Book Review: The Scourge: Nostrum by Roberto Calas

In these times of madness, only madness will save us.

Zombies, knights, hilarity, Sir Tristan.  I’m in love….

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This is the second book in The Scourge Series by Roberto Calas, here is my review for book one.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Sir Edward Dallingridge survived his journey through the anarchy that is now England, leaving in his wake the bodies of mad lords, foul invaders, friends, and the risen dead. There was nothing on earth that could keep him from the woman he loves.

Nothing but the horror that has already consumed her.

His journey is over, but his mission is far from complete. As a knight of the realm, he has defended England from every enemy it has. But how does one drive away a plague sent from hell? His only hope lies in the rumors of a cure–a treatment concocted by a strange man on an island fortress. Edward will do everything in his power to find this alchemist and to bring Elizabeth back from the walking terror she has become.

This book is again a serial, and is a bit darker, considering  the end of the first book.  The adventure continues for Sir Edward and Sir Tristan, but with the addition of others such as Belisencia, a “nun” they come across in their journey.  Her presence adds some much needed female comic relief and her interactions with Sir Tristan are hilarious.  And again, Christianity and the church are often the butt of the jokes:

“Barbaric?” Tristan asks. “And why are they any more barbaric than Christians?”

Belisencia scoffs and looks away.  “There’s no sense talking to you about it.”

Tristan laughs.  “Go on, tell me.  I would like to know what’s more barbaric than drinking the blood of our savior every week.  Or eating his flesh.” He laughs again and sweeps his hand to encompass the countryside.  “Maybe all of these plaguers are just good Christians that got carried away.  They’re drinking everyone’s blood.  Maybe they are more devout than any of us.”

I love how the zombie apocalypse in medieval England pretty much mirrors the zombie apocalypse in every other time period and part of the world that I’ve read.  Makes me think that no matter where or when, humans are humans and will probably devolve to their baser elements when the fabric of society is torn apart:

The afflicted are not the worst thing about this new England. Plaguers are hungry and desperate.  I understand those motives.  What, then, are the motives of the survivors?  Power?  Avarice? Cruelty? Of the two groups, the unafflicted survivors are the greater threat.  I am uncomfortable with what this implies about my kind.

Like I said in my earlier review, I know NOTHING about this time period, outside of what I’ve seen in Monty Python.  And this reminds me much of Monty Python.  But Mr. Calas is very gifted at understanding that not all of us readers know what a bevor (?) is, and works very diligently to make sure we aren’t completely lost.  He makes all of the knight stuff palatable.  And funny:

Every priest dreams of sainthood.  Every merchant dreams of riches.  And every knight, no matter how much he may deny it, dreams of slaying a dragon.  It is in our blood. Tristan and I nearly knock each other to the ground in our haste to reach the creature.

Another feature I love of these books, maybe it is just a serial thing, is the historical notes at the end.  Mr. Calas has done extensive research into his writing.  Sir Edward was a real person with a real castle.  A good number of the events were based in some sort of reality.  Even the dancing mania AND the dragon (you have to read about it).  I truly appreciate these types of works that are based in some sort of reality.  And then the author just runs with it.

Again, I highly recommend this series.  Fulfills my zombie requirement, humor requirement, history requirement all in one book.  A must read.  I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

Book Review: The Scourge by Roberto Calas

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Back to the zombies.  I figure Easter is coming…

This time it is zombies in medieval England:

God has forsaken this land.

A mysterious plague descends upon 14th century England, ravaging the country and trapping the souls of the afflicted in eternal madness. The feudal hierarchy–and even the church itself– slowly crumbles as the dead rise to feed and the living seek whatever shelter they can. The bishops of England call for calm and obedience, but one man isn’t listening.

Sir Edward of Bodiam has been separated from the woman he loves and nothing on heaven or earth can stop him from seeking her out. 

Edward and two of his knights travel through the swiftly changing landscape of England, a countryside now overrun by the minions of hell. The knights encounter madness, violence, and sorrow, but Edward fights his way ever deeper into the thickening darkness of unholy terror. 

Roberto Calas brings you along on a dark, historical tale full of love, death, and black humor. Follow Edward as he journeys to save his wife, his kingdom, and his very soul.

Very similar to The Zombie Bible series by Stant Litore.  But where Mr. Litore is poetic and philsophical, Mr. Calas is humorous.  Think Monty Python with zombies.  But not so campy.

