The Dark and Hollow Places

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie RyanThe Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth # 3
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 384
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah’s world stopped that day, and she’s been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn’t feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.

But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

* * *

One of the first zombie books that I really wanted to read last year was Carrie Ryan‘s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I remember reading a review of it in Persnickety Snark, and after some hesitation (after all, the title felt a little too gloomy for my taste), I decided to get it to see what it was about. Suffice to say that it rekindled my love for zombies that I first had during days of playing Resident Evil with my brother, and introduced me to the sad and hopeless world of the Unconsecrated.

It’s hard to believe that a little over a year later after blogging about the first two books, I read and finished the third book in the trilogy. I’ve always been a fan of Carrie Ryan’s work. There’s a certain beauty in the way she writes despite the somber and hopeless mood, and I cannot helped but be sucked into the world of the Unconsecrated, where the living count the days before they turn into one of the shuffling mass of undead, hungry for human flesh. They aren’t exactly the best zombie books I’ve read, but they are very good novels IMO, living up to the zombie folklore and dystopia theme.

Spoiler warning: Spoilers from the first and second book will be in this review. Read with caution.

The final book in the trilogy, The Dark and Hollow Places picks up shortly where The Dead-Tossed Waves ended. However, instead of Gabry, Mary’s adopted daughter, we meet Annah, her lost twin, waiting for Elias to come back. To recap, Elias had left to join the Recruiters so he could earn money for him and Annah to get by in the Dark City. He also did this to find Abigail, now known as Gabry, to make up for his guilt in leaving her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth years ago, taking Annah with her. Annah has lived with not only that guilt but also tried her best to be invisible after suffering from an accident, leaving her entire left side scarred for life.

Annah has been waiting for Elias to return for three years and on the day she decides to leave the Dark City to look for him, she sees a surprise: her sister. As she searches for her sister in the city, she meets Catcher who saves her. Mysterious Catcher who is immune to the Unconsecrated and knows about her past. It is with him that Annah is forced to face the ghosts of her past that she longed to forget, and decide if there is still hope in a world that has been pretty much dead for a long time.

What a ride The Dark and Hollow Places was. One thing that kept on going through my mind as I was reading this was: This is it. This is what I missed with all the “dystopia” novels I’ve been reading. As with the first two books, the world building was fantastic. I figured out where in the world the Dark City was based, and that just made everything more real to me. I loved how it was so easy to be immersed in the world and feel the same emotions that the characters were feeling. There was no need to explain why or how things happened, and you just believed in what the book says: the world is dead. The people are dying. The Unconsecrated will not stop until they get their fill of flesh. Perhaps it’s because it’s set so many years into the future, or maybe because the author used zombies. Still, reading this was a breath of fresh air amongst all the books that try but fail to be dystopia. It reminded me of why I fell in love with this sub-genre in the first place.

Other than the world building, I found the characters in this novel just as awesome. I think Annah is my favorite among all of Carrie Ryan’s heroines. She’s tough and broken at the same time, and the growth of her character in this book was a pleasure to read. She’s hardly whiny and she’s brave — probably even braver than Gabry or Mary. I also liked that the relationships Annah had with Elias, Gabry and Catcher were very developed. The romance was just right, and both characters have justifiable angst that made them hesitate with their feelings, making their coming together even more satisfying to read.

Despite some possibly dragging moments (just a little, really), The Dark and Hollow Places had me at the edge of my seat, especially in the last few pages. The ending, just like the first two novels, was kind of bleak, but still full of hope, leaving the readers wishing the characters well. This book delves into the idea that all of us are going to die eventually, with or without the Unconsecrated, and given this fact, what are we doing about it? Are we choosing to simply survive day by day, or are we choosing to live?

I know some of my bookish friends didn’t like the first book in this trilogy, and it kind of makes me sad that they wouldn’t want to read up to this book given their impression on The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The Dark and Hollow Places is probably my favorite of all three, and it is a very satisfying end to a beautiful zombie trilogy. I am definitely looking forward to what Carrie Ryan comes up with next. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine

Reviews of other The Forest of Hands and Teeth Books:
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Dead-Tossed Waves

Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Chemical Garden Trilogy # 1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages:  345
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

* * *

Wither is one of those books that the book bloggers have been abuzz with ever since the cover came out. And who wouldn’t be mesmerized by such a beautiful cover? I wasn’t much of a cover person then, but I knew that I took a mental note of this book and was thrilled to see it as one of the e-galleys available in Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab.

