Companion Zombie short stories

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I discovered this post the other day, which although was written a year ago had never been published. The snow globe is from Think Geek

February 2014:

After reading Warm Bodies, I was eager to read the prequel The New Hunger by Isaac Marion. The book is set several years before and follows Nora and Julie as they search for refuge across the devastated country with their families. We see the lengths people take to protect their families and survive and the pain and loneliness of the individuals. We also follow a man who wakes up in the woods not knowing who he is but knowing that there is a craving and he must move forward to satisfy this hunger. This hunger is people, but is it really what he wants. This book is an insight into how the girls became who they are in Warm Bodies, and how doubt conflicts with instinct within the decayed mind.

World War Z has been permanently out at the library so I still haven’t read it yet, I have however seen (and loved) the film. I noticed this small book of short stories Closure, Limited by Max Brooks. Two of the books are related to World War Z and two are stand alone zombie short stories. They are excellent and heartbreaking. They offer melancholy rather than excitement but leave you thinking, oh wow I’m glad somebody dared to write that. They deal with the emotions of loss, hope, desperation, the drive to survive, and the disappointment of regret. It made me cry.

2014: A year in books

I started using Goodreads in 2013 and found it a great way to keep track of everything i read and also its a handy way to share it here in the little widget. Last month it popped up with “Your year in books” which i found a lovely way to visualise what i had been reading and spot genre trends; generally a lot of Apocalypse and a lot of Regency Fluff. There is also the Agatha Christie audiobook spree which i went on last year. The books are ordered by my rating of them so my favourites are at the top

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Book review catchup

Ive got through around 60 books since my last review (although 20 of them were an Agatha Christie audiobook spree) so theres a lot to be catching up on, including the ones I never reviewed last winter. So coming soon is the continuation of the Jenny Colgan, Hester Browne and Amanda Grange fest, a brush with the Recency fluff of Georgette Heyer, John Dies at the End and what happened to him afterwards, discovering Cecelia Ahern, Zombies and my recent obsession with Teen Dystopia.

Although I’ve got behind on my reviews I have been tweeting a lot of what I have been reading with photos which you can see by going to my twitter feed on the right, and they are in my Good Reads feed also

Amanda Grange’s dangerous romance and dastardly plots

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More Amanda Grange novels and this time romance against the backdrop of spies and secret plots.

Lord Deverill’s Secret by Amanda Grange: Cassandra has arrived in Brighton, a year after the death of her brother, to sell the family town house. With no parents, a mortgaged estate and a young sister to support she is determined to make it through life without having to marry for money (despite her friends matchmaking attempts). She is however concerned about a puzzling letter her brother wrote before he died and goes to see Lord Deverill, a supposed friend of his. Although he assures her nothing is amiss, cogs are in motion and her arrival in Brighton does not go unnoticed, and then there are the accidents. This book combines both passionate longings, and secret plots. Is Lord Deverill her saviour or her enemy?

The Silverton Scandal by Amanda Grange: When Elanor’s stagecoach is held up by a highwayman she is furious, but when she recognises the highwayman to be Lord Silverton she is astonished. Should she expose him, or keep his secret in order to pursue her own private mission. What she doesn’t expect is her electric connection with this man to stir feelings inside her. This book is romance first with the backdrop of blackmail, secret plots and scandal.

I unfortunately have run out of Amanda Grange books in Libraries which are in walking distance, but fear not, it seems the rest are in Taunton (road trip?)

and Jenny Colgan created Rosie Hopkins

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As you will probably have noticed practically everything I read has an element of the ‘fantastical’ about it. Either aliens or zombies or invading, or victorian women are investigating mysterious curses in shadowy castles, or the question of reality is in itself queried.

However I saw Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan in the library and suddenly had the desire for some chick lit. I went through a bit of a chick lit reading phase about 10 years ago but wandered away from it towards fantasy instead, getting sick of the same same plots and not at all identifying with the characters.

The back of the book looked appealing and as soon as I started I was hooked. I think i read it over only a few days. Rosie Hopkins works all hours in a hospital in London and lives in a small flat with her long term boyfriend. When a family emergency arises, Rosie ends up going to stay with her elderly aunt Lilian who runs a sweetshop in rural Derbyshire. Not only do we follow Rosie we also follow the story of Lilian back in 1942 which added a whole extra, yet intertwined, story to the book. I don’t want to give much away but it really is very good. There are good times and heartache, bicycles, vegetable patches, grumpy old ladies, the importance of having a good coat, a mystery in the dark house on the hill, and lots and lots of sweets. Oh and recipes too!

