam Vet. I mean, really. And none of them are two-dimensional caricatures either. They are all well-rounded and presented with thought and humanity. I also never had that problem I sometimes have in books where you can’t tell the different characters apart. Everyone was entirely unique and easy to remember.

The plot is complex. I honestly did not know how it was going to end, and it maintains a fast pace throughout.  I was never bored and was never entirely certain what was going to happen next.  That’s coming from a big zombie fan, so I do think that’s saying something significant about the uniqueness of the engaging plot.

What really makes the book, though, is the sprinkling of humor throughout.  This type of humor won’t match everyone, but it certainly works for me.  I described it to my dad as “Patrick F. McManus with zombies,” but if you don’t get that reference, it’s hard to describe the humor.  So, here are a couple of quotes from the book to demonstrate it.

Your average one armed pot growing hermit who just murdered two men might be thinking about a variety of things. (location 2592)

Crazy cop fuckers done bit off my titty! (location 5423)

That second one….oh man. I laugh every time I see it.

So with all this love, why not five stars?  Well, much to Bebb’s chagrin, I’m sure, there aren’t enough commas.  (His author’s intro states that previous reviews said there were too many and now people will probably think there are too few. Sorry to confirm that suspicion, Bebb!)  Compound sentences tend to run on and on with no commas or semi-colons, which can be a bit frustrating to read.  Also, the book isn’t quite properly formatted for the kindle. Its display varies from section to section.  Similarly, while some sections are clearly divided by a dividing line (such as with tildes “~~~~”), others just have a big gap, which is not what one should use for ebooks.  With the variety of ereaders, it’s important to use something besides space as a signal that the reader has entered a new section, since the space can display drastically differently on different readers.  It’s best to use something like the tildes between sections.  Using empty space is a holdover from print that doesn’t work.  Bebb did use the tilde line in some sections, but not all, so there’s also a bit of a consistency problem.

Overall, though, the formatting and comma issues did not distract me from the wonderfully unique and humorous zombie trailer park story.  I’m so glad my dad discovered this indie author and passed his work on to me, and I look forward to reading more of it in the future. Highly recommended to all zombie fans, provided you like the type of humor outlined above.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Borrowed

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Note: It’s currently listed for free!

ETA: Had a delightful email convo with the author, and we determined that I read an older version of the book. The current one available should have mostly cleared up editing/layout concerns.

Book Review: The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer

November 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Two women's faces behind a hole in a bloody door.Summary:
When Kate saves her bellydancing instructor from a random assault in the parking lot then brings her home to a party at her house full of 20-somethings, she doesn’t expect much to come of it. But before she knows it, she finds herself inexplicably attracted to her…not to mention tying her up for some BDSM.  That’s unexpected enough, but when Jamie and others turn pasty gray and start craving human flesh, Kate and her roommates find the world falling apart around them.  Thanks to an STD-style zombie plague.

Review:
Zombie erotica is its own special kind of erotica, and this is not the first of its kind that I have read.  Zombie erotica basically consists of….zombies and erotica. Also punny titles.  The title is definitely the best part of this book.  Everyone I said it to when they asked what I was reading totally cracked up.  The basic concept is rather ordinary, and the execution, while it has a few laughs, is mostly ho-hum.

Making the zombie plague an STD is a logical leap.  Many illnesses spread sexually, and often they spread before there are any visible symptoms.  In fact it’s a great way to spread an illness because of the amount of *ahem* proximity between carrier and the previously healthy person combined with the fact that people almost always will be having sex.  Toss in that the virus amps up attractiveness and/or promiscuity, and you’ve really got an epidemic.  The problem, of course, is that at some point the carriers have to actually turn into zombies.  Beamer handles this transition moderately well.  It is eventually understood that the carriers are basically irresistible crack-cocaine to the nearby uninfected, so that even if they know this person is about to turn into a zombie, they will still hook up with them.

