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Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

22 Jul

Dearly, Departed

Dearly, Departedwill forever be remembered as the novel that made me fall in love with zombies. I’m actually not a very big fan of zombies. At all. Much like my fear of heights, which unexpectedly showed up one day the first time I attempted rock climbing, I’m not sure where my zombie fear came from. One night I was re-watching 28 Days Later, and then next thing I knew, I was terrified, and having re-occurring zombie nightmares on a regular basis.

Dearly, Departed definitely has it’s freakier moments–and quite a few straight up nasty scenes–but the love story surrounding it all is so cute and refreshing, it’s easy for a zombie-phobic girl like me to overlook.

The story starts out a bit slow. Lots of background info is given about the protagonist Nora, her recently deceased father, and their futuristic world. But Habel doesn’t fall into the usual debut author traps, so it never feels info-dumpy. Thankfully after Nora’s world is introduced, the action really picks up around chapter 4, and even more so once Nora first encounters zombies.

The action does irregularly jump around from multiple points of view, which can be jarring and get confusing at first. But I also managed to get used to that aspect after a few chapters, after I “got to know” who each of the characters were.

Once Nora is abducted, and begins to interact with the ragtag band of zombie army men and women, the story really hits its stride. The secondary characters have amazing, hilarious personalities, and the camaraderie between them is endearing. I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions.

And the boys? When discussing this book with a fellow blogger friend via twitter, I, much to the amusement of Lia Habel herself, described the male characters of Dearly, Departed as boys “so hot, you’ll forget they are rotting!”.

Obviously, it helps to have a story full of plenty of hotties. Yet it’s the interaction between Nora and Bram, the love interest that really won me over. Their slowly developing (and strangely realistic considering one of them IS DEAD!) love is adorable. Nora is a strong, kick ass protagonist, and independent woman. But with Bram, she really begins to come into her own, and discover who she really is, and what she truly believes in.

I can’t remember the last book that had me giggling, and squeeing like a 12-year-old schoolgirl this much. (Actually, there was one book that similarly affected me, last year—Anna and the French kiss.) Everything from brushes of arms, to sniffing the shirt of the boy you like, to the eventual first kiss was both realistic, and adorable. Seriously, this story can only be described as epicly cute.

In the beginning, Nora thinks Bram is downright disgusting and terrifying. Lia Habel is such an amazing writer, who understands the psychology and motivations behind her characters, that you get exactly why Nora would become attracted to Bram, and find yourself falling in love with him much in the same way. There are dozens of books where teenage girls fall in love with the undead, weirdos, and just plain freaky men that just leave you shaking your head and asking “WHAT?!”. Never have I seen fear and disgust lead so naturally to true love.

Other things I liked: this book had some of the best and most original world building of anything I’ve ever read. It’s steam-punky, but without alienating people who might not be into the Victorian era and clockworks. (I admit I’ve only read a few steam punk short stories, but found my limited exposure to the genre to be weirdly repetitive.) The Neo-Victorian futuristic world Nora lives in is fully developed, and seems 100% logical considering the back-story that led to its creation.

Overall Dearly, Departed was an adorable, unique love story and survival tale that captivated me from page one. Lia Habel, a first time author (who FYI is just as adorable as this book!), has earned a place on my “auto buy” list. I wanted to re-read Dearly, Departed as soon as I finished. And of course, it’s safe to say I am now “dying” for the sequel.

5/5 Stars!

Dearly, Departed will be released on October 18, 2011.
Thanks to Del Rey for providing me with an ARC for review.

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10 Days of Anathema Blog Tour Stop #10

15 Jul

Anathema

Evangeline has spent her teenage years in obscurity. Her foster parents have the emotional aptitude of robots and her classmates barely acknowledge her existence. About to turn eighteen and feeling like a social pariah, she is desperate to connect with someone. Anyone.

When Evangeline meets Sofie after literally stumbling upon her café, she believes she’s found that connection. Willing to do anything to keep it, she accepts a job as Sofie’s assistant and drops everything to fly to Manhattan, where she is thrust into a luxurious world of Prada, diamonds, and limitless cash.