I know next to nothing about this time period in history.  My husband is a huge fan of medieval history, weapons, warfare, etc.  When he starts going on about the battle of Agincourt my eyes start to glaze over.  It’s not that it isn’t interesting, it just doesn’t interest me.  But Mr. Calas made it interesting.

Many people say that chivalry is a dying notion.  That honor is dead.  This may be true.  but no knight I have ever known can resist a maiden in distress.

Intermixed with all of the knightly adventures and the quest for Sir Edward to return to his wife, Elizabeth, are zombies.  My husband seems to think that zombies would be easily dispatched in medieval times, but he didn’t count on the power of the Catholic church.  It is thought that the zombies just have the plague:

The noises that come from the plaguer are those of an animal.  Growls and shrieks.  There is no reason.  There is no humanity.  I can feel his teeth scraping at the bevor upon my neck.  His hands shove at my helmet.  I see three red circles above his thumb.  I shove at him, but he has latched on to me, with one arm under my head.  He pulls me toward his mouth like a hungry lover and I scream.  Not in fear but in anger.

I’m always intrigued by the little differences that the authors of zombie books weave into their stories.  Be it the way the zombies began (plague, gas, aliens, or no reason at all) or how they move and act, this always fascinates me.  These zombies feel pain.  Which must make it difficult to kill them.

On his quest, Sir Edward has Sir Tristan and Sir Morgan with him.  Sir Morgan is devoutly religious.  He is always quoting scripture.  Sir Edward and Sir Tristan kind of give him hell for it.  But their discourse highlights the way Catholicism permeated everyday life during this time period.  Sir Morgan actually believes that holy relics can cure the plague.  And by the end of the book, Sir Edward starts to believe him as well.  The religious conversations were hilarious, however:

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

“This is the same Lord who says we shouldn’t kill?” Tristan asks.

“No, it’s the Old Testament God,” I say.  “The grumpy one.”

“You have two Gods?” Zhuri asks.

“Just one,” Tristan says.  “But he had a troubled childhood.”

I was struck at the similarities between this work and the other zombie books I’ve read.  Particularly the ones set in modern times in the US.  Apparently when the dead start walking, the world goes to shit.  There is a fundamental breakdown in society, even in the “dark ages”, and the desire to rule one’s own little kingdom is powerful.  Even at the price of precious human life.  If you are a Walking Dead fan, think “The Governor”.  These knights find this all over England.

There is a situation the knights in this story find themselves in that is quite absurd.  Think zombie bears.  Edward remarks to himself after they have barely gotten out alive (again):

I wonder how many mad tyrants rule in England now.  How many lunatic kings sit in dung-pits and throw men to their deaths.

Overall, a great read.  Full of adventure, strong characters, humor and strong relationships.  Very different from typical zombie stories in that you actually LEARN SOMETHING about history while reading them. Much like Stant Litore’s work.  I look forward to the next installments.

Oh, and a quick note, this book was originally written as a serial for Amazon in 2012.  Each episode seems to end in a cliffhanger because a new episode would be released each week.  It doesn’t detract from the work at all, but I didn’t realize that at first when I was reading, and it made sense in the author’s notes in the end of the book.

Amanda’s Favs for 2013 Part Two

Here is the second part of my favorites list.

These are books that I have read and haven’t reviewed. Most I get from my monthly Kindle Lending Library allotment. Some are series I picked up when the first book was offered for free.  Some of the larger press books come from my weekly library run.

Favorite zombie book:  Apocalypse Z:  Darker Days by Manel Loureiro translated by Pamela Carmell.  I found apoczthis series a year ago, and I have already pre-ordered the third installment.  I have to wait til May!! Very well written, I love the European take on things.  A page turner.  Definitely recommended.

Honorable mention:  The Zomblog Series by T.W. Brown and The Remaining by D.J. Molles.

Favorite self-help book:  Invisible Scars:  How to Stop, Change or End Psychologicalinvisscars Abuse by Catharine Dowda.  I left an abusive marriage nearly five years ago.  He never once hit me.  But the verbal and emotional abuse has caused deep wounds that I am still healing.  What I liked about this book in particular is that it gave me a name to put with some of his behavior.  That I can name some of the abuse I suffered is extremely helpful.

Favorite history book:  Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff.  I reviewed his new book this year, Frozen in Time and just had to go and read this book.  

Favorite romance/erotica:  Entwined with You by Sylvia Day.  I love me some Crossfire series.  Much more realistic than “Fifty”, deals with deeper issues on the part of both characters.  Can’t wait for the fourth one.  And I think I would love to see this one made into a movie more than “Fifty”.

draculaFavorite paranormal romance:  Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta.  So not what you think of when you think “paranormal romance”.  And not a typical romance either.  I loved it.

