The Enemy by Charlie Higson

TheEnemyThe Enemy is a unique twist on the zombie survival story. In this version, only people over the age of 14 are infected, leaving children as the survivors of the new world. Set in present-day London, the story focuses on a group of children known as the Waitroses, surviving in a supermarket. When the children learn of other survivors living in Buckingham Palace, they trek across the city to join up. Along the way they battle “grown-ups” as well as each other. Upon their arrival at the palace, they find things aren’t the utopia they had expected. The Waitroses’ idea of survival differs starkly from the ideas of those there already, who are looking to become rulers of London. There is also a sideline story about Small Sam, who was taken by “grown-ups”, and his battle to make his way back to the Waitroses.

Unlike many books in the zombie genre, the writing style is very straightforward and it is easy to follow along. A plus to the book is that paragraphs are kept short, making it easy for readers to keep up, and hard to put down. Higson is not shy about losing core characters, which adds an air of suspense to the story. The moral to the story is quite clear. Children are survivors, tougher and smarter that we adults give them credit for. I recommend this book for adults and young adults. It is sure to be a classic in the dystopian genre.

 

Contains: Violence, gore, cannibalism

Reviewed by: Denize Toms.

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Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black

zombievsunicornsIt began as an Internet debate on the blogs of YA authors Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. Which one is cooler-zombies or unicorns? Justine announced that she was pro-zombie and anti-unicorn, and Holly stood up for the awesomeness of unicorns versus the nastiness of zombies. 

The discussion grew animated enough that Holly and Justine recruited writers to form Team Unicorn and Team Zombie and published an anthology. The resulting stories, some about zombies and some about unicorns (clearly marked), are unconventional, imaginative, sometimes funny, and often disturbing.  Each story is preceded by an introduction and bickering between Justine and Holly about the pros and cons of zombies and unicorns.

My favorites include Alaya Dawn Johnston’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, a powerful, terrifying, somehow sweet,  and ultimately doomed, love story from a zombie’s point of view;  Naomi Novik’s “Purity Test”, a wisecracking urban fantasy that shatters the stereotypes of unicorns and virgins; Maureen Johnson’s “Children of the Revolution”,  which veers between creepiness and humor as a college student babysitting for a rock star discovers the hard way that the children are monsters;  and Meg Cabot’s “Princess Prettypants”, an entertaining send-up of the hearts-and-rainbows unicorns everyone thinks of when unicorns come up in conversation, with a great revenge scenario to boot. 

All the stories are strong, though, and I came away with a new appreciation for both zombies and unicorns. The only thing missing was a story with an actual battle between them: in the battle between zombies and unicorns, who really WOULD win? Highly, highly recommended for YA collections and high school library media centers. Ages 14 and up.

Contains:  language, violence, gore, bestiality, homosexuality, drug use, zombie cannibalism, animal cruelty, childbirth.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski

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Angel # 2: First Night

Angel-After-the-Fall-Volume-2-by-Joss-WhedonIt’s here that the major flaw in switching a TV series to a comic series becomes evident; while I’ve greatly enjoyed the writing, art and story lines so far the second volume of the Angel series is a series of short reflections back to the night when Wolfram & Hart flung LA into Hell. It’s emotional and engaging, but it’s way too short and at $20 ($10 used) a pop it’s just dissatisfying that there won’t be another episode next week.

I like, love, these characters and would follow them through a whole series in a reading-way-past-my-bedtime-on-a-school-night way. In a book or TV show these little snippets would be invaluable as mood builders and character defining asides. But as this book doesn’t push the plot forward much (if at all), and is significantly slimmer than volume 1, I can’t but be left feeling frustrated. Especially since the first graphic novel left off in the middle of a fight, and this one does little more than mention it.

If you’re a fan, of course you should check this out. But make sure to pick up the third too, because this won’t be enough to sate your taste for angsty vampires and hell dimensions.

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Angel: After the Fall #1

Buffy took season eight to the pages of the comic book world and now Angel’s done the same. The pluses—well lets face it both Angel and Spike have faces made for being drawn.