With such generosity and kindness, it’s easy for Evangeline to dismiss certain oddities . . . like Sofie’s erratic and sometimes violent behavior, and the monstrous guard dogs. She’s even willing to dismiss her vivid dreams of mob-style murders, beautiful homeless people living in caves, and white-eyed demons that haunt her each night as figments of her imagination—especially when one of those figments is the gorgeous Caden. When she wakes up with bite marks on her neck, the fairy tale quickly turns into a nightmare. She slowly unravels the mystery surrounding Sofie and friends, and the reality of the bites and the “dreams.” What she discovers is far more mysterious and terrible than anything she could have imagined.

In a world where everyone has motive to lie for personal gain, Evangeline must decide which deception is least likely to get her killed.

For the very last stop of the Anathema blog tour, I’m sharing my review of this unique and compelling story. Along with an opportunity to win your very own copy! See after the review, for more details. 🙂

Anathema is one of those amazing stories that you want to run out and tell everyone you know to read—but not tell them anything about the plot. Just reading the book description was enough to make me shake my head and wonder what exactly will happen in this story. Like a movie with a twist ending, I was glad I went in only knowing that this novel came highly recommended from some fellow book blogger friends.

The action in Anathema starts right up within the first few pages. As soon as Evangeline agrees to accompany Sofie to NYC, things get weird. I’ll admit, it took me a bit of time to suspend my disbelief and understand exactly why Evangeline would pick up and move to NYC with someone she just met, but once you understand more about her background, and everything lacking in her life, it makes perfect sense!

I found the story to be a perfect mix of old-time fairy tales (a “princess”, locked in a castle!), mystery (what is happening to Evangeline at night?), and creepy old gothic novels (mysterious voices, deception, possible insanity). In short, many of my favorite genres, blended together!

Mixing “our world” and a parallel world isn’t a new concept. At times, the story actually reminded me of the later seasons of LOST, but spookier. But in Anathema, the two worlds blend together flawlessly, making the concept of “alternate realities”, along with some old familiar paranormal aspects (which I won’t mention, in fear of spoiling you) fresh and new. I really felt as if I’d gone back in time, to my younger days in the 1990’s, when not every book I read seemed suspiciously redundant.

Anathema is also on my short list of “realistic romances in YA”. Yes, there are paranormal elements, but the interaction between the characters, their problems, and how their relationship develops in the first place was refreshingly realistic. Also, it helps that Caden is really hot.

So much happens in this story that in the beginning, you can’t help but wonder “where is this going?”. What is real, and what’s in Evangeline’s head? Who can she trust, if anyone? How much of her life was chance, and how much was straight up manipulation? As soon as I finished, I wanted to go back and re-read it to catch all of the things I may have missed my first time around. The last book that left me feeling this way was CHIME, one of my favorite reads of this year so far.

Overall, I am very glad I went in to the story not knowing exactly what to expect. Anathema is an intriguing tale of lies, destiny, and romance. Plots are tied up (unlike in LOST!), but you’re left with a killer cliffhanger that will have you begging for book two.

4/5 STARS
Thanks to Kathleen Tucker for my review copy!

Kathleen is giving away a signed, print copy of Anathema to one lucky winner at the end of the blog tour. Anyone can enter by visiting her site at http://www.katuckerbooks.com (read giveaway rules posted). Do you want up to 10 extra chances to win? Visit each blog stop for an Anathema Quiz question. Answer it correctly and your name is entered! Simple!
Here’s your quiz question for today, Blog Stop #10: “What does Evangeline need to do to be free of the curse?”
To submit your answer, click here http://www.katuckerbooks.com/10-days-of-anathema-grand-prize-entry-form.html
And if you haven’t read Anathema yet… what are you waiting for?!

Kathleen has also been generous enough to provide an e-copy for a giveaway! All you have to do is comment here to enter. The contest open until 11:59pm on Sunday July 17. PLEASE Leave your email in your comment to enter! No email, no win! 🙂

Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

1 Apr

warmbodiesuk

R is a young man with an existential crisis–he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. His ability to connect with the outside world is limited to a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing.
After experiencing a teenage boy’s memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim’s human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His choice to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.