It’s unfortunate that such a creative zombie plague is wrapped in a mostly ho-hum storyline that only becomes interesting when it becomes borderline offensive.  For the most part the story features two of the roommates in a household of 20-somethings approaching the zombie apocalypse getting separated early on, approaching the zombie apocalypse in their own way, then working to get reunited.  Michael tries to pull the household together when Kate abandons ship pretending that nothing is happening to keep her “date” with an older man that is actually more of a sugar daddy appointment.  Michael’s storyline is fairly straight-forward and believable, whereas Kate’s quickly goes off the rails.  I also am not sure that I’m a fan of the whole writing her as a huge slut who winds up having to pay for her crimes whereas Michael is the golden guy thing.  I don’t think Beamer intended it be read that way, but it certainly does not come across as sex positive.

The other part of the storyline that bothered me is that there is a rape. Now. I am not against rape as part of the plot in anything but erotica.  It is a crime that happens and pretending like it doesn’t happen is bizarre. But rape in erotica is an entirely different ballgame.  Erotica is all about turning on the reader, and I do not condone using a very real rape to turn a reader on.  Clearly two consenting adults can agree to act out a scene of non-consent if they wish, but within the book, this is not a consenting scene of non-consent.  There is no prior discussion, no safeword. The character is definitely raped.  To me it is no different from tossing in a pedophilia scene. It is an awful, heinous crime, and it shouldn’t be running around turning people on.  When a book’s entire point is to turn people on, it should definitely not be all up in my erotica.

All of that said, I must still admit that the book is well-written.  It is engaging with a unique plot.  I truly feel it is a book that each reader must decide upon for themselves, but I do hope that readers will come into it better informed than I was, knowing about the questionable sex positivity and the rape content.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Friday Fun! (In Which I Walk Across All of Boston and Blog Tour Updates)

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Hello my lovely readers!

Another busy week at work this week (as it will be until the end of September, so be prepared to hear that sentence repeatedly).  I finally got my booty outdoors this week, though, and I have the tan-lines to prove it!

On Sunday, I went for a long (accompanied) walk along the Charles River. It was completely gorgeous, but I did manage to get a bit of a burn.  According to my dad, I do this every year and always along the Charles. Oops? Maybe next year I’ll finally remember to put on sunblock….

On Tuesday (my work-week Monday), I was meeting up with someone in the North End for gelatto, which I totally did not end up eating, but anyway. I decided that since he couldn’t make it there until 7 at the earliest and I had a couple of hours to kill, I would walk it. Bad. Idea.

My work is on the south side of Boston, so I basically walked across the entire city. In flat pretty sandals. And now I have the shin splints to prove it.  Again, oops?  You may have noticed that I don’t always manage to think my plans all the way through. On the plus side, I got to see the Public Gardens and got a sandwich from the Clover food truck in Boston Common. On the minus side, my shins were too sore for zumba on Wednesday.

I know, I know. #firstworldproblems

Anyway, after all that walking, instead of gelatto I had a glass of sangria, because that is obviously infinitely better. :-D

Also, the best street for gelatto in the North End is Hanover Street, not Salem Street. Just fyi.

Anyway, so that was my super-exciting week!  Now on to the weekly Waiting For Daybreak blog tour updates!

It was a much busier week this week, which was of course exciting!

Wickedly Bookish interviewed me. Check that out to find out my self-publishing advice!

Wickedly Bookish also hosted a giveaway that is still open.  If you have yet to win a copy, definitely consider entering.

Ellie Hall posted a review (that is also cross-posted to 1889 Labs) where she says, “The story flies by and it is thoroughly engrossing, with periods of action and adrenaline nicely balanced by periods of memory and self-reflection. The sense of danger and suspense is well developed, and the narrator’s doubts and fears are easily understood.”

The Book Hoard‘s review says, “If anyone had told me that I’d enjoy a zombie apocalypse a year ago, I’d have told them they were nuts.  However, I have come to enjoy a few zombie apocalypse stories like Waiting For Daybreak.”

The Book Hoard is also hosting a giveaway that is still open. That’s two! Two chances to win a copy! Ah-ha-ha.

Last but not least, Persephone’s Winged Reviews posted a review stating, “At the end of the day, it’s much more about Frieda trying to find out what normal means in a world gone wrong instead of a zombie book. I believe that it is a fresh take on zombies in the fiction genre.”

Thanks once again to every single participating book blogger! I truly appreciate you giving me (and my writing) time and space on your blogs.