In the last televised episode of Angel the broody vampire with a soul managed to kill the inner circle of demons at the earthly head of Wolfram & Hart (a demonic law firm, as in made up of demons, run by demons and specializing in demon/supernatural based dealings) and to put it mildly the senior partners were a little peeved. So peeved that they sent all of Los Angeles to Hell, literally. After the Fall starts there, with Angel doing his superhero bit, albeit with a few surprises, like Wesley’s ghostly self being trapped in a contract with Wolfram & Hart, Illyria and Spike being lords of their own demonic territory and Gunn…well I should stop there. But the surprises don’t stop there, and the whole gang is back, having been tried by fire (and fire-breathing dragons) and found who they are, even if their physical shapes and social presences have been significantly changed.

If you hated Angel and you’ve had more than enough of the Twilight broody pretty-boy vampire, skip this one. But if you loved the show, or love noir-paranormal-action you’ll find this graphic novel to be full of great art, killer pacing and one of the best vampire heroes to be found.

I don’t think I liked Angel as much as I like Buffy, not because of the noir-mystery feel (which I adore) but because of the cast. (I never did like Cordelia and Angel’s obsession and the second to last season’s “Cordy becomes a higher being” plot annoyed me.) But I have to say I’m glad to see them all here (plus some) cast in fantastic art with the same dry, sarcastic wit and the same jumbled mess of problems. This is definitely one series I’ll be following.

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Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

9780439023498_custom-af09f2ff218b33767e71c718b6b89576d7ec8b92-s6-c30I doubt there is anything that makes me fall for a book faster than a damaged main character. Is Katniss damaged after her win at The Hunger Games? Oh, absolutely. The willingness to kill to survive doesn’t make it easier, especially when said survival is a farce, a forced situation so twisted that people celebrate it.

Add in a personal threat from President Snow, who doesn’t even try to hide who he is, or the vileness of his actions from Katniss. Instead her simply threatens to kill everyone she knows and love, because clearly she’s already willing to die for those people or else she wouldn’t have been in the games in the first place.

So Katniss and Peeta go on their victory tour. And continue to fake their love for each other. (I’m not fooled. It might not be true love, but they do love each other. Their experiences in The Hunger Games programmed them to trust and understand each other, much like people who have been to war understand things about each other that civilians don’t.)

When that’s not enough, when Katniss’ defiance shows through even her Post Traumatic Stress (because there is absolutely no doubt the girl is suffering. All the victors are suffering.) The flames of rebellion char districts and people. Snow releases vicious attacks to try to smother rebellion and keep the Districts in their place.

The most significant of which is forcing former tributes to re-enter an even more deadly arena and fight again. This time there will be no rules exception to let two people survive, in part because Snow had the last Gamemaker to let Katniss and Peeta both live executed, and secondly because he might just want every single person in that arena to die.

And inside the arena…something is weird. Unlike the last Games everyone seems to be rushing to Katniss’ aid, almost like there might be a secret plot going on…

Catching Fire is often blisteringly painful to read, but impossible to look away from. Reader will find themselves caught up in a war that might just be a mirror to every other conflict out there. It’s so hard to dismiss it as fiction when Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Egypt are all in headlines almost every day and we still have the memory of The Holocaust, genocides in Africa and more oozing marrs in our own history in mind.

 

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I’m late to the bandwagon so I’ll jump to the point—The Hunger Games is one of the scariest books I’ve read.

the-hunger-gamesIt’s not just twenty four 12 to 17 year olds battling to the death for the entertainment of the populace. It’s them being forced to do it, putting their names in the lottery extra times just to earn food for their starving families. Being forced to be gleeful, to celebrate the process, chosen or not. Celebrate what is billed to be their own punishment for a rebellion 74 years ago.

I thought, hey it’s a book with some interesting subtext (I did see the movie first). Except, it’s not subtext. Main character Katniss knows and hates the system of control in place. But she’s powerless to stop it when her 12 year old sister is the one chosen to participate in the Games. In her attempts to not let the government own her, Katniss not only survives, she sparks a revolution.

The Hunger Games is a dystopian field entry every bit as good as SF classics. A traumatized heroine who has to become a brutal killing machine just because she refuses to lay down and die? Chills, I tell you. And Oh, the Feels!

Not for those who shy away from human psyches stripped painfully bare and exposed. This is not light reading. It’s overpowering and intense and absolutely a good read.

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March 2014 Releases

18077928The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain

Haden Lord, the disgraced prince of the Underrealm, has been sent to the mortal world to entice a girl into returning with him to the land of the dead. Posing as a student at Olympus Hills High—a haven for children of the rich and famous—Haden must single out the one girl rumored to be able to restore immortality to his race.

