Shelf Control #133: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Bird Box
Author: Josh Malerman
Published: 2014
Length: 262 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

How and when I got it:

I picked up a copy a couple of years ago.

Why I want to read it:

Am I the only person who hasn’t read this book yet? It definitely feels that way! My horror aficionado friends have been raving about Bird Box for years, and really, I have no excuse for not having read it already, other than the usual “so many books, so little time” mantra. I read Unbury Carol by this author earlier in the year, and thought it was terrific (check out my review). It’s almost October, the perfect time of year for scaring myself silly via fiction, so maybe I’ll finally give this book a go!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Shelf Control #128: Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Strange Weather
Author: Joe Hill
Published: 2017
Length: 432 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill

“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.

How and when I got it:

I got a copy the day it came out! I love Joe Hill’s books, and had this one on preorder months ahead of time.

Why I want to read it:

I love, love, love Joe Hill’s writing… but the problem is, I’m very much not a short story reader. I get that this is more a collection of “short novels” than “short stories”, but I always have to force myself into reading a book that isn’t just one overarching tale. I know this collection is supposed to be excellent — I just need to convince myself to start!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Book Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

 

An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

 

I’m a Stephen King fan, no question about it, but I sometimes find that his books don’t stick the landing. I’ll be absolutely fascinated, glued to my seat, on edge, for 75% of the book,,, but when the ending finally arrives and all answers are provided, I can find myself feeling a bit let down.

No so in The Outsider. This is one terrific (and horribly disturbing) read, start to finish.

From the start, the premise is tantalizing and well-executed. A horrible, disgusting crime is committed. There are reliable eyewitnesses who definitively ID the perpetrator, a beloved public figure in their small town. Terry Maitland’s fingerprints are all over the crime scene and weapon and the interior of the vehicle used to commit the crime. He’s seen leaving the area, covered with blood. DNA at the crime scene is his. Ralph Anderson, lead detective on the case, is so outraged and infuriated that he orders the arrest to be made in as public a way as possible. There’s no doubt that Maitland committed the crime, and the public is aghast and infuriated.

But wait. Maitland has an alibi, and the more Ralph investigates, the more unbreakable the alibi seems. He was with other teachers at a conference out of town, and not only will they all attest to his being there, but he’s actually caught on video at the event at the same time of the murder. Can a man be in two places at one time?

By the time enough doubt has come up, more tragedies have piled on top of the initial murder. An out of town investigator is brought in, and soon, the trail seems to point to not only more crimes with a mystery double involved, but a fact pattern that can’t be explained by anything in the realm of what’s considered normal.

Wow.

This book grabbed me from page 1, and just didn’t let up. If pesky things like work and sleep hadn’t interfered, I’d have read it straight through — it’s that good, and that compelling.

I was particularly delighted by the appearance of…

MINOR SPOILER FOR KING FANS AHEAD!

STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW!

(BUT NOT A SPOILER FOR THE RESOLUTION OF THE OUTSIDER)

Holly Gibney, the memorable, remarkable, oddball heroine of the Bill Hodges trilogy, who has carried on with Finders Keepers, the detective agency she founded with Bill, even after Bill’s death at the end of the trilogy. Holly is brought into the investigation here on the recommendation of one of the Maitland family lawyers when a strange set of facts emerge about a family trip months earlier. Holly jumps in, unearths enough odd clues to start connecting some seriously weird dots, and ultimately is the one who gets the investigatory team to consider answers that lean more toward the supernatural than any of them could possibly have considered on their own.

I loved seeing Holly again. She brings a humanity to the proceedings that’s a breath of fresh air, and her offbeat demeanor and unlikely acts of courage are what’s needed to crack the case.

The entire cast of characters is well drawn and quite strong. Ralph is a great leading man, and I loved his relationship with his wife Jeannie. The lawyer, the DA, the investigator, the state policeman — all are quite good, and really emerge as individuals rather than stock characters in a legal drama.