In a post apocalyptic world overrun with zombies, time passes nearly unnoticed. R is a zombie, who has no idea how he died, who he was in his former life, or what happened to the world around him. His only clue to his identity is the business-y attire he’s been wearing ever since he woke up as a zombie. He bides his time between meals with repetitive behaviors like endlessly riding escalators, and staring off into space. Until one day, on a routine hunt for “food”, he meets Julie. After eating her boyfriend Perry’s brain, R re-lives flashes of Perry’s life, and becomes enamored with Julie. He saves her life, and brings her back to live with him in a makeshift colony of zombies at the local airport.

Warm Bodies was nothing like I expected. At its core, it’s the story of a young man having an existential crisis, who rediscovers hope, love, and what it means to be human. Reading this book is akin to going on a journey of self discovery, and makes you wonder how far you would go to keep faith in yourself, and humanity at large at the end of the world.

It’s a beautifully written story, told from the perspective of a vastly intelligent narrator, who has lost the capacity for complex speech. R has many deep thoughts, but finds it difficult to do much more than grunt out the most basic sentences. He can no longer read or write, making his re-birth in a changed world even more confusing than ever. Through Julie, R rediscovers his will to live, and begins yearning for his lost humanity.

Despite his appetite for human flesh, it’s easy to feel sympathetic towards R. The narration is entertaining with R’s biting social commentary about both zombie, and human society .

While Julie might still be human, her life isn’t that different from R’s. The remaining humans live in converted stadiums, in cramped quarters. Many have lost the will to carry on, and find living such a stunted life meaningless.

Together, R and Julie change each other’s lives, causing a chain reaction that has lasting implications in the world around them.

I liked Warm Bodies because it is a great humanity tale about persevering when you’d much rather give up. And yes, there is some romance, but much like the slightly similarly themed “survival at all costs” Hunger Games trilogy, there is a lot more to this story.

4/5 Stars. Warm Bodies will be released in the US April 26th.

Learn more about Isaac and Warm Bodies at his website.
Or you can watch his homemade book trailer:

Disclosure: I purchased a used UK copy of Warm Bodies from Amazon.

Review: Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

1 Mar

Cryer's Cross

The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on… until Kendall’s boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it’s crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear…and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating…and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico’s mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried
–Via Goodreads

Cryer’s Cross is my first Lisa McMann book. I’ve heard good things about her Wake series, and had it on my TBR list for quite a long time, so I was excited when I started hearing buzz about her new stand alone novel.

I have to admit, when I first started reading Cryer’s Cross, I almost immediately stopped. The book is written in a very intense third person, stream of consciousness style. But once I read on through a few more pages, I realized it perfectly complimented the way main character Kendall Fletcher, who suffers from OCD, thinks. Similar to the effect music with pounding bass has on your body, the writing style definitely makes your heart pound faster, and in my opinion, made me read faster! It definitely takes some getting used to, but once I hit my reading stride, I barely noticed.

In the beginning of Cryer’s Cross, Kendall’s world is turned upside down when fellow student Tiffany disappears without a trace from her small town. Kendall is again pushed nearly over the edge when a month or so later, her boyfriend and neighbor Nico also disappears. The chaos left in the wake of both disappearances soon catches up with Kendall, and she begins hearing voices, especially when nearby a certain desk in her classroom. A desk that doesn’t stay where it belongs, in her perfectly OCD organized rows. New student Jacian, who was investigated after TIffany disappeared, slowly transforms from Kendall’s foe and soccer team rival, into a new friend, and one of the few people who believes she isn’t losing it.

It’s hard to say much more without spoiling the mystery, but I’ll say the set up is flawless, and (yay stand alones!) all loose ends are tied up by the end of the novel. Some reviewers have mentioned problems with the seemingly unexplained paranormal aspect of the novel, but if you can manage to suspend disbelief while reading, the story seems realistic enough to happen in any small town in America.

McMann has perfectly captured the life of an emotionally fragile teenager with OCD, and the idiosyncrasies of life in a very small town. The secondary characters are believable, and three-dimensional, even when only appearing on the page for short spans of time. Cryer’s Cross is a haunting and creepy mystery, sharing that eerie atmospheric horror story feeling reminiscent of the best of Stephen King. I stayed up all night reading this book, and finished it in about four hours. By the end, I was definitely freaking out and feeling nervous about being the only person awake in my apartment at 3:30am.

4/5 stars.

Disclosure: I received a review e-galley of Cryer’s Cross via Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab program.