This is Not a Test

This is Not a Test by Courtney SummersThis is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Number of pages: 323
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley, much thanks to Loren Jaggers of St. Martin’s Press and Lindsey Rudnickas from NetGalley for all the help :)

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

* * *

When I heard that Courtney Summers was coming out with a zombie novel, I was up to my ears with excitement. Okay fine, when I found out about it, I have only read one Courtney Summers novel (Some Girls Are), but I really liked it and I was looking forward to reading her other books. Then the new one was about zombies? And it had that awesome, awesome cover? Where can I get this?!

I had to go through a lot of lengths to get a galley of this book, and I would like to thank all those who helped me get this from the bottom of my zombie loving heart. :) I feel a bit ashamed that it took me so long to read and review this…but better late than never? ^^

So the world is ending, but Sloane Price doesn’t care because as far as she knows, the world has ended ever since her sister left her alone with their abusive father. She just really wants to die, and the apocalypse seemed just timely, until she was saved by several kids she knew from school. Now she is in the school with them, helping seal exits half-heartedly, listening to the incessant pounding of the undead outside who wants to eat their flesh. What follows is a story of human will, of what people will do when the odds are stacked against them, and just how far one would go to survive…or die.

INTENSE. I described Some Girls Are as intense, but it had nothing to the intensity of this book. This is Not a Test is an exhausting book. It has so much character conflict (internal and external), and it’s not just because of the zombies. In fact, most of the zombie action didn’t happen until in the latter parts of the book, and that’s an entirely different kind of intensity. The rest of the book is all about human struggle and the will to survive even if it seems all better to just give up and do nothing.

I can’t say I liked many of the characters, especially Sloane because she’s different from all the zombie novel heroines I’ve read. Most of them have the determined will to live, not a will to die. I wanted Sloane to snap out of it, to pick herself up and be thankful that she’s still alive and has a good chance of survival. She frustrated me, and the other people she was with kind of frustrated me too, because I wasn’t sure what their real motives were. Well fine, they wanted to live, but I guess the entire situation of the apocalypse in the book has also caused me to not just trust anyone. I swung between liking some characters moderately to not liking them at all, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good characters. They’re just…well, not so much likeable. Perhaps it is hard to like some people in a genuine way when zombies are out to get you outside and you’re worried if you’re going to live another day.

On another note, I think the book has an excellent pacing, and the days they spent inside the school blended into one another quite well that I felt I was with them as well and I didn’t know how long it has been when they were inside. There were times when some of the action lagged, and but it quickly picked up with heavy, spine-chilling scenes that really snapped me out of my sleepiness when I was reading this before bed. The last few scenes were creepily scary and quite sad, but it was the kind of zombie action that I was looking for! In the end, I was just really…exhausted, but in a good and satisfying way.

So this pretty much seals my love for Courtney Summers. I am looking forward to getting Fall for Anything to finally read all that she wrote, and I am definitely, definitely going to get everything else she writes from now on. :)

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Maze Runner # 1
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages:  375
My copy: paperback, gift from Ace

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

* * *

I have seen The Maze Runner in bookstores and blogs for a while now, but I never got around to picking it up because I wasn’t very enticed to get it. I honestly thought the summary was kind of bleak, and that’s already coming from me who likes dystopia. I would not have bumped this book up in my TBR if it wasn’t for my friend Ace, who gave me his paperback copy after upgrading his to hardbound and if he didn’t post a glowing review of the book with special mention to me. How can I not read it, right? (And this means I am an easily swayed person :p )

Most of The Maze Runner‘s strengths lie in its pace and plotting. This is the type of book that will keep you guessing and will keep you on your literary feet. The world of the Glade and the maze that they need to stolve added to the creepiness factor of the book, with the closing doors and the scary half-machine, half-something Grievers, and the community that the boys have created inside the Glade to keep them going. The amount of detail written about the Glade, the boys’ dialect and their own “government” and social designations made it very believable, and at the back of my mind, I wondered if this mirrored the world outside of the Glade, or if there was even a world outside at all. The author levels it up with the book’s pacing, and he did a very, very good job in keeping the readers in the dark even all the way up to the end. I was kept at the edge of my seat for most of the book. Even if answers were given, other questions come up, and in the end (which was a total cliffhanger, by the way), there were more questions than answers, leading readers wanting to pick up the next book immediately.