But it’s the unfolding plot, with its mystery and creepiness and outright scenes of horror, that propels The Outsider at such a dynamic pace. I don’t want to say much more about what happens or why — but this is top-notch King, and you shouldn’t miss it.

A final word of caution for King readers: If you haven’t finished the Bill Hodges trilogy, but you plan to, you might want to hold off on reading The Outsider. The plots aren’t connected, but in conversations, Holly and the detectives discuss the cases she and Bill handled, and basically give away major plot point resolutions from the trilogy.

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The details:

Title: The Outsider
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: May 22, 2018
Length: 561 pages
Genre: Horror
Source: Library

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Shelf Control #122: Symbiont by Mira Grant

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Symbiont (Parasitology, #2)
Author: Mira Grant
Published: 2014
Length: 518 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

THE ENEMY IS INSIDE US.

The SymboGen-designed parasites were created to relieve humanity of disease and sickness. But the implants in the majority of the world’s population began attacking their hosts, turning them into a ravenous horde.

Now those who do not appear to be afflicted are being gathered for quarantine as panic spreads, but Sal and her companions must discover how the parasites are taking over their hosts, what their eventual goal is and how they can be stopped.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy when the book came out in 2014.

Why I want to read it:

Oh, I’m so torn about this book! I loved the first book in the series (Parasite) — so gross and so good! But somehow, when I got Symbiont, I just couldn’t muster the interest to keep going with the overarching story. Mira Grant is an absolute fave of mine, so how can I own books by her and not read them? I’m afraid I’ll have to start over again from the beginning if I want book #2 to make any sense to me at all. Should I? Is it worth it? I’m not sure how I can be a legit fan and not read this trilogy!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Book Review: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

 

Carol Evers is a woman with a dark secret. She has died many times . . . but her many deaths are not final: They are comas, a waking slumber indistinguishable from death, each lasting days.

Only two people know of Carol’s eerie condition. One is her husband, Dwight, who married Carol for her fortune, and—when she lapses into another coma—plots to seize it by proclaiming her dead and quickly burying her . . . alive. The other is her lost love, the infamous outlaw James Moxie. When word of Carol’s dreadful fate reaches him, Moxie rides the Trail again to save his beloved from an early, unnatural grave.

And all the while, awake and aware, Carol fights to free herself from the crippling darkness that binds her—summoning her own fierce will to survive. As the players in this drama of life and death fight to decide her fate, Carol must in the end battle to save herself.

What a strange book! The concept is pretty cool. Carol is a wealthy, well-loved woman, esteemed by the townsfolk of Harrows, but her husband fakes affection while yearning for her money. Dwight knows her deepest secret — that every once in a while, with no predictable pattern or symptoms, Carol falls into a coma indistinguishable from death. When Carol’s closest friend dies, she realizes she should take someone else into her confidence, in case she should have an episode while Dwight is away or too ill to intercede, but before she can share her secret, she goes under again, and Dwight launches his dastardly plan.

But all is not lost. Carol’s faithful maid alerts the man Carol once loved, the outlaw James Moxie. Moxie sets out on the dreaded, dangerous Trail to rescue Carol before she can be buried alive. But Moxie doesn’t ride alone — he’s pursued by a deranged, deadly assassin known as Smoke, who seems unstoppable and completely devoid of humanity. It’s a race against time, as James tries to reach Carol, Dwight tries to get Carol buried before she wakes, and Smoke keeps on coming and coming and coming.

There are some horrific moments, especially the scenes with Smoke. I won’t tell you why he has the name that he has, but trust me, it’s well-deserved and awful. As James rides to Carol’s rescue, we learn more about their sad history together, and meanwhile, we accompany Carol as she lies helpless in what she refers to as Howltown, the coma world she inhabits in which she’s aware of what’s going on around her, but unable to speak, move, or save herself from the terrible fate Dwight has planned for her.

The writing gives a classic Western twang to everything — gritty and profane and swaggering, with hints of violence and danger all at the same time.