Favorite YA romance (paranormal):  Significance Series by Shelly Crane.  Very sweet, very intriguing.

 

Favorite YA romance:  Fight or Flight by Jamie Canosa.  Very heart-rending.  Extremely emotional.

Favorite mash up:  The Fridgularity by Mark A. Rayner — humorous, apocalyptic, with a technology twist.   Loved it. fridge

And my total for this year is 152 books.  And counting…

Amanda’s Favs for 2013 — Part One

It’s that time of year again.  Time for me to review (ha!) my year in reading and pick favs.  Which is kind of hard.  So this year I’m going to do something different.

I read many other books outside of what I review.  Mainly the larger press, more famous author books that I come across.  So I will divide my picks for the year into two parts.  Part one being my favs of the books I have reviewed, and part two being the books that I read “outside” my reviewing.

I am also going to ask Ms. Charliegirl to make a favs list as well.  She has been busy being Ms. Teacher, but I’m sure she can write a quick post.

So here goes:

Favorite zombie series:

Hands down, The Zombie Bible series by Stant Litore.  Earlier in the year, I read Strangers in the Land and I am currently reading Mr. Litore’s Kindle serial No Lasting Burial.  Even if you don’t like zombies, READ THESE BOOKS.  They are by far the best written books I have read this year, possibly in my life.  The writing is lyrical, thezombie4 author evokes strong emotions within a few words.  He has made me more interested in a time period that I was never really interested in before.  He makes me want to actually GO to these places that he features in his writing.  And he has ignited an interest in ancient history.

I have never read the actual Bible, I am a former Catholic and I know next to nothing about biblical stories, characters, events.  I feel so much more enlightened by this series, and even better, it includes ZOMBIES!!  So check it out.  Unless you are strictly religious and have objections to the collision of the bible and the undead, I can promise you that you will enjoy these books.

 *Honorable mention*  Undying by Valerie Grosjean is pretty awesome too.  I love her characters and the way she builds the relationships between them.  She also evoked some pretty awesome memories of the relationship I share with my husband.

Favorite sci-fi (not including zombies):  About Time by Michael Murphy.  This one was a hard category.  Butabouttimepic going back over my posts, this one stood out.  I still think about the issues brought up by this book, and it is hilarious as well.  I love books that make you think, and this one definitely did that, and more.

Favorite history book:  America’s Greatest Blunder:  The Fateful Decision to Enter World War One by Burton Yale Pines.  This book involves a time period I know absolutely nothing about.  Much of my historical reading focuses on WWII and the U.S. Civil War.  The author sent me his book and thought that given my historical preferences, I might like it.  And I did.  It went very far to help me understand the causes of WWII and it is written in a very engaging way.

Favorite historical fiction:  Pegasus Falling and It Never Was You by William E. Thomas.  These books are more than just historical fiction, they are also romance novels.  Mr. Thomas has literally reduced me to tears (in a good way) with the amount of emotion packed into his novels.  These two books aren’t serial, but they do feature some of the same characters in both books which is an interesting twist.  I can’t wait for the third book to tie it all together.

Favorite memoir:  Lucky Girl:  How I Survived the Sex Industry by Violet Ivy.  An amazing look at the sex industry written in a very engaging and intelligent manner.

Favorite dystopian (without zombies):  This category was really hard, especially since I have read so many 51K-+0aHQ4L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_good dystopian books recently.  It is definitely a tie.  Campbell (Book One) by C.S. Starr is a very engaging story.  It not only includes a dystopian future (or present), it also closely examines how people come of age.  Very intriguing and insightful.  The Rebel Within and Rebels Divided by Lance Erlick is a little more political, but extremely inventive and engaging.  All of these books are very character driven and include extremely strong female lead characters, which makes me happy as a mom to a little girl.

Favorite mashup:  Being that I’m drawn to these books, and that several of the ones mentioned above can be considered a mash up in some way, this was extremely difficult.  But I kept on thinking about The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door by Stephen Stark.  This was the book that made me take notice of this kind of writing.  Several different elements, all melded into one amazing book.

Favorite humor:  Midlife Mouse by Wayne Franklin.  This book is absolutely delightful.  Very well written, imaginative, hilarious, I loved it.  If you have ever been to Disney, have kids that are Disney obsessed, you have to read this book.

mmouse

Look for my next post about the other books I read this year.  What are some of your favs?

