Feed by Mira Grant

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Posted by Cobalt | Posted in | Posted on 6:39 AM


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

First, a disclaimer.

I do not like zombies.

I don't enjoy zombie movies, I do not read zombie books, and I generally fail to see the appeal of the shambling dead.

But Grant's book has zombies and bloggers, and that combination was enough to hook me. Her prose, her universe, and most especially her characters' relationships kept me hooked, even though I knew -- I knew! -- according to the Rules of Zombieworld, that This Would Not End Well.

So Georgia Mason and her brother Shaun live in a world that has defeated the common cold, cured cancer...and accidentally unleashed an epidemic of the living dead.

Oops.

Georgia and Shaun grew up with this world, so the constant terror isn't actually new -- and it's fascinating to see how American society has adapted to the constant threat of having one's face chewed off by deceased friends and relatives. Usually this involves hiding indoors and testing your blood a lot.

Georgia and Shaun are constantly outside, instead, because of their jobs -- they are among the elite bloggers in the news/entertainment industry, and their entire lives revolve around drawing the ratings. After the Rising, the main media lost the peoples' trust and respect, largely because of their denialism and reports of Zombies, Pshaw! -- meanwhile, ordinary citizens were blogging about How to Kill That Thing Moaning in Your Yard.

So Georgia and Shaun go gallivanting about, bringing the latest news and thrills to the general populace hiding in their secure compounds, and garnering minor celebrity status in the process. So much status, in fact, that their blogging team is selected to cover the presidential campaign - by accompanying Senator Ryman, candidate for the GOP, on the trail to the convention.

I was fascinated by Grant's take on the media, politics, and everyday life in an atmosphere of constant fear -- even more so because it seemed utterly plausible and strikingly similar to today. But mostly I loved the relationship between Georgia and Shaun. They win the award for Best Sibling Relationship I've read so far -- bickering, bantering, covering each others' backs, and being unabashedly honest about their love and trust in each other.

If I wanted to be really analytical, I could talk about the parallels of zombie virology (Grant has crafted a fascinating model of infection) and the 'viral' spread of information among people with the blogging universe, crowdsourcing and communications advancements...but mostly?

Georgia + Shaun = Love.

This is the first in a series, so be prepared to be left wanting more (alas! for the Rise of the Series has sorely tested my Waiting Skills).

So go out and read Feed. Even if you've never read a zombie book; even if you have an allergy to the ambulatory departed....read this. You won't regret it.

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

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Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , | Posted on 3:24 PM


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

The second in Marr's dark faery tales, this novel centers around Leslie, a damaged girl who finds herself pursued by yet another faery monarch -- unlike the callous-but-shiny Summer King, however, Leslie has a more menacing suitor.

Well, not exactly suitor. You see, faeries regard mortals as instruments or playthings, to be used and then discarded -- so if you're expecting a story of True Love Converts Evil To Mushy Lovemuffin, think again.

Leslie has suffered horrific trauma at the hands of her own brother, who became mixed up in drug dealers and used her to pay off a debt. Now she is haunted by nightmares and a constant boiling panic; more than anything, she wants to be free of the terror -- she doesn't want to feel anything at all. When she sees the tattoo design in Rabbit's parlor, it calls to her, promising safety from all of her feelings, offering power and control.

She wants it. She's going to get it, etched deep into her skin, a part of her forever.

But she has no idea that Irial, the Dark Faery King, has very specific plans for that tattoo, and the girl who wears it. Plans that will likely lead to her destruction. But another faery, Niall, has suddenly taken notice of Leslie, and finds himself inexplicably driven to protect her - despite his own ugly past.

This was an enjoyable read, and quite surprising in many places -- several times, I thought it was going along one love-triangle route, but the characters kept surprising me. In part, I think this was because the romance element wasn't really driving the plot. Instead, this book was really about self-determination and how the choices we make shape not only our futures but ourselves. You can never go back to who you once were, and each of the characters make choices that are as much about themselves as they are about being - or not being - with others.

It was quite refreshing, actually, after all of the Edward-obsessed-Bella clones that have been running riot through the genre, more concerned about how the boy feels about her than her own sense of self (let alone self-preservation).

And there is a nice element of menace in this series, with ample evidence that these are the nasty, old-school faeries. If Twilight made vampires cuddly, Marr reminds us that her faeries are foreign, compelling, seductive, and above all dangerous.

So kudos! I'd be interested in picking up the third in this series, to follow this intriguing cast of characters some more.

By the time you read this, I'll be dead by Julie Anne Peters

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Posted by Cobalt | Posted in | Posted on 6:22 AM


Daeyln wants to die.

No, Daelyn is determined to die.

This isn't just typical woe-is-me teen angst, that wish for the hard stuff to be over, to get out -- of high school, a small town, a boring home...
Daelyn wants out of life. She's tried before, and failed. She is not going to fail again.

Another 'darker' novel that addresses a twisted problem with sensitivity and some creativity, too, By the time you read this doesn't try to manipulate you with any of the obvious tricks. Daelyn's matter of fact, deadpan narration may put you off at first, but I found it increasingly compelling and far more disturbing than any weepy tirade. Daeyln tells you simply how it is, and the awfulness speaks for itself.

Trauma is involved, but it's more than one single, horrible event -- it's a long, grinding torture of ridicule and abuse that is often casually dismissed under the catchall term 'bullying.'

But this goes way beyond the stereotypical 'give me your lunch money.' Peters shows the suffering and agony that can fester in a 'safe' suburbia when you pack a bunch of hormonal teens in small spaces, and then give them IM and facebook so they are never truly out of contact...

There is a bit of manipulative trickery when Daeyln meets Santana, an annoying dork boy who insists on showing her his pet rat and simply will not leave her alone. If you have seen or read any teen coming-of-age tearjerker ever, you will instantly know what's up with Santana. But Peters manages to make this more than the typical device - part of this is Santana himself, who cheerfully acknowledges his own manipulativeness. He's a person, not a life lesson, and so is Daelyn - which is why the story itself resists any easy categorizations.

Excellent in psychological depth, this is another heavy read that is well worth the discomfort of the ugly subject - you'll keep reading because you care about Daelyn, and she may just surprise you in the end.
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