It once was he rode into town and people blanched. Men avoided his eyes and women turned their backs, hoping not to be seen. It once was the domesticated dogs of the Trail-towns barked at him from afar. It once was he was whole, he was awesome, he was dread.

But he had no way of knowing that his loose lips, wet still with whiskey, had allowed powerful words to escape, words that would travel, mostly innocently, all the way to Sheriff Opal, who would consider it very odd indeed that someone with as many bedrooms as Dwight Evers would keep his dead bride in a cold, drafty storm room in a cellar.

There’s a difference between bad and evil, John Bowie once told her, his voice slurred with brandy. Bad is when you ignore the one you love. But evil is when you know exactly what that person wants, what means most to them, and you figure out how to take it away.

I liked the swear-words and cusses and exclamations the characters all use, such as “hell’s heaven” and “heaven’s hell”, and once (my favorite), “Lord of all hogs and pink piglets…”!

The drama mounts as the book progresses, as the stakes get higher and higher. We see the local sheriff trying to balance suspicion and facts, the maid who loves Carol drinking herself silly over her horror, Moxie’s reluctant return to his days of inspiring awe and terror in all he meets, Dwight’s mounting desperation, and Smoke’s unrelenting pursuit of Moxie and torment of anyone who crosses his path. It took me a while to get into the rhythm of the storytelling and the writing itself, but once I did, I was hooked.

I’m not usually much of a fan of the Western genre, but this odd book ended up appealing to me in an unexpected sort of way. I liked the grimness and the feel of listening to an old-timey story about legendary figures of a by-gone time. I haven’t read anything else by this author, but I understand that Unbury Carol is quite a different feel from his other books (and yes, I know I need to read Bird Box!).

Overall, I found Unbury Carol really weird and off-beat, but in a good, creepy way.

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The details:

Title: Unbury Carol
Author: Josh Malerman
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication date: April 10, 2018
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Western/horror
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Shelf Control #113: The Terror by Dan Simmons

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: The Terror
Author: Dan Simmons
Published: 2007
Length: 769 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The bestselling author of Ilium and Olympos transforms the true story of a legendary Arctic expedition into a thriller worthy of Stephen King or Patrick O’Brian.

Their captain’s insane vision of a Northwest Passage has kept the crewmen of The Terror trapped in Arctic ice for two years without a thaw. But the real threat to their survival isn’t the ever-shifting landscape of white, the provisions that have turned to poison before they open them, or the ship slowly buckling in the grip of the frozen ocean.

The real threat is whatever is out in the frigid darkness, stalking their ship, snatching one seaman at a time or whole crews, leaving bodies mangled horribly or missing forever. Captain Crozier takes over the expedition after the creature kills its original leader, Sir John Franklin.

Drawing equally on his own strengths as a seaman and the mystical beliefs of the Eskimo woman he’s rescued, Crozier sets a course on foot out of the Arctic and away from the insatiable beast. But every day the dwindling crew becomes more deranged and mutinous, until Crozier begins to fear there is no escape from an ever-more-inconceivable nightmare.

How and when I got it:

I’ve had this on my shelf for years — I’m not even sure at this point where or when I picked it up.

Why I want to read it:

Stories of Arctic exploration fascinate me, and add to that a terror element — well, I’m sold! I just rediscovered this on my bookshelf after seeing a trailer for the upcoming TV production, which looks awesome. Either I’ll read the book and then watch… or more likely, I’ll start watching, then decide if I’m interested enough to finally pick up the book.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection by Mira Grant

Rise is a collection of eight novellas and short stories that are set within the world of the Newsflesh trilogy. (See my wrap-up post about Newsflesh here. Short version: Amazing.)

So what’s inside Rise? And should you read it? Read on for mini-reviews of each story… and as for whether you should read it, my answer is an unqualified YES… but only after you read the complete trilogy, or at least, enough to appreciate the context of these stories.