 

Kindle Serials– The Zombie Bible

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I haven’t been too enthusiastic about the Kindle serials.  I’m of the mindset that I want to read it all, and I want it now.

But this one is teaching me the value of delayed gratification.

I have written several posts on this blog praising the writing of Stant Litore.

He is probably one of the best writers I have come across during this journey of book blogging.

His writing, on its own, is just fantastic.  He weaves lyrical prose that is truly spellbinding.  His sentence structure, word choice, metaphors, are unlike any writer I have read before:

She felt small and caught–by him, by the Law, by her bereavement.  As though it were not his hands that held her but God’s, pitiless and demanding.  God’s hands that demanded that she live a certain way, fulfill commitments that were made before her grandmother’s grandmothers were born and always without any sure promise from God beneath her feet, only shifting sand, pulled out from under her by the vanishing tide.

Add in the elements of an ancient and mysterious religion (to me at least) and then zombies?  Wow.  It just adds to the satisfying smorgasbord that Litore’s writing presents.

At first I was wary of the serial concept.  But now I’m seeing it as an adventure.  Like watching “The Walking Dead” every week.  I have to wait.  To anticipate.  To wonder to what dark recesses of humanity Litore will take me.

Here is the synopsis of the serial and the story to date:

A first-century Israeli village lies ruined after zombies devour most of the coastal community. In their grief, the villagers threw the dead into the Sea of Galilee, not suspecting that this act would poison the fish and starve the few survivors on land.

Yeshua hears their hunger. He hears the moans of the living and the dead, like screaming in his ears. Desperate to respond, he calls up the fish.

Just one thing:

The dead are called up, too.

No Lasting Burial ushers readers into a vivid and visceral re-interpretation of the Gospel of Luke and the legend of the Harrowing of Hell. The hungry dead will rise and walk, and readers may never look at these stories the same way again.

Episode List
An additional episode will be delivered every week until the book is complete. New episodes will be added to the same book on your Kindle, keeping your place and retaining your notes and highlights. You’ll be notified via email when a new episode has been delivered.

Episode 1: November 12, 2013. 40 pages. When a stranger arrives in the starving village of Kfar Nahum, his eerie cries call fish up from the bottom of an empty lake—but he calls up the dead, too. 
Episode 2: November 19, 2013. 40 pages. As his town burns in the night, Shimon and his neighbors fight to survive an onslaught of the ravenous dead.
Episode 3: November 26, 2013. 40 pages. The dead have been beaten back, but Shimon’s crippled brother, Koach, and the other survivors may face even graver threats…from the living, as the priests and warriors of the land decide who to blame for the rising of the dead.
Episode 4: December 3, 2013. 40 pages. A young woman shelters Koach from a zombie-killer who is eager to stone him, and Shimon must decide what to do with a strange visitor whose body bears the bruises of stoning but who can call up both the living and the dead.

The only criticism I have is that I have absolutely no clue what some of the Hebrew words used in the story mean.  Litore tries to convey the meaning in following sentences, and the onboard dictionary helps somewhat.  But I am utterly clueless when it comes to words such as “nagar”, “navi” “shedim”.  It would just help to have a glossary or some other form of direct confirmatons on my suspicions of a words meaning.

Like I have said before, forget that this has “zombies” and “bible” in the title.  I was skeptical myself when I first discovered the series.  But the title itself intrigued me.  How can someone combine such polarizing topics in one book and make it readable?

But Litore suceeds.  Way beyond what I expected. Beyond what I dreamed was possible to be contained in a novel in the horror genre, or any genre for that matter.

I am no longer a skeptic.  This experience has totally sold me on the Amazon serial thing.  I now eagerly await the delivery of the next installment to my Kindle each week.

Check it out.  Even if you don’t think you’ll like a zombie book.  Even if you are an ardent atheist and avoid anything with “bible” in the title.  You will not be disappointed.

Book Review: Undying by Valerie Grosjean

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Yay!!  A zombie romance!!!  I have been on a zombie kick lately, brought on by The Walking Dead and Halloween.  So I naturally gravitated to this book.  The author kindly gifted me a kindle copy, Undying.

Here is the synopsis:

This is a story of love . . . and zombies.

When eighteen-year-old college freshman Christian discovers his dormitory is crawling with the living dead, he knows he has a problem. But once he learns the whole country is overrun by the flesh-eating horde, he must race to protect what matters to him most.