This is the first book in the Chemical Garden trilogy, and it tells a dystopian world sometime into a future where diseases are removed through genetic experiments, producing a first generation of almost immortal human beings who can live their lives in full health. However, as soon as this first generation started to reproduce, they found a fatal flaw: the offspring of the first generation die before they reach their thirties. Specifically, males live up to twenty five while females pass away as they reach twenty. To keep the population growing, young girls are forced into polygamous marriages and some of their offspring were tested to find an antidote to to stop their children from dying.

Rhine Ellery is 16 and was captured by the Gatherers in a fake job interview and she was bought as a wife for Linden Ashby by his father, Housemaster Vaughn. Rhine gets married and becomes an Ashby by name but swears to find a way out and be reunited with her twin brother. However, as she tries to find a way to escape, she discovers disturbing things about the Ashby household, finds herself softening towards her husband and sister-wives and falls in love.

If I were asked to choose a word to describe Wither, it’s interesting. My initial attraction to the book came from it being classified under dystopia, and we all know how I’ve grown to love that sub-genre in the past year. I liked Rhine right at the start. Her voice is strong and clear and she was tough but not without being compassionate. She knows she’s doomed to die in four years but I liked that she still seemed to have little hopes and dreams, one that helped her survive her ordeal. Reading the story in Rhine’s point of view kind of reminded me of The Hunger Games, without the thundering background music and the immediate need to survive. Rhine’s background music would fall a bit on a classical piece that starts out as calm and languid at first then builds up to a crescendo as we get to the exciting parts. Rhine isn’t a Katniss, but there were some similarities in their personalities — particularly their resiliency — that reminded me of Suzanne Collins’ beloved character. Oh and I also found it really cool that Rhine had differently colored eyes — heterochromia, as they call it. I couldn’t help but shriek, “Graceling!” when I read that part. :)

However, as far as the dystopian aspect of Wither goes, I found it a bit lacking. I’m no expert in how dystopia should be unlike some people I know, but I wasn’t very satisfied with how Rhine’s world came to be. Sure, I understand there would be mass panic when they find out the flaw in their genetic experiments, but how could there be so much destruction that all the other continents were wiped out except for North America? I understand the population woes, so why kill the girls then? Why are there so many orphans? There were so many why’s and how’s that I found the world building a bit faulty, despite it being vivid. Perhaps my questions would be answered in the next two books?

I also have a tiny beef with the ending, but it’s just me nitpicking. It’s not a cliffhanger, but I really wish there was more. I guess I was looking for more action in the ending? I kind of wanted something bigger, something more explosive to happen in the end. It may just be me and my expectations for dystopian novels. The ending for Wither felt a little too much…I don’t know, dreamy? That isn’t bad, but just kind of threw me off the loop. I was expecting  a little bit more action, and I wanted to know what happened to the other characters, too. But again, I guess that is why this is part of a trilogy. It’s kind of like how Carrie Ryan ended her zombie books — if you don’t know that there will be a next book in the series, you’d feel like you were cheated from an ending with closure.

Despite its faults and my nitpicks, Wither is still a good read, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If dystopian novels had genders, this would definitely be a female — no battle scenes or gory deaths here, boys. :) It’s bleak and disturbing yet still romantic, emotional and somewhat hopeful. If you’re not into reading bleak and hardcore dystopian novels, then Wither may be the book for you.

Rating:

Other reviews:
bibliochic
Rex Robot Reviews
Bookalicious

Hungry For You

Hungry for You by A.M. HarteHungry For You by A.M. Harte
1889 labs, 84 pages

“There is no greater drug than relationships; there is no sweeter death than love.”

Love is horrible. It’s ruthless, messy, mind-altering, and raw. It takes no prisoners. It chews you up and spits you out and leaves you for dead. Love is, you could say, very much like a zombie.

In this haunting short story collection, anything is possible—a dying musician turns to tea for inspiration; a police sergeant struggles with a very unusual victim; a young wife is trapped in a house hiding unimaginable evil….

With Hungry For You, A.M. Harte explores the disturbing and delightful in an anthology that unearths the thin boundary between love and death.

When we say the word “zombies”, the first thought is always about a virus that makes dead people…well, undead. It could be just a fluke, or a scientific experiment gone wrong, but either way, the virus spreads and everyone gets infected save for a few lucky (or unlucky ones, depending on where they get stuck) who try to live and survive amongst their undead companions.

That is almost usually the common thread for zombie novels which can get really tiring if you read about it over and over again. Every once in a while, though, we get some deviants to the norm, where zombification comes from the most ridiculous sources and yet it’s still believable (case in point: Zombicorns by John Green). I like reading these story lines because really, how many times will I read about a virus that makes people want to eat other people while they rot and shuffle and mumble, “Brains”?