Onward…

The first few stories in the Rise collection are set at the very beginning of the Rising – and this is something we never see in the main books of the Newsflesh trilogy. Newsflesh is set decades after the onset of the initial Kellis-Amberlee outbreak, and while we learn through the characters’ conversations and memories what happened at that time, it’s something quite different to read the author’s stories set during the Rising. These stories are awful in their inevitability – we know what’s coming, and we know that nothing will stop it.

Countdown

It began nowhere. It began everywhere. It began without warning; it began with all the warning in the world. It could have been prevented a thousand times over. There was nothing that anyone could have done.

A chilling timeline of the end of the world, showing the last of the pre-Rising days and how the disaster came on step by step. In the Newsflesh novels, the events of 2014 are almost 30 years in the past. Here, in Countdown, we see first-hand what actually happened that awful summer, from the optimism of a potential cancer cure to an irreversible act of ecoterrorism, all leading to the mutation and spread of a pandemic that changed the world forever. We meet some familiar characters, and also see the people who are basically the founding fathers of the Kellis-Amberlee virus – the creators of the Kellis cure, meant to cure the common cold, and Marburg Amberlee, an engineered virus that can defeat even the most dire of terminal cancer cases. Countdown is scary and dramatic and gave me the biggest case of dread. We know what’s going to happen, but watching it unfold and knowing there’s no chance that it won’t end the way that it does is still somehow crazily fascinating and terrible.

Everglades 

The shortest piece in the collection, Everglades is a view of campus life in the first days after the reality of the zombie apocalypse has hit home, as seen through the eyes of a young grad student who recognizes the cruelty of the natural world. It’s a short, sad, and even beautiful story.

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats

As Mira Grant points out in her introduction to this story, San Diego Comic Con is almost a perfect place to stage an outbreak. You have thousands of people crammed into a confined space, many costumed or so heavily made-up that it’s impossible to gauge their actual condition. There’s little to no cell reception inside the convention hall, so once disaster strikes, communication between those trapped and the outside world effectively ceases. And as we know from countless zombie TV shows and movies, all it takes is one infected person locked inside with everyone else to start a chain reaction. This story shows how the very last Comic Con turned from geeky delight to bloody mayhem, and the bravery of the assorted fanboys and fangirls who made a last stand.

The stories from this point forward take place after the events in the Newsflesh trilogy, or at least, close enough to them that a knowledge of those events is needed – and people who haven’t read the trilogy will end up with massive spoilers. That said, the next batch of stories are:

How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea

Before the Rising, guns were verboten on airplanes, carried only by government agents and representatives of local law enforcement. Now most passengers flew armed, and the flight attendants carried more weapons than your average Irwin. It’s funny how the world can change when no one’s looking.

In which our beloved head Newsie Mahir heads off to Australia to get a first-hand view of how that country and continent made it through the Rising. Australia is still Australia, meaning that it’s a country full of people who are used to living alongside deadly wildlife, and their approach to security in the post-Rising world is vastly different from the paranoid, fear-based approach adopted everywhere else.

“Why would someone who didn’t like the law live out here?” I asked. “Wouldn’t it be easier to move into the city, where there’s less risk of surprise zombie kangaroos?”

The story is entertaining and presents a view of a very different mentality, in a land where animal conservation still matters, even when those animals may amplify, turn into zombies, and eat you. A story that includes zombie kangaroos and wombats can’t help being a blast to read.

The Day the Dead Came To Show and Tell

It was a small, claustrophobic space. The shelves were packed with basic school supplies: paper, crayons, extra ammunition, formalin, bleach.

This story was the hardest to read in the collection. It just hits way too close to home right now. This story is about an outbreak in an elementary school, and unfolds moment by moment as the infection spreads, the school goes into lockdown, and one first-grade teacher faces the unthinkable as she tries to save her children. It’s awful. Fascinating and so well written, but awful just the same. With the seemingly never-ending wave of school shootings in this country, reading this story is just heart-breaking and way too relevant.

