Book Review: Zombie Abbey by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Zombie Abbey
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Entangled Teen, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-63375-911-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

1920, England

And the three teenage Clarke sisters thought what they’d wear to dinner was their biggest problem…

Lady Kate, the entitled eldest.

Lady Grace, lost in the middle and wishing she were braver.

Lady Lizzy, so endlessly sunny, it’s easy to underestimate her.

Then there’s Will Harvey, the proud, to-die-for—and possibly die with!—stable boy; Daniel Murray, the resourceful second footman with a secret; Raymond Allen, the unfortunate-looking young duke; and Fanny Rogers, the unsinkable kitchen maid.

Upstairs! Downstairs! Toss in some farmers and villagers!

None of them ever expected to work together for any reason.

But none of them had ever seen anything like this.

There are zombies and then there are zombies, you know? To put it in TV perspective, you can watch The Walking Dead if you like the serious sort,  Z Nation for pure camp or iZombie if you’re looking for smile-worthy unadulterated fun. Or, hey, go for all three!

Zombie Abbey falls squarely into the fun category although it takes a while to get there. I thought the first half or so was more like an oldfashioned comedy of manners but with a plethora of characters I had to get to know as well as possible. As an historical novel set at an English manor on the cusp of the Roaring Twenties, it reminded me a lot of the Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs stories which are very appealing to me. In fact, I almost expected an Agatha Christie kind of mystery to evolve.

The introduction of the zombie factor had its amusing moments, especially in the stereotypical ability of the British high society to live in denial, unable to fully comprehend the possibility of such a thing upsetting the routine. Each of the many primary characters has a part to play and I most appreciated the three sisters (although Lady Kate is not exactly likeable) and Fanny, the maid with attitude.

Zombie Abbey won’t be for all readers but I enjoyed it, largely because I’m a zombie fan 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Indiebound // Entangled Publishing

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An Excerpt from Zombie Abbey

Dr. Webb was lurching toward the church out of the mist, something terribly off about his halting gait. More specifically, he was lurching toward Mr. Young.

“Are you all right, Dr. Webb?” Mr. Young called, the former joy in his voice replaced now with concern for the other man.

“Merry!” Lady Grace called out a warning. “Don’t go any farther!”

“But can’t you all see?” Mr. Young said, still walking forward. “Poor Dr. Webb is sick.”

Yes, Dr. Webb was sick. His clothing and general appearance were all disheveled. And he smelled bad, too, the duke realized, as a rotting stench made its way to his nostrils, which flared in response. Why, the smell was similar to that which had enveloped the dead valet, his dead valet, yesterday. Perhaps Dr. Webb had acquired the wretched smell while tending to some poor person in the village?

Dr. Webb still lurched, his arms spreading out now as Mr. Young approached.

“Merry, please!” Lady Grace cried. Then she moved to step forward herself, no doubt to try to stop Mr. Young, but Benedict Clarke held her back, catching her with one arm around the waist.

And now Mr. Young was opening his arms wide, too, as though to warmly greet the returning doctor, but when their bodies met and the doctor embraced him, he immediately began to chew on the closest part of Mr. Young’s body that was available to him, which, in this case, happened to be his upper arm.

The duke watched, frozen in horror as no doubt the others were, too, as the doctor chewed through Mr. Young’s jacket and shirt, straight down to the flesh beneath. It might have been almost comical, were it not so downright horrifying.

Among the things you never expect to see in life: one human being attempting to feed on another like an animal.

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About the Author

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of over 30 books for adults (Vertigo), teens (The Twin’s Daughter) and children (The Sisters 8 series which she created with her husband and daughter). She’d love to dress up in period costume from the 1920s but she’d be a lot less excited about meeting zombies. Lauren lives in Danbury, CT, with her husband and daughter and cat, all of whom are writers (well, maybe not the cat).

Author Links:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Giveaway
Signed copy

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Book Reviews: Ink by Alice Broadway and Back Roads by William Bitner, Daniel Boyd and Jason Pell

Ink
The Skin Books #1
Alice Broadway
Scholastic Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-19699-3
Hardcover

In Saintstone, the destiny of the soul is determined not by a deity, but by the government. From birth until demise, the body is marked to illustrate the life being lived. At death, the skin is flayed, then bound into a book. If the soul is worthy, the book goes home with the family. If not, it is obliterated by fire and the person is forgotten forever–as if everyone’s collective memories merge with the smoke, dissipate, then disappear.

Leora easily understands this definitive divide and especially embraces it when she loses a loved one. An absence so overwhelming can bring even the staunchest believers to rock bottom. Surfacing secrets shove the bottom away, resulting in a figurative free-fall of uncertainty and doubt.