Old fashioned sweetshops are just magical, although i am of the generation of the plastic jars rather than the beautiful glass ones, i remember going in and buying quarters of giant strawberries, cola bottles and pint pots. (beer sweets – how exciting is that to a child!). We have proper old fashioned sweet shops in town, and one of the great thing about being an adult is that you can justifiably go in and spend a fiver on all sorts and then eat them all over the weekend without having to answer to anyone.

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins Sweetshop by Jenny Colgan. As soon as I finished the first book i immediately got on the library catalogue for the sequel. It had not long been published so every copy was out and i put myself on the waiting list to reserve a copy. I was immensely lucky and got the book within a week and then read the whole thing over the weekend.

Now I can’t give too much away here because I really want you to read the first one. (p.s. don’t read the back of this one before you’ve read the first one – my mistake – as it gives some stuff away). However, this book is set a year later and follows how Rosie is getting along and what she is doing for christmas. Firstly her family announces they will be arriving from Austrailia and then practically everything you can imagine happening in a telly christmas special, happens (but in a really really well written way). Thats all I can say really except that you won’t be able to put it down.

Before this i had only read one Jenny Colgan novel; Talking to Addison which i got free with a magazine many many years ago. I really enjoyed it (its about a florist who falls for a computer geek) but somehow never read another. This was Jenny’s second novel. I think there is something very personal about reading, you either take to the heroine or you don’t. Sometimes you read and you either don’t care about or don’t understand the main character but I must Jenny Colgan’s girls so far 🙂 This spring her new book The Beach Street Bakery is being published and its on my wishlist already.

Amanda Grange’s women running away from houses

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What I really love is a good old fashioned gothic romance, where a young woman has to solve the mystery of a dark and terrifying castle by candlelight (and a bit of running through corridors away from frightening noises doesn’t go amiss either)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen summed this up brilliantly. Teenage girls in the 17th and early 18th century were gripped by orphaned heiresses trapped in renaissance Italian castles. Later on the Victorians brought the terror into gaslight London, and Daphne Du Maurier brought the mystery up to date in Rebecca. The problem is that ‘Gothic Romance’ isn’t really a genre you can easily search for, even amazon’s ‘people who bought this also bought’ section wasn’t helping me much (when in the past it has found me loads of things to add to my ‘to read’ list) as it tended to only bring up books by the same author. If you were in a bookshop (i adore the rummaging in the second hand one in my local market) you would probably find some of this genre in ‘historical romance’, but I don’t just want the romance, I want a good mystery plot too. The rest you would probably find scattered amongst general fiction (and maybe horror) but weeding them out can be hard.

A while ago I came across a website called ‘Women running away from houses’ which documents many book, often from the 60’s and 70’s where a heroine is gripped by the terror of whatever is happening in the building behind her. This seemed to be a good starting point to search for some of the authors in bookshop and library categories. Another good source I found was lists on Goodreads which pointed me in the direction of some authors.

Im not entirely sure how I came across Amanda Grange, but I am so glad I did. I think i was searching for the word castle in amazon. The first book that caught my eye was Stormcrow castle. The kindle version had a title of Castle of Secrets and the cover was just a girl in a pink dress, but on finding the hardback, there was a painting of a rather worried looking girl in had and cloak with an imposing mansion behind. This got me hooked and luckily my library seems to like Amanda Grange too.

Stormcrow Castle by Amanda Grange: When Helena goes to visit her aunt, the housekeeper to Lord Stormcrow, she is shocked and disturbed to find that her aunt has left (suddenly in the middle of the night) to care for a sick relative. Knowing that this is not true, and being mistaken for the new housekeeper Helena is determined to investigate from within. What secrets are Lord Stormcrow hiding and who’s grave does he visit in the dead on night, what are the noises in the attic and can she stay calm in front of suspicious servants while getting to the bottom of the mystery. This book was so good and I never guessed ”who dunnit’

Carisbrooke Abbey by Amanda Grange: Miss Hilary Wentworth takes an appointment at Carisbrook Abbey, despite the urges of the locals for her to turn back. The gruff Lord Carisbrook does not welcome the presence of women in his house and although he frightens her he also enthrals her. But there is real danger in the castle and a secret which must be kept hidden yet threatens to break free causing destruction and maybe death.