Please Do Not Taunt the Octopus

Dr. Shannon Abbey is one of the many great side characters in the Newsflesh trilogy, and in this story, we get to spend a little more time with her in her secret mad scientist lair. Dr. Abbey is smart, a little crazy, and lots of fun, and her story here collides with another character seen in an earlier piece in Rise. Plus, we get to see Joe the massive mastiff and Barney the octopus – two big plusses.

“I’m a mad scientist, aren’t I? We all have master plans. Without them, we’d just be faintly disgruntled scientists who think we really ought to form a committee to discuss our grievances.”

The next two (and final two) stories in Rise are new to this collection, the only two not to have been previously published either in anthologies or stand-alone versions.

All the Pretty Little Horses

All the Pretty Little Horses takes us back once again to the early days of the Rising. The year is 2018, and we’re back with Michael and Stacy Mason, who’ve become famous for their radio broadcasts giving survival tips and offering encouragement during the really bad years. Now that the world is starting to find a new normal, Stacy is plunged into depression, desperately mourning the young son lost  in the early days of the Rising. This story shows how the Masons became the people we meet in the Newsflesh trilogy, hardened stars of the blogosphere who’ll do anything for ratings. And while this story didn’t truly make me like them, at least it shows a bit more of the desperation that turned them into the people they became.

 

And finally…

Coming To You Live

This is it. The story we’ve all been waiting for. It’s about Shaun and Georgia, and… well, I’m just not going to say a word about it. No matter what I say, it’ll be spoilery. Let’s just say that it was a perfect end piece for the collection, and it left me just as in love with the characters and the overarching world of Newsflesh as before, or may just a smidge more.

And that’s all, folks!

Rise is essential reading for fans of Newsflesh – and if you’ve made it this far in my lengthy post, I’m assuming you’re a fan too! I’m a little bit heartbroken to have reached the end. Yes, I know there’s still the 2016 novel Feedback to read, but it’s not about the characters I know and love, and I’m just not ready to go there yet. I’ll read it eventually (or maybe even later this week), but for now I just want to bask in the glory of all things Newsflesh, and the amazing stories in Rise, just a little bit longer.

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The details:

Title: Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: June 21, 2016
Length: 816 pages (mass market paperback)
Genre: Horror/science fiction
Source: Purchased

Series wrap-up: The Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant

Wow.

I just finished binge-reading Mira Grant’s amazing trilogy, Newsflesh (consisting of Feed, Deadline, and Blackout), and all I can say is — what the hell took me so long? I’d been hearing for years that these books are must-reads. What in the bloody hell was my problem?

Sigh. Better late than never, right?

The fact is, for whatever reason, I must have head my head under a rock in 2010, 2011, and 2012… but here it is, the opening months of 2018, and I’m soooooo darned happy that I finally devoured these books.

For the uninitiated: What’s it all about?

As the blurb for Feed says:

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop.

Short version: A zombie uprising. When the viruses meant to cure cancer and the cold accidentally mingle upon release into the world, they combine into something deadly, known as Kellis-Amberlee, a virus that causes the dead to rise and eat people. But somehow, humanity survives — a smaller, more frightened, vastly security conscious slice of humanity, but still, the rising has been overcome, and life goes on, although the world is permanently changed.

In the world of Newsflesh, the most reliable source of news in a dangerous and secretive world is the blogging community. After all, they were the first to tell the truth when mainstream media outlets called the initial reports of zombies merely Internet hoaxes. If not for the bloggers, the realization of what was really happening, and what it would take to stay alive, might have come too late. Now, 20+ years after the rising, bloggers are the stars of the media and the most trusted source of news, and our main characters, brother and sister Shaun and Georgia Mason, are the cream of the crop.

Shaun and Georgia live for the truth and the truth alone. Their lives become infinitely more complicated when they’re chosen to be embedded with a candidate on the presidential campaign trail. Shaun and Georgia see this as a huge ratings boost, a way to finally reach the top tier and go independent. They don’t expect to be drawn into a shadow world of conspiracies and danger, risking everything they stand for as well as each other and their teams of trusted colleagues.

