Tag Archives: mini-opinion

Rot and Ruin – Jonathan Maberry

Published 2010 

Zombies, zombies, zombies. The literary world may be overrun, but personally this is the first young-adult book I’ve read featuring the bitey undead. I must say, I liked this take on the trope. Benny Imura was barely a toddler when the world ended. His first memory is of his now-zombie father going after his mother, while his half-brother just runs, carrying Benny away forever. He hates them both: the zombie monsters, and the coward brother. When Benny turns 15, his rations will be cut in half if he doesn’t find a job. Finally, exhausting all other options, Benny has no choice but to apprentice in the family business: zombie hunting. He loves the idea of killing zombies, but isn’t keen on doing it with his brother – both attitudes which are soon put to the test when he has to face the realities of life outside the protective walls of the town.

Maberry’s zombie-mythology is absolutely brilliant, and though the zombies never lose their inherent danger or scariness he allows the reader to pity the creatures for the humans they had once been. This is a crucial part of Benny’s growth as a character as well, and though the novel is action packed, it really is about his emotional journey and the choices he makes about the kind of person he wants to be.  To get back to the action though, there were some really dynamic scenes, with my favourite being the horse charge – from my experience you don’t often get them in zombie stories and it was just one of those small things which add to the uniqueness of the novel.

Were there some aspects of the novel I thought could have been executed better? Definitely. For instance, a clear idea of Tom’s age earlier in novel would have eased confusion over why Benny was so convinced he was a coward for not saving their mother. What flaws the novel does have are easily overlooked though, and I enjoyed the read very much. I’d certainly recommend it for anyone looking for a mixed-genre adventure.

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A Young Adult Recommendation List

This post is a lot sooner than I usually update, but I wanted to get it out before I started back at uni and got bogged down in work. Lucky you!

I’ve been volunteering recently at a library where a friend of mine is the acquisitions librarian, and knowing I had a strong interest in YA fiction she asked me casually if I had any recommendations to build up their collection. At the time, I didn’t give a proper answer, but never let it be said that I welch on book recommendations.

Some of my favourite YA books/series are missing from this list, but that is due to the fact that the library already has them. I’ve also come to the conclusion that my knowledge of non sci-fi/fantasy novels is woefully lacking, but is not a situation I would feel the need to specifically address unless it became necessary due to job requirements (ie. collection management).

Here is the list:

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A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, as indeed I was before I picked up the novella. I had seen many adaptations of the classic Christmas tale, but had not read the book, not being a fan of ‘classics’ in general. Over the last year or two I’ve been trying to read  more classics, though it was not wanting to watch another adaptation which prompted me to make this one of my December reads (I mean, Jim Carey… come on!). I was also a bit grumpy to be working retail for another Christmas season, and thought maybe, just maybe, this book might induce the festive spirit to visit me.

Within a page, I was presently surprised by the humour Dickens brings to his writing, which is something I wasn’t expecting at all. This isn’t a funny book, but Dickens inserts wry asides, and occasionally breaks the fourth wall in order to make a point – which made me smile just about every time.

Only vaguely knowing about Dickens’ other works, I was expecting a weighty tome, something to be slogged through. I can’t say how long the story actually was, without some Googling but it felt quite brief on my e-reader. Dickens is big on the descriptive passages though, and I admit my eyes did just slide past some of them.

In terms of differences between the adaptations and the original, there weren’t as many as I thought there might be – perhaps because the source material was shorter, there is more room to elaborate, with little of the need to excise material. The main point of difference I noticed was that Scrooge was so much quicker to repent of his miserly ways. In fact, the last ghost was almost superfluous, with Scrooge not even having a real clue that the deceased person was him until he was taken to the grave. That particular scene took on an almost comical tone, as I knew what Scrooge didn’t as he was saying ‘what a black creature this man must have been to rate such talk about his death’ etc. etc.

Most of the other difference from the original in the retellings comes from the emphasis placed on different aspects of the novel, such as Scrooge’s childhood romance, and I can’t think of any I’ve seen which detract from the story.

I don’t know if I can say the book filled me with Christmas spirit, but I was a little less grumpy afterwards (this could also be attributed to having finished my shopping by that stage as well). I can certainly see why this has remained a seasonal favourite for so long and I’m glad I finally read it.

 

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Top Ten Books, 2011

With 67 books gracing my reading list from 2011, I had to make a few rules to help with the choosing of my top ten: re-reads do not count; no Discworld (otherwise I’d be here forever trying to narrow down the list); and, no books in a series, unless they are a) the first book in said series, or b) function as a standalone.

So, here you have my belatedly finished list – in semi-relevant order:

Boneshaker – Cherie Priest

Steampunk. Zombies. Kick-ass characters. This book instantly made in into not only my top ten for 2011 but also my top ten – ever. I was so taken with this book that I have recommended it to numerous people, and the second novel set in this world only escaped being on the list because I didn’t want to clog it up with too many books by the same author.

Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde

Fforde is easily one of my favourite authors, so the inclusion on the list of the first book in this newish trilogy is no big surprise. I admit I was a bit disappointed with the ending, feeling that maybe it was just being unnecessarily mean to the characters, but it does end a certain pessimistic realism to the story, and may even become plot relevant. Perhaps.

Chasing Odysseus – S.D Gentill

I picked up this book because it was front facing in a library display and I thought ‘I could’ve sworn ‘The Odyssey’ had nothing to do with wolves’. This particular library also has no YA section, so I originally assumed this was an ‘adult’ book, I snuck between the stacks and read the prologue and then I was hooked. In fact, I may have to write a full review at some point instead of thrusting the book randomly on people.

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