Sixteen-year-old Iris, the girl he loves, is stranded eighty miles away, alone and completely unaware of the gruesome threat surrounding her.

Christian’s plan is to evade the zombies, drive the distance to rescue Iris, and get them both to his family farm–where there are guns, fuel, and everything else they’ll need to survive. His mission seems simple: Get the girl, get to the farm, and stay alive.

Things get complicated when Christian is forced to make an unthinkable choice between Iris and his family. Someone he loves must die, and he must decide.

If you have read this blog before, you know that I love zombies.  I credit my bonus child, Christian, with getting me started when he made us watch the first season of The Walking Dead a few summers ago.  I didn’t start getting into reading zombie stories until last year with the Zombie Bible series.  I have since devoured most zombie books that I can get my hands on, including the mainstream ones.

This book was a bit different.  It was a zombie story with a romantic theme.  Plenty of the zombie stories I read feature love stories as a side plot, but this book has that plotline front and center.  And I loved it.

Christian has never revealed his feeling for Iris.  He just kind of shoved them down.  He is planning on telling her when he goes home for the weekend, but then the zombie apocalypse happens.

The love story kind of mimics my own (second) marriage.  My husband and I were the same age as Christian and Iris.  We had feelings for each other, but we didn’t want to do the long distance thing.  Then life happened, and we were unable to tell each other our true feelings until we were damn near 30.  So I identify readily with the love theme.

The zombies are typical zombies.  The vector of transmission is plausible.  People “turn” very quickly, so the apocalypse happens overnight, rather than over a few days or weeks.  This definitely lends a sense of panic to the story.

The gore is typical zombie gore, but it doesn’t go overboard in the description of the mutilations.  It isn’t stomach turning.

I love the character of Christian.  He is amazing.  He is strong, capable and sensitive.  He knows what needs to be done and makes the hard decisions.  He’s a great leader.

I don’t know enough about Iris to make the same conclusions.  But if Christian loves her, she must be special.

The action is intense. It is a page turner.  There aren’t any parts that lag or don’t make sense.  The author also knows where to stop the minute by minute recall of events and let the plot flow.  Very much appreciated.

I can also tell that the author is a bit spiritual.  That is implied with Christian’s mention of heaven, his overall demeanor.  But it isn’t the focus of the story and it isn’t rammed down the reader’s throat.  In fact, it makes Christian more appealing.

I will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.  I truly enjoyed this read and I finished it in one night.  Valerie Grosjean is an excellent story-teller of both the zombie genre and the romance genre.

I also stopped by her blog and I was fascinated to read about her writing process.  That is also good reading if you are so inclined.

And this book is 99 cents on Amazon today.  You don’t have a valid excuse NOT to get it.

More zombies (part three)

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In this massive post about my recent zombie books, I look at two “stand-alone” books. This means that they aren’t a part of a series.

The first is “U.G.L.Y” by H.A. Rhoades. I think I got this one at the Zombie Kindle ebook extravaganza in April. That day I picked up over 10 FREE zombie books.

Here is the synopsis:

When a pharmaceutical company dumps a contaminated batch of a new tranquilizer into the Los Angeles water supply, its people are poisoned.

The city is plunged into chaos.

And a desperate adventure is about to begin.

As violent rioting breaks out, millions are killed. Duncan Stevens narrowly escapes infection – and sets out to find his estranged family. But when he loses all trace of his children, he joins a group of Marines for a final, brutal assault on the city – that aims to destroy the mob within.

‘U.G.L.Y’ is a gritty, terrifying but also moving glimpse into a violent, broken world.

It will appeal to fans of ‘The Hunger Games’ and Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’.

I loved several things about this book. First, the method of infection is believable and realistic. With levels of antidepressants found in some municipal water supplies and the recent contamination of steroid injections used in spinal procedures, it is entirely possible for this to happen. I love how the author included references in the back of the book that illustrate where he got the idea.

This book has to be the most graphic zombie novel I have ever read. The descriptions of the zombie attacks literally had my heart pounding. I don’t usually squirm when reading horror, but I did with this book. I’m thinking specifically of the scene in which someone gets devoured.

And the zombies are different than the classical ones depicted in some books. These ones are fast. And they get stronger when they feed. Terrifying.

I was slightly confused with the difference between the first “wave” of infection and the second. Also, I had issue with the way it ended. It seems like the author was searching for a way to end it and took the easy route.

I do recommend this one to zombiephiles because it is a different and novel take on some of the aspects of zombie-lore.

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