I really don’t want to give too much away, so I won’t go into detail about the series as a whole or where the plot goes. Suffice it to say that the plot twists always caught me off guard, and for a book about the zombie apocalypse, there were way more laughs and tears than I would have imagined. I came to love the characters, not just Shaun and Georgia, but also their friends and allies who fight by their side and share their commitment to the truth, no matter what. Okay, I loved Shaun and Georgia 10x more than anyone else, but that’s just because they’re so completely awesome.

I’ll admit that the scientific/medical/virological jargon and discussions often warped my brain, as I had to super-concentrate to decipher what the hell these people were trying to say. The effort is worth it. Mira Grant has put together a scary, crazy, complicated world, where viruses are deadly, but so is ignorance and inattention.

I’ve read complaints about the repetition of certain details throughout the books, particularly how the characters constantly have to undergo blood tests every time they enter or exit just about any place. I, for one, think this is fabulous. It’s the very repetition of the constant blood tests, and how the characters treat them as a normal fact of life, that shows us just how very different this world is. Safety is never taken for granted. Knowing one’s status as uninfected only lasts until the next test — you never know when you might become infected, or when the virus living inside you might spontaneously amplify (meaning you go full zombie with no apparent triggering event). The blood tests are just one small element in these masterfully constructed books that show us what a world might be like after the unthinkable becomes a reality.

Let’s also stop to appreciate the snappy dialogue and funny bits throughout the books. Shaun and Georgia and the rest of their team have the kind of closeness that means they know each other to the core, and that’s conveyed through their banter and ability to finish one another’s thoughts and read the fear and worries underneath the jokes and quips. And plus, there are just some things that are so awful that they’re funny. Okay, like a zombie bear. Or being afraid of zombie raccoons. I mean, that’s funny stuff!

I tore through these books, and just could not stop. I really and truly loved them, start to finish, and I’m thrilled to learn that there are more stories in the Newsflesh world! First, there’s a collection of various stories originally released as separate e-novellas (Rise, published 2016). Also in 2016, Grant published the novel Feedback, which is apparently set during the same period as Feed, but focusing on different characters. I’m less excited for that one (did I mention my love for Shaun and Georgia yet?), but I’ll read it anyway, because right this very minute, having just finished Blackout, I’m absolutely not ready to leave this world behind.

For anyone, like me, who didn’t have the brains (zombie joke!) to jump on board when Feed was first released… well, it’s never too late. I loved this trilogy, and I hope you will too!

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Book details:

Feed – 599 pages, published 2010
Deadline – 584 pages, published 2011
Blackout – 512 pages, published 2012

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Shelf Control #105: A Head Full of Ghosts

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: A Head Full of Ghosts
Author: Paul Tremblay
Published: 2015
Length: 286 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

How and when I got it:

I bought the Kindle version last year when I happened to notice a price drop.

Why I want to read it:

Who doesn’t love a good possession story? A friend has been urging me to read this — or really, anything by this author. The synopsis sounds right up my alley — horror with elements of madness, and an exorcism too! I don’t know why I haven’t read A Head Full of Ghosts already, but I intend to fix that ASAP.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Book Review: Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction

Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.

 

A must for horror fans. This book traces the history of all sorts of insane horror trends from the 70s and 80s, and makes some fascinating connections between the crises of the times (inflation, environmental issues, HIV/AIDS) and the rise and fall of horror publishing themes and crazes. The author’s commentary is often snarky and truly funny — but the real highlight of Paperbacks from Hell is the amazing assortment of cheesy, disgusting, disturbing book covers. Some are iconic (Jaws, The Omen, Flowers in the Attic), and some just head-shakingly awful — but put them all together, and it’s a truly entertaining look back at horror’s not-so-distant past.

Take a look at just a small sampling of the amazing books featured in Paperbacks from Hell:

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The details:

Title: Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction
Author: Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Quirk
Publication date: September 19, 2017
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Horror/non-fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of Quirk Books

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