After this I have been raiding the library’s supply of Amanda Grange. I went for the ‘mystery in the castle’ stories first and am curious to see what else is in store. What I didn’t realise is that I already own an Amanda Grange novel, Mr Darcy Vampyre, but I haven’t got on to reading it since I got it  for last Christmas.

Austen for Everyone

The works of Jane Austen are as popular as ever and over the years adaptations have graced our screens. Some, the more traditional adaptations of the BBC and ITV, and other more modern adaptations, my favourite of course being Clueless. These days Austen is everywhere from movies about girls obsessed with Mr Darcy to Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (p.s. this is a great book).

I was wasting some time while waiting for a bus and discovered that there is indeed an Austen book for everyone

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Cozy

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Marvel Action

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And even with a Pulp Fiction cover. The blurb on the back says: “Mrs Bennett is on a mission to marry off her five daughters to rich men. Enter Mr Charles Bingley and his rather fit friend, Darcy. LOVE, LOATHING & BITTERSWEET ROMANCE follow…”

Recently Reading: Coraline

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It was a sunny day and I wanted to sit in the park and read something at lunch so I nipped into the library and had a peek at the graphic novels section where I found Coraline. I saw the film a few years ago and really enjoyed it.

Coraline is bored. Its the summer holidays, she has moved to a new flat in a big old house and her parents are too busy to play with her. While exploring she finds a door that goes nowhere (it was bricked up when the house was split into flats), but one night she finds it open and goes through to a similar world to her own where her parents want nothing more than to play with here, but they have buttons for eyes and things are not quite right. With the help of a talking cat Coraline must work out what she wants.

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The graphical adventures of Hercule Poirot

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I was browsing around in the library recently, and was excited to find that the graphic novel selection has somewhat exploded. There were 2 whole shelves, not counting the ones on the stand and those in the children’s section. I do love a good comic. Its a totally different medium of reading a book and some of the artistry is great, and can be so varied in styles.

Not only did I find the usual superhero type comics but also several of the more grown up stories, several classics adaptations (Great Expectations, Emma), Shakespeare (there were even 3 different adaptations of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, some anime style). My little sister has recently got interested in Shakespeare and I though this is a wonderful way to read the plays.

What made me really excited was the three Agatha Christie books there, all 3 which I took out. To tell the truth i’ve never actually read one of her books but seen all the Miss Marple  screen adaptations and many of the Poirots. I found the graphic novels quite an enjoyable way to revisit some of the stories with a cup of tea and breakfast at the weekend. They don’t take long to read and are a nice satisfying way to get from whodunnit to Poirot reveals all. Two of the novels (Dead Man’s Folly and Peril and End House) I know who did i, but was still enjoyable to go through the story in a new way. Dumb Witness was a new one and I didnt guess the murderer.

There are many more in this series and if i ever see more in the library I will be sure to snap them up. You can find out more about them in the ‘recently read’ Good Reads in the sidebar

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Eager for E Books

Personally i’m not a fan of e books for my personal reading however in principal I think that they are a wonderful thing. They grant people the ability to have instant access to thousands of books and to carry them on one tiny device. I myself have about 22 free e books on my phone but don’t find it easy on the eye (i have friends with kindles however who think they are wonderful with their special screen which i think looks like that thin bible or prayer book paper you got in church). Another reason I think they are great is it means it is much easier for an author to get their work out there without having to go though the big publishing experience (or self publishing) and production is always linked to demand so you don’t have to over or underestimate your audience.

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I dont really want to buy e books but recently there are two out there which are really calling to me. One of them is The New Hunger by Isaac Marion, a prequel to Warm Bodies which I have just finished reading and I am hungry to read more of the world he has created.

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The second is Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt, a prequel to the new game giving the reader a further insight into the world of Columbia. I haven’t bought the game yet (as i have to wait till after my wedding when I may actually have some time – can you believe I havent played on the Xbox since January!) but I am very excited to play it. I loved the first Bioshock game as the plot and the graphics are fantastic but I didnt get too far in as it was too scary, so instead i read the wikipedia entries on it but to my absolute joy i discovered a few weeks ago that there is a Bioshock: Rapture Novel which I am so looking forward to reading soon  (somewhere in the line of thirty odd books on my to read shelf) as I bought the paper book as soon as I saw it.

I havent decided whether to buy these e books or not yet but I will just see what happens. It is unlikely Mind In Revolt will ever become a paper book but Amazon is promising a paper version of The New Hunger in October… can I wait that long.

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