But with all those strengths, I think what didn’t really work for me in The Maze Runner was the characters. The Maze Runner is reminiscent of The Knife of Never Letting Go in terms of world building, but the latter had characters on its side. I found Thomas a bit Gary Stu-ish, with his messianic role in the story. Sure, it was his story, but it was just kind of hard to believe that the other boys inside the Glade never figured out the things that Thomas figured out in his stay there, especially if they were supposed to be smart. Teresa, the only girl, felt more like a distraction than an important part of the story. I couldn’t quite figure her out, as well as her relationship with Thomas — is there a romantic angle here? What is her use in the story except be a girl and talk to Thomas and be cuddly with him? I’m not quite sure I got it. I did like the other characters though, particularly Newt, Minho and Chuck, and they provided a good variety and even some comic relief with the bleak atmosphere of the book.

I must warn readers, though, that this is a very talky book — most of the exposition is done by telling, not showing, so this may be an issue for other people who like descriptions more than dialogue. Despite that and the slight falter in the main characters, I think The Maze Runner is still a good book. Its tight plot, good pacing and mysteries definitely makes this book deserving of its popularity among the dystopian ranks. I will definitely pick up its sequel, The Scorch Trials, to know what happens next…but I will not pick it up anytime soon, because frankly, the end of The Scorch Trials excerpt in my paperback copy really freaked me out. :-s

Rating: [rating=4]

Other Reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Steph Su Reads
Bart’s Bookshelf

Slay Together, Stay Together

Married with ZombiesMarried with Zombies by Jesse Petersen
Living with the Dead # 1
Publisher: Orbit
Number of pages: 244
My copy: paperback, ARC from Janice — thank you!

A heartwarming tale of terror in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Meet Sarah and David.

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they’re on the verge of divorce and going to couples’ counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things – the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client’s throat.

Meet the Zombies.

Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn’t mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don’t eat their brains, they might just kill each other.

* * *

So zombies. I think I’ve established enough in this blog that I love zombies. They’re my favorite paranormal creatures, and despite the gore that is normally associated with them, I think they’re a great plot device (hey, look I’m spouting NaNoWriMo terms already!). When I heard about Jesse Petersen’s novel about a married couple who starts slaying zombies, I knew I just had to have it. Zombie + chick lit? Come on, it’s a no-brainer for me. :P

I think the common thing about all the zombie novels I’ve read and reviewed (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead Tossed Waves, Feed and Z) is they’re all post-apocalyptic novels. The zombie apocalypse has happened, and I’m brought to a setting where I read about how the people coped, is coping and will cope with the reality that zombies are among the people. Some books are set early enough after the apocalypse that the characters still remember why and how the zombies rose, while others are set so far off into the future that no one really knows how the zombies came.

What sets Married with Zombies apart from the other zombie novels (aside from the pink in the cover) is how it’s set during the apocalypse instead of post. Everything was normal for David and Sarah up until their marriage counselor tried to eat them, and from there everything goes haywire. I find this setting quite creative because I’ve never read a zombie book that focused exactly on how people tried to survive as the zombies came. There’s a certain sense of the unknown in this, and I got to see fresh terror and denial from the humans as they wrestled with this new and terrifying fact of life. I found myself rooting for the characters to survive because…well, who else is there to root for?

However, that’s pretty much what I found unique in this book. I think the real selling point of this book is not that it’s a zombie novel, but the romance/chick lit aspect. Yeah, the chick lit aspect is there, but it’s not the same chick lit aspect that I’m looking for in those I read. I think I agree with how other reviewers viewed Sarah — she’s kind of annoying. She did admit she was a Type-A person, but I never really felt much sympathy or connection with her. David seemed too much like the typical guy who turned out to be a hero, but I’m also kind of lukewarm to him. Come to think of it, I don’t think I really connected with most of the characters here. Normally this is an issue for me, and it is kind of one here, but somehow I think the zombies managed to make it up for me.

The love angle is kind of cheesy, really, and there’s nothing too special about it. I am glad that they worked out their marriage even if it took a zombie apocalypse to mend their marriage. Which brings me to the point that a relationship will work out if you have a common goal. I’m not so sure how sound zombie busting is as a common goal will work, but well, I can suspend my disbelief.

I think the most surprising part in this novel — at least for me — is the gore. For some reason, I felt extra queasy with this novel as I read it. There’s so much blood and gore and guts and black sludge (ew) in this novel that I found myself grossed out for the first time in a zombie novel. Remembering it now is still kind of making me queasy. Eh.

Overall, it’s not a bad zombie book. It’s not the best one either, but I’m still willing to give the second book, and maybe the third book a chance. I would love to read David’s point of view, though — I hope we read that in one of the future books?

If you’re a zombie fan and you don’t mind reading something “light” in terms of this literature, go and pick up Married with Zombies. Don’t expect to be wowed, but it could provide some mild entertainment. However, if you’re just starting out in the zombie fad, I would recommend you to get other more established zombie books before moving to this one.

Rating: [rating=3]

Other reviews:
Taking a Break
Janicu’s Book Blog