Hearing something often, particularly from people most admired, certainly makes that thing seem true. Perhaps Leora has been purely parroting the comfort and confidence contrived by her firm trust in her faith. As Obel’s new intern, she is shaken when she attempts to answer his apparently innocuous questions, but finds herself floundering.

His queries feel bold, almost blasphemous. Leora has never had reason to doubt the separation of the despicable blank people from the marked, but when called to support her stance with facts and logic, she is speechless, then stunned. Seeing every single thing in a new light can be disconcerting. No longer knowing who to trust or what to believe, terrifying.

Looking at life through Leora’s eyes is humbling. As she adamantly, albeit ignorantly, explains why the evil White Witch, the first blank, does not deserve to be remembered; it begins to be easier to see what actually is, as opposed to what Leora has always been told. Accepting that real knowledge is indeed power, Leora learns, then she plans. The young girl’s tremendous growth, against all odds is enlightening and empowering.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2018.

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Back Roads
William Bitner, Daniel Boyd & Jason Pell
CreateSpace, March 2017
ISBN 978-1544194806
Trade Paperback

Definitely distinct, yet stitched with a common dark thread, these short stories flow with an inexplicably familiar feel while featuring fresh frights.  Each author seems to settle back and spin yarns with a natural knack for story-telling that evokes an avalanche of emotions. A strong, soft, somber voice speaks.  Instinctively, I am in.  I felt the crisp cold of the mountain air instantly freeze the inside of my nose, heard the ripples and rush of the rivers and felt my heart in my throat and my body tense as turning the page felt like taking a hairpin curve at high speed on a steep mountain road.

Creatures creep from the dark, formative…to spark a spooky image, while monsters mangle with brilliantly bold detail that may make you squeeze your eyes shut.   Substance makes these shorts stand out, as if the writer has wrung a bit of his soul into the words to sneakily seep into the reader.  In some instances, real-life-right-now social, environmental and health issues blur the line between sci-fi and reality, bringing a chilling sense of foreboding along with the ugly, unfiltered view of cruelty and corruption.

I love that these stories show scenic, wild, West Virginia and portray the people honestly; quietly quashing inaccurate stereotypes; humbly highlighting the genuine good.  To me, this book is a treasure chest filled with rare, remarkable jewels that will bring me pleasure every single time I open it.  I enthusiastically recommend it to voracious readers, as well as reluctant ones.  In merely minutes, engage in a tumultuous, terrifying escape….and I mean that in the best way possible.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2017.

Book Review: An Unconventional Mr. Peadlebody by D.L. Gardner

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Book Review: Revolutions by Carissa Andrews

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Title: Revolutions
Series: Pendomus Chronicles Book 3
Author: Carissa Andrews
Publication date: November 21, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

         

    

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Revolutions
Pendomus Chronicles Book Three
Carissa Andrews
Carissa Andrews, November 2017
ISBN 978-0991055845
Trade Paperback

From the author—

As the timelines of Pendomus fray, one girl born with power has the ability to set things right….

Forcing her way into Videus’ vassalage may be the last thing Runa will ever do, but she knows she has to try. Not only are there others like her—others with powers—but they’re directly tied to her by blood. With Trae’s mental stability in question, and Kani missing, Runa can only rely on herself and the aid of her brother to fulfill her destiny. If she can embrace her role as the Daughter of Five, hopefully she can set things right and free Trae from whatever madness is taking over his mind.

There’s more than meets the eye to Videus’ obsession with Runa and her bloodlines. The only problem is, unraveling the mystery could unleash catastrophe on everything she holds dear, if she’s not careful. Can Runa stop Videus once and for all—or will the fate of Pendomus be locked forever by one man’s madness?

Step into Pendomus – a world that meshes mystery, magical creatures, and destiny with science fiction and technology.

You’re one click away from having all the answers to the Pendomus Chronicles secrets.

Sometimes, a series (or, as in this case, a trilogy) leaves me thinking that there’s been a lot of filler and there could have been fewer books. I don’t feel that way about the Pendomus Chronicles; instead, I think each succeeding book has built on the preceding as it should until the third and final episode is clearly where the author was heading all along.

Revolutions is full of adventure and excitement, just the way a book with such a title should be. We’ve had a really good journey through the first two books, getting to know the characters and the very uncomfortable world they live in, and now we learn who Runa was meant to be all along and how important she and her band of young companions are to each other and to the future of their world.

In the meantime, Trae has to deal with his personal demons and that in itself is a distraction for Runa. In a shattering yet very satisfying ending filled with the past, the present and the future, it finally all comes together in a breakneck race through the timeline, leading us to, well, I won’t give anything away but, suffice it to say, I’m a happy reader 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

About the Author

“An author emerges from the depths of Minnesotan waters. Sci-fi/Fantasy is my pen of choice.”