Daphne Raines has dreams much bigger than her tiny southern Utah town, so when her rock star dad suddenly reappears, offering her full tuition to Olympus Hills High’s prestigious music program, she sees an opportunity to catch the break she needs to make it as a singer. But upon moving into her estranged father’s mansion in California, and attending her glamorous new school, Daphne soon realizes she isn’t the only student in Olympus who doesn’t quite belong.

Haden and Daphne—destined for each other—know nothing of the true stakes their fated courtship entails. As war between the gods brews, the teenagers’ lives collide. But Daphne won’t be wooed easily and when it seems their prophesied link could happen, Haden realizes something he never intended—he’s fallen in love. Now to save themselves, Haden and Daphne must rewrite their destinies. But as their destinies change, so do the fates of both their worlds.

18079804Half Bad by Sally Green

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

15737583The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams

For the teens at The Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020. But The Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home. It is all they know. Everything is strictly monitored: education, exercise, food, and rest. The rules must be followed to keep the children healthy, to help control the Disease that has cast them as Terminals, the Disease that claims limbs and lungs—and memories.

But Shiloh is different; she remembers everything. Gideon is different, too. He dreams of a cure, of rebellion against the status quo. What if everything they’ve been told is a lie? What if The Haven is not the safe place it claims to be? And what will happen if Shiloh starts asking dangerous questions?

17869212Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.

But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?

17910097Resistance by Jenna Black

Resistance is the second installment in acclaimed author Jenna Black’s YA SF romance series.

Nate Hayes is a Replica.

The real Nate was viciously murdered, but thanks to Paxco’s groundbreaking human replication technology, a duplicate was created that holds all of the personality and the memories of the original. Or…almost all. Nate’s backup didn’t extend to the days preceding his murder, leaving him searching for answers about who would kill him, and why. Now, after weeks spent attempting to solve his own murder with the help of his best friend and betrothed, Nadia Lake, Nate has found the answers he was seeking…and he doesn’t like what he’s discovered.

The original Nate was killed because he knew a secret that could change everything. Thanks to Nadia’s quick thinking, the two of them hold the cards now—or think they do.

Unfortunately, neither of them fully understands just how deep the conspiracy runs.

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Review: Raptor by Paul Zindel

When Zack and his Native American friend Ute explore the cave where Zack’s paleontologist father was mysteriously injured, they discover a strange nest with very large eggs. Zack, thinking they might be worth a lot of money, takes an egg with him despite Ute’s warnings that he should leave it be. Ute is right, of course. As soon as she and Zack get the egg home, it hatches into (surprise!) a baby raptor, and not thirty minutes later, its mother comes by looking for junior. And all of that happens in the first fifty pages!

Teens will love the fast pace of this book. It opens with a gruesome raptor attack, so there’s no waiting around for dinosaur action, and there’s a thrill in every chapter. I also loved Zack’s eating a live grub to impress Ute’s wise old grandmother. Why, you may ask, is a supposedly extinct raptor roaming around the Utah desert? Well, that’s the book’s big mystery and I won’t spoil it for you.  Situations are extremely contrived, the characters are painfully flat, and the writing is awkward, overdone and melodramatic. The scenes involving raptors attacking people were well described, fun to read and surprisingly gruesome. Personally, I rooted for the raptors to chomp Zack and Ute and end this silly novel early on, but teen readers, especially boys, will eat this story up. Contains: gore, violence, adult alcohol use.

Review by Horror Master

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Dueling Reviews: Raiju: A Kaiju Hunter Novel by K.H. Koehler

Colleen says:

  Kevin Takahashi is a 16-year-old refugee from San Francisco living in New York City with his dad.  San  Francisco was destroyed by a kaiju, or monster (think Godzilla).  A shark had eaten so much polluted fish that it changed into a monster called a Karkadon and came ashore in San Francisco Bay, wiping out more than half the city.  Kevin’s life changed forever that day. 

    Aimi is a rich girl who is at the last stop in a long line of private schools.  She’s a sickly, small girl, made to seem even smaller by the Goth makeup and clothing she has chosen to wear.  Kevin defends her from a bully on his first day in a new school and is smitten.  There’s a lot more than first love going on between these two teens, however.  Then a kaiju appears in the city and Kevin is the only one who seems to be able to fight it off!