British author A.M. Harte is one of those who takes the zombie folklore and spins it around to give us a different taste of zombies (pun intended). When she emailed me about sending me a review copy of her anthology, Hungry For You, I was kind of hesitant to agree because it sounded so paranormal romance, and I tend to stay away from those books nowadays. However, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I decided to go for this, thinking that I would need to read a paranormal every now and then.

Surprisingly, I liked Hungry For You. I was thinking it would be another so-so read because of the paranormal romance angle, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is a collection of short stories about love and well, zombies. But like I said, the author spins the zombie folklore around, focusing on different aspects of romance and zombies, giving the creatures we all love to read and talk about and kill with pea-shooters and sunflowers a different approach altogether. Some of the stories may not even really count as a zombie story if you’re a purist, but the characters acted so much like zombies that you’d really think they were infected.

I was constantly surprised by the stories in this collection, and sometimes even slightly grossed out but that’s just me being squeamish (I still wonder why I like zombies so much when I feel squeamish easily). The stories were creative, funny, romantic and sad — just like what I think romance novels are. The paranormal angle isn’t really overwhelming, which I really appreciated, and I think other people who are tired of the usual paranormal will be pleased about that too. (Oh, but hey, they say zombies aren’t paranormal but more science fiction — thoughts?)

Personal favorites: Hungry For You, Swimming Lessons,  A Prayer to Garlic (“vegetarian” zombies!), The Perfect Song (almost similar to Zombicorns in terms of how people become zombies, but sadder) and Arkady, Kain and Zombies (sweet and tragic all at the same time). I think there is something for everyone in A.M. Harte’s Hungry For You. I like it when a book surprises me. :) I’m curious to what A.M. Harte will come up with next. :)

Hungry For You is available on ebook from Amazon Kindle store and Smashwords. The paperback version will be out in March 2011.

Rating:

My copy: ebook, review copy from the author. Thank you! :)

Cover and blurb: author’s website

Other reviews:
Doubleshot Reviews
mari’s randomnities
Attack of the Book

Delirium

DeliriumDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Delirium # 1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Number of pages: 441
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Halloway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

* * *

I loved Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall, so when I found out that she was coming up with a new dystopian book, I was psyched. I saw this book first from The Book Smugglers and added it to my wish list, eagerly anticipating its release. The premise is intriguing, and as the release date got nearer, reviews are cropping up left and right. The mixed reviews kind of worried me, especially since some of my trusted reviewers were lukewarm on it, but I decided to carry on and find out for myself instead of just scrapping it because of the reviews.

Love is bad. It is a sickness that needs to be cured and you must be protected from it at all costs until you are old enough to get the cure. This is what Lena Halloway grew up with in a society that declares love as a disease – amor deliria nervosa — one that causes pain, clouds judgment and kills not only the person infected but the people around them. Lena grew up believing this and blaming the sickness for her mother’s eventual suicide and she looked forward to receiving her cure. She wanted a normal, safe, and predictable life with a person matched for her, to prove that she is not like her mother and she will not endanger anyone. As Lena counts the days to receiving her cure (a simple operation is all you need to get rid of love and you don’t need to drink anything like jack3d after), something unexpected and totally forbidden happens: she meets Alex, and she falls in love. What follows is a lot of secret meetings and stolen moments and learning about the truth that has been hidden from Lena for almost all her life.

One thing I realized while reading Delirium is that there are two ways to read this novel: the romantic side and the dystopian side. The side you’re more fond of will make or break this novel for you. I really liked the premise of the novel, and I was curious to how Oliver will make all of it work out. I’m not an expert in dystopia despite having read a lot of it (not as much as other people, though), so a world without something is already enough for me to classify it as such. I was kind of afraid there would be another love triangle in this, but figuring that this is a book where love is considered forbidden, there’s got to be some swoon-worthy and tingly romance in this book that I was willing to take on.

And I was right: the romance between Lena and Alex was surely swoon-worthy. I liked how Lena’s feelings were described as she learned of love with Alex. Oliver sure had a way with words and these were reminiscent to how she wrote Before I Fall. I related to Lena in the same sense that I’ve never been in love — never felt the rush, the sparks, the exhilaration of knowing that someone thinks you are perfect no matter how plain looking you know you are. The symptoms listed for the disease accurately describes (as much as I know, anyway) how it feels to have a crush and to fall in love if things don’t stop. It could be a symbolism of sorts in real life: the disease could be something that people who are afraid of falling in love are avoiding, and cured people are those who have decided never to love again after they have been hurt by love. Lena’s innocence about love was pure and kind of sweet, albeit tainted with fear of the deliria. But I guess that’s what love is, right? It’s scary and beautiful all at the same time, and choosing to live with or without it will kill you either way. The only difference between them is what dies in you if you choose to love or not.