Carissa Andrews is a Minnesota-based genre bending author who writes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. When not writing her own books, she’s busy reading them.

Her first novel, Pendomus, was the first of a three-part series and was published in 2013. Now, four years later, Polarities (Book 2) of the Pendomus Chronicles, and Revolutions (Book 3) have recently been released.

For more information on their release, visit Carissa Andrews’ author website: www.carissaandrews.com and sign up for her newsletter notifications.

Carissa is also a freelance graphic designer, writer and content creator, social media manager, and marketing professional. She writes consistently on topics of science, technology, art, writing, photography, graphic design, health, self improvement, and more. Her articles can be found published across the interwebs. Carissa is also a Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and can be contacted for freelancing opportunities: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011fb5962824326eaa/

Other author links:

Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest
Google // YouTube // BookBub // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

11/22 – Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile – Review
11/23 – Escaping Reality with Books – Review
11/25 – Carissa’s Website – Exclusive Look at Revolutions
11/27 – Buried Under Books – Review

Book Review: Spell Book & Scandal by Jen McConnel

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Book Reviews: Booke of the Hidden by Jeri Westerson, Gone Gull by Donna Andrews and The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

Booke of the Hidden
Booke of the Hidden #1
Jeri Westerson
Diversion Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-63576-050-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

To get a fresh start away from a bad relationship, Kylie Strange moves across the country to open a shop in a seemingly quiet town in rural Maine. During renovations on Strange Herbs & Teas, she discovers a peculiar and ancient codex, The Booke of the Hidden, bricked into the wall. Every small town has its legends and unusual histories, and this artifact sends Kylie right into the center of Moody Bog’s biggest secret.

While puzzling over the tome’s oddly blank pages, Kylie gets an unexpected visitor―Erasmus Dark, an inscrutable stranger who claims to be a demon, knows she has the book, and warns her that she has opened a portal to the netherworld. Kylie brushes off this nonsense, until a series of bizarre murders put her, the newcomer, at the center. With the help of the demon and a coven of witches she befriends while dodging the handsome but sharp-eyed sheriff, Kylie hunts for a killer―that might not be human.

Generally speaking, I don’t gravitate towards witchy books but this one had a couple of things going for it before I even started—the description sounds awesome and I already knew I’d enjoy this because it’s written by Jeri Westerson. If you ask me, Ms. Westerson is one of those authors who is way under-recognized and I’ve been happy with everything by her I’ve ever read.

When Kylie finds that book, she does what anybody would do, she opens it. What follows—a coven of witches, a possible demon, murder and a bit of romance—turn this find into something quite out of the ordinary but Kylie keeps her cool, for the most part, and her interactions with Erasmus are often laugh out loud funny. Even the name of the town, Moody Bog, draws out a smile and, while the pacing is a little on the slow side, I chalk that up mostly to setting things up for the books to come. I came to feel really attached to the kind of creepy but appealing Moody Bog and its inhabitants and to the story that leads Kylie and her new “friends” down a most unlikely path on the way to solving the murder.

So, did Booke of the Hidden live up to its description? Yes, it certainly did and its essential differences from Ms. Westerson‘s other work make this a really fun departure from her  straightforward historical mysteries. Despite my slight aversion to witch-related stories, I’ll definitely be back for the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

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Gone Gull
A Meg Langslow Mystery #21
Donna Andrews
Minotaur Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-07856-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Meg is spending the summer at the Biscuit Mountain Craft Center, helping her grandmother Cordelia run the studios. But someone is committing acts of vandalism, threatening to ruin the newly-opened center’s reputation. Is it the work of a rival center? Have the developers who want to build a resort atop Biscuit Mountain found a new tactic to pressure Cordelia into selling? Or is the real target Meg’s grandfather, who points out that any number of environmentally irresponsible people and organizations could have it in for him?

While Meg is trying to track down the vandal, her grandfather is more interested in locating a rare gull. Their missions collide when a body is found in one of the classrooms. Can Meg identify the vandal and the murderer in time to save the center’s name―while helping her grandfather track down and rescue his beloved gulls?

You would think that this series would have begun to show signs of becoming stale and tired by now but that hasn’t happened. Donna Andrews has the magic touch and always seems to come up with fresh ideas and new things to laugh about but the early books still stick with me, especially particular characters beyond Meg.