To all my loyal blog readers, happy weekends! *waves*

Friday Fun! (In Which I Take Back Up Counted Cross-Stitching and Blog Tour Updates)

July 27, 2012 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

I’ve been trying to keep things kind of quiet in my non-work life right now, since work is so busy with the beginning of the medical school academic year.  So I don’t have too terribly much to tell you except that I now have something besides cooking and cleaning that I’m doing when listening to audiobooks.  I’ve taken back up counted cross-stitching.

I’ve been searching for a crafty/productive hobby for a bit now.  Knitting could only progress as far as scarves before things started to get thrown across the room.  I couldn’t even learn how to do one stitch in crocheting.  I knew I was capable of counted cross-stitching (and embroidery) because it was forced upon me….er, I learned it as a kid.  However, I had this perception of it as being something steeped in old lady and overtly religious patterns.  And then I saw something on tumblr.

It was a counted cross-stitch that quoted Fight Club saying, “Condoms are the glass slipper of our generation,” and had a glass slipper on the bottom.  I about died laughing.  And then I discovered the world of punk stitching, which is what the non-traditional stitchers call it.  I was immediately excited and intrigued.

So I picked up a cross-stitching kit (before getting into designing my own patterns or buying other homemade patterns) to make sure that I wasn’t misremembering my abilities.  After much hunting I found a wintry wolf scene that I thought would go well in my Native American themed bedroom area in my tiny apartment.  I completed 400 stitches the first time I sat down. And I was remembering correctly. This is something I am good at!  This is something that bafflingly relaxes me!  All the counting and organizing that I so adore, and I wind up with prettiness!  I am beyond excited about this rediscovered hobby, as my new pinterest board of patterns probably demonstrates. :-)

In Waiting For Daybreak blog tour news, this was quite an exciting week!  It’s the fullest week of the tour we’ve had so far, and the variety of blogs visited was super-fun for me.

From Me To You… had previously reviewed my novella, Ecstatic Evil, and I was so glad she agreed to participate in the tour for my new, decidedly not paranormal romance, book.  She conducted an awesome interview with me that features pictures to enhance various answers plus she was the first to ask me who I would cast in a movie as Frieda and Mike.  On the same entry as the interview, she reviews the book, saying, “This is one high-intensity novel that will hold you until the end.”

The Paperback Pursuer offered up a review stating, “I was blown away by Amanda McNeil’s ability to develop such a unique and troubled character who every reader can relate to on some level.”

Kelsey’s Cluttered Bookshelf has an interview with me up where you can find out things like my future writing goals and advice for other writers.  She is also offering a giveaway!

Bookishly Me also has an interview up in which I talk about the research I conducted for the book, among other things.

Last but certainly not least, Fangs for the Fantasy offers up a review from a social justice perspective stating, “But even better than a realistic and well-presented depiction of mental illness, we also have it become a strength in the zombie apocalypse.”

A big thank you again to all of the participants!  I’m so glad folks have been enjoying the tour so far.

Happy weekends!

Book Review: The Walking Dead Volume 15 by Robert Kirkman (Series, #8) (Graphic Novel)

July 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Blueish snowy walking dead cover with zombies.Summary:
Everyone’s world was rocked when the zombies got through the community’s fence.  Will they respond by banding together or falling apart?

Review:
Ok, before I review, the numberings need a bit of explanation.  Comic books are issued very similarly to academic journals. So there are skinny issues that come out every few weeks (generally). A few of these bound together make a volume. A bunch of these bound together make a book (what we call in academia a “bound journal.”)  I *was* reading the books of The Walking Dead but then I caught up to the author.  I decided I didn’t want to buy issues, because they’re flimsy and you read through them very quickly, so I’m now reading the volumes.  I hope that makes some semblance of sense.  This will probably be the case throughout the rest of the series, because you have to wait a long time for the books, and I just am too impatient for that.  My reviews will then be much shorter, because a book contains a few volumes, and I am now reviewing one volume at a time.  Moving right along to the review!