    In his fear and confusion, Kevin seeks out his landlord, Mr. Serizawa, who tells Kevin about his destiny, which is wrapped in Japanese Shinto myth. Kevin is a Keeper… a keeper of the gods. He is reluctant to believe it, but knows what he sees with his own eyes.    Can Kevin fulfill his destiny and still be a 16-year-old boy?  What will happen to his new friends and his new love?

    I loved this story.  It’s a Young Adult novel full of the requisite teen angst, woven around a beautiful Japanese mythological story of the origin of mankind.  It is also a story of young love gone haywire.  What I really liked, though, was that Ms. Koehler has managed to subtly pass on a lesson about taking care of the planet, and the subsequent consequences of not doing so.  It is the quintessential kaiju story and anyone who loves Japanese kaiju stories will like this book, regardless of their age.

 

 

Jim says:

    Kevin is a survivor of a great disaster in San Francisco. A giant monster had leveled the city, killing Kevin’s best friend among thousands of others. Kevin and his father move to New York City for a fresh start. Unfortunately for Kevin, making friends at his new school while avoiding getting into trouble is the least of his worries. He soon learns he is a Keeper, destined to play a central role in the war of the Kami. Keepers have the power to call forth their own Kami, huge and immensely powerful creatures. Side benefits are flaming hands and, at least in Kevin’s case, a mystical katana.
As Kevin tries to sort through this new development in his life, he has bigger problems. He’s fallen in love with the school’s coolest and most beautiful girl but she’s attached to the school’s toughest bully. Will she like Kevin if she learns his secret? And what is it that she is hiding about herself?
In Raiju, the author has perfectly captured the voice of Kevin, who narrates the story. At the outset, Kevin is the epitome of the “rebel without a clue”. He is angry, suffering from survivor’s guilt, and frustrated with how trouble seems to seek him out. As the story progresses, he develops into a fully realized reluctant hero. To be honest, this is how Peter Parker would be if he were played by James Dean. While the character development is outstanding, the book really shines in the “Hulk Smash!” battle scenes. Giant monsters duking it out is just full of awesome.

Ms. Koehler has a hit with this book. Rousing action, teen angst, and just enough Japanese myth to whet our appetites without becoming a history lesson. In short, this book rocks!
Review by Jim Cobb

 

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Dueling Reviews: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

The MonsterLibrarian says:

 In The Monstrumologist, twelve year old Will Henry is thrust into danger when a grave robber brings a horrifying creature to his mentor, Dr. Warthrop, in the middle of the night. Dr. Warthrop is a monstrumologist, a monster-hunting doctor, and now Will and his mentor are in a race to find and stop these creatures before there is more bloodshed.  

The Monstrumologist is an incredibly well written book that contains elements of mystery, horror, and adventure. Yancey fills this book with both atmosphere and gore.  Written in a gothic style, there is no romance here, only a world of darkness and dread. The relationships of the characters, especially between Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop are complex and develop throughout the story.  The difficult language will be a barrier for reluctant readers, though- this is a book for advanced readers and not for the faint of heart. In short, The Monstrumologist is a wonderful, old-fashioned horror tale, and since it is the first in a series, readers can expect to see more from Yancey soon.  Readers advisory note: The Monstrumologist would make a good stretch title for those who are attracted by action and darker themes and are looking to read something more complicated and nuanced in the writing style. Highly recommended for middle and high school libraries and public library YA collections.

Contains:  Gore and violence

 

We offer a second look at The Monstrumologist from Ben Franz:

The Monstrumologist is the first book in a continuing series. Rick Yancey explores the life and times of Dr. Pellinore Warthrop through the eyes of his young assistant/foster child Will Henry. Dr. Warthrop is a monstrumologist, devoted to studying the physiology and physiognomy of monsters. Through Will’s authoritative journals, we discover that they were quite prevalent in his childhood.

In this initial volume of The Monstrumologist series, Dr. Warthrop and Will must do battle with the Anthropophagi – a headless primate version of a shark. A nest has developed in their New England town’s cemetery, and Dr. Winthrop must enlist the help of hunters such as the cold-blooded Jack Kearns, to assist in the eradication of the monsters. The Monstrumologist is a fun, absorbing look into the dark recesses of the human mind.  Recommended for advanced young adult readers, and older.

Contains: Violence and gore, cannibalism, medical dissection.

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