This time, we have to get along without some of the old regulars (although two of my favorites, Spike the Small Evil One and Meg’s dad, are here) because Meg has gone out of town but her grandparents do a lot to make up for the missing. Meg’s blacksmithing has taken something of a back seat over the course of the series but it’s central to the story in Gone Gull as she’s agreed to teach classes for a few weeks at her grandmother’s new craft studio. Unfortunately, someone seems to have it in for the center, perpetrating small acts of sabotage, and no one is sure who’s doing it. Then Meg discovers a body and the real sleuthing begins.

I have to say the mystery to be solved isn’t as much in the forefront as the wild and quirky activities of the characters but it’s still a good one with some twists and turns to keep the reader occupied while chuckling at what’s going on. Oh, and the gull referred to in the title? That bird and Meg’s grandfather are the source of more than a few laugh out loud moments and, for me, was the icing on the cake. Having said that, I’ll be glad if we have Meg back in her usual surroundings next time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

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The End We Start From
Megan Hunter
Grove Atlantic, November 2017
ISBN 978-0-8021-2689-4
Hardcover

From the publisher—

As London is submerged below floodwaters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. They head north through a newly dangerous country seeking refuge from place to place. The story traces fear and wonder as the baby grows, thriving and content against all the odds.

It doesn’t happen often but, every once in a while, I encounter a book that just leaves me cold and this is one of them. On the surface, I should have loved it because it’s apocalyptic (one of my preferred subgenres) and follows the physical as well as mental/emotional journey of a young family trying to cope with a world gone sour. To my dismay, I couldn’t connect with this in any way.

Characters, worldbuilding and plot are the three main components of any work of fiction and there is an interesting plot here in that the protagonist and her husband and baby are forced to find a way to escape the floodwaters and the devastation that has crushed London and the English countryside. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no worldbuilding; we know the water has risen to submerge much of England but that’s all we know. What caused this? A meteor strike, global warming, some dastardly act of a mad scientist, an alien attack of some sort? It’s hard to really feel what the survivors have to deal with when we know so little.

Worst of all, the characters are close to being cardboard cutouts when no one even has a name, just an initial. To me, this is a writing style that is almost pretentious and, coupled with the first person present tense that I so dislike, well, I just didn’t care very much. I find this happens fairly frequently when I read what’s called “literary fiction”.

The one thing that helps to lift this above the abyss is the author’s attention to the bonds between mother and child and she does that extremely well. I think perhaps that was intended to be the core theme and the apocalyptic elements just got in the way. Certainly, a lot of readers and inhabitants of the publishing world have a much more favorable reaction and, although I didn’t care much for this story, I think Megan Hunter is an author to watch..

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

Book Review: Polarities by Carissa Andrews

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Title: Polarities
Series: Pendomus Chronicles Book 2
Author: Carissa Andrews
Publication date: October 2, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

         
    

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Polarities
Pendomus Chronicles Book Two
Carissa Andrews
Carissa Andrews, October 2017
ISBN 978-0991055821
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Runa, the prophesied Daughter of Five needs to learn how to master herself, or all of Pendomus will perish. In a world where mythical creatures are either controlled, or on the brink of extinction—a prophecy reveals there’s one who can restore balance. The only problem is, she has no idea how to do it.

Separated from the only people who’ve had her back—as well as the love of her life, Traeton—Runa must go on a quest alone to uncover what it means to be human, as well as the Daughter of Five. Dropped in an unknown location, presumably still on the planet, she only has a monolithic book—the Caudex—as her guide, but it’s not giving up its answers easily. Will she be able to uncover the mysteries? The fate of the entire word rests on her shoulders and her ability to push through all of the challenges set her way.

Will she learn what she needs to step into her role as savior? Or will everything be derailed by her desire to get back to her friends?

When I read Pendomus, the first book in this series, I was taken with the characters as well as the plot and I looked forward to seeing the next book. Little did I think it would be four long years before that next book would come out but, in some ways, I think the delay has paid off. In particular, the author has really developed her craftsmanship and the story is stronger for that.

This time around, we’re treated to a more cohesive worldbuilding and, for me, the attachment to the characters was more intense. I also found the relationship between Runa and Traeton made more sense because it wasn’t so brand new even though there really hasn’t been any passage of time. Runa is still enjoying her experiences with the pleasures of life that are denied to the citizens but she’s isolated from her comfort zone, set on a quest of sorts that only she can complete. This might have been easier before she learned to love and be loved, back when Helix “protected” everyone from the vagaries of natural life.

In the course of Polarities, Runa truly comes into her own and becomes the strong young woman she always had the potential to be with the help of some fantastical creatures and a wondrous book. Meanwhile, Traeton and their friends have been left behind, not knowing whether Runa is alive or dead and trying to find their own way forward. Everyone’s journey will lead to answers…and even more questions.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.

About the Author

“An author emerges from