This volume is basically cleaning up the mess from the action of the previous one and prepping for the action of the next one.  Classic in-between chapter.  What this volume really reminded me of is the infamous “Live together or die alone” speech by Jack in Lost.  In fact, this volume sees Rick basically trying to turn into Jack and failing miserably.  Long-time readers know I’ve never liked the guy, so personally I got a lot of schadenfreude out of seeing him be so pathetic in this volume.

That said, the survivors are definitely going for a new strategy, which will lend itself well to future fresh storylines, which any long-running series needs.

Fans of the sex will be quite happy with the developments in that area. Drama! Intrigue! Changes of partners!

Overall, it’s an enjoyable entry, if not mind-blowing, that perfectly sets things up for the next volume. Fans won’t be disappointed!

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Newbury Comics

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Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Six (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Seven (review)

Publication Announcement: Waiting For Daybreak

June 4, 2012 5 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

I am pleased to be able to say my first full-length novel, Waiting For Daybreak, is now available on Amazon!  After the first 90 days, it will also be available at Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

What is normal?

Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

I do hope you will give it a shot.

If you have a book blog and would like to participate in the upcoming blog tour, just let me know!

*confetti*

Cover Announcement

May 30, 2012 2 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

I am beyond excited to inform you that the edits are FINISHED for my second novel entitled Waiting For Daybreak.  It is 41,685 words.  Yay!

The publication date is tentatively set for sometime in July.  The exact date will be determined after I sit down and figure out the blog tour.  (Please let me know if you’d be interested in participating in that!)

In the meantime, you can get a sneak peak via the cover, which was finished today.  I hope you enjoy!

 

Book Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (Audiobook narrated by Kevin Kenerly)

April 16, 2012 5 comments

Living hand in dead one.Summary:
R is a zombie, and he remembers nothing about his life before he was one–except that his name starts with the letter R.  He and his group of the other living dead inhabit an old abandoned airport and are ruled by the bonies.  They hunt the living not just for the food, but also for the memories that come from ingesting their brains.  It’s like a drug.  One day when he’s out on a hunt, R eats the brain of a young man who loves a young woman who is there, and R steps in to save her.  It is there that an unlikely love story begins.

Review:
Now that I have a new job I decided to stop going through the rigamarole that is finding something you actually want to read as an audiobook in the public library and subscribe to Audible, especially since I always have my kindle with me anyway.  I decided to choose audiobooks to read from the bottom of my wishlist, so everything you’ll be seeing on here (unless it was free on Audible) was put on my wishlist a long time ago.  Half the time I couldn’t remember why it wound up there.  That was the case here.  I mean; I’m assuming it was there for the zombies, but I basically had no other idea about it heading in.  This is partly why my mind was blown, so if you want a similar experience I’m telling you to go get yourself a copy right this instant!  Vamoose!  For those who need more convincing, though, please do read on.

Perhaps surprisingly, I have read zombie love stories before, so I wasn’t expecting too many new or particularly engaging ideas.  This book is overflowing with them though.  Everything from zombies getting high on other people’s memories to getting to see both the zombie and living side of the war to the concept of what the war is ultimately about to even what a zombie is was all brand-new.  And it pretty much all makes sense in the world Marion has set up and is engaging.  I could not “put the book down.”  I listened to it in every spare second I had.  Nothing went the way I predicted and yet it all made complete sense.

R is far more complex than what you’d expect from a zombie, even before his symbolic awakening.  Julie is everything you would want from a heroine.  She’s pretty, smart, and she says fuck!  She can hold her own but is still emotional and vulnerable.  She’s exactly what any artistic, strong woman would be in a zombie apocalypse.  Even the more minor characters are well-rounded, and there is the racial diversity one would expect from a zombie apocalypse in a big city.

Alas, the narration was not quite as amazing as the story.  Although Kenerly does a very good job, sometimes he fails to convey all of the emotions going on in the scenes or doesn’t switch characters quite quick enough.  Don’t get me wrong, it was very good and didn’t detract from the story at all, but I also don’t feel that it added a ton to it.

This is a book that I know I will want to read again, and I may even need to buy an ebook or print version just to do so in a whole nother way next time.  It is an engaging new look at a zombie apocalypse that reads more as a dystopia than post-apocalyptic.  Anyone who needs restored faith in the ability of humanity to fix where we’ve gone wrong should absolutely give this book a shot.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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