But as far as the dystopia factor is concerned, I didn’t feel it. To be honest, I felt like Delirium reads better like a contemporary novel instead of dystopia. I may be biased because I really liked Before I Fall and I think the author is better at contemporary. There were just too many why’s that doesn’t make sense. Why is love considered a disease? What happened? I would understand if it’s too far off into the past that people hardly remember it, but it was only sixty-five years ago, and something that big shouldn’t be too easy to forget. What are the instances that made love the bad guy? And in their world that is controlled by the government, the big bad government didn’t feel like such a threat. They didn’t really strike much fear into me, unlike the Peacekeepers from The Hunger Games. Who led this totalitarian government? And for such a strict one, why can people get away with going to underground parties and breaking curfews. How? Delirium‘s world feels a bit hazy compared to the other dystopian books I’ve read. I guess it would be explained more in the next book, but I believe that for dystopian novels — especially books in series — to work, the world should be built solidly from the start, not in the next books because that’s what readers will be looking out for first. At least, that’s what I am looking for.

Overall, Delirium is kind of a mixed bag for me. I liked the romance, the dystopia was just kind of so-so. I liked it, but not as much as the the author’s debut. This is one of those books that people either really loved or really disliked, but I’m kind of in the middle ground. It’s just…okay. Read it and decide for yourself if you like it or not.

Oh and that ending? I have no words. :O

Rating:

Other reviews:
Janicu’s Book Blog
The Book Smugglers
Presenting Lenore
Bart’s Bookshelf
GReads!
Forever Young Adult
Attack of the Book

Rot & Ruin

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan MaberryRot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
(Benny Imura # 1)
Simon & Schuster, 458 pages

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

I missed my zombies. The last time I read a full-length zombie novel was back in November, Married with Zombies, and it wasn’t really an awesome read at that. I think I got a bit grossed out with the surprising gore part in that novel that’s why I took a break from reading zombie novels. Then the holidays came and I didn’t want to read about the living dead so I just let them wait a bit more. John Green’s Zombicorns whetted my appetite for zombies again, so I got the closest one from my TBR and devoured it last weekend.

Devour. A funny term to use for a zombie novel, but that is exactly what I did for Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry. I was in the middle of reading Emma then, and I wasn’t going anywhere with it, so I decided to take a break with the classic and start this one. Rot & Ruin tells the story of Benny Imura, a fifteen-year-old boy who lives in one of the villages in a post-apocalyptic America. It has been 13 years since the First Night, the night when the dead rose and infected the living. Benny lives with his older half-brother, Tom, a famous bounty hunter who prefers to be called a closure specialist. Benny hates his brother because he thought him as a coward from his first memory of his parents getting infected during the First Night. As part of their village’s rules, Benny has to find a part time job when he turns fifteen, and because of the lack of choices, he ends up being an apprentice under his brother. A day in the Rot and Ruin changes Benny’s life, and he finds that maybe all the things he knew and believed about his brother may be wrong. The question is, will Benny be able to live up to what his brother stands for when it’s really needed?

When I asked Aaron which I should read first when I was choosing between this and Charlie Higson’s The Enemy, he told me to pick Rot & Ruin if I wanted heart over gore. And he’s true: this is a zombie novel with a heart. I liked how Maberry showed the human aspect of the zombies, weird as that may sound. But if you really think about it, zombies are from humans. I’m not saying they are humans, but they were — they’re a brother, sister, father, mother, lover, friend. Video games and movies show that zombies are mindless monsters in search for human brains that need to be killed to stop the infection, but the human side, the loss, is not often discussed. The author did a very good job in showing us these emotions, and showing us that even in the midst of a world where zombies are a curse, there’s a humane way in treating them and making them (and the loved ones they left behind) move on in peace.

Rot & Ruin‘s world was very believable, and I liked how Maberry created Benny’s village. There’s a stifling, almost oppressive aura in the village, one that pressed on the characters until they have no choice but to leave. I liked how the author used this to make the characters move from their sheltered homes to the outside world. In a way, Benny’s village could be any place in the present world, minus the zoms — anywhere where people are happy with how they live even if it means turning a blind eye to injustices happening around them is the same as Benny’s world, and maybe even worse. Rot & Ruin is not just about killing zombies, but a book about humanity and family.

This is probably one of the other zombie novels I’ve read that has almost lived up to the love I have for Feed by Mira Grant. I think I may just be partial to Feed more because I could relate to the characters better since they’re bloggers (and Georgia is just so awesome, too). Nevertheless, I highly recommend Rot & Ruin for those who want to read a very good book with zombies in it. I am looking forward to Benny’s return in Dust & Decay this year.

Rating:

My copy: borrowed from Aaron (which we gave him as a birthday gift :) )

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Guy Gone Geek
taking a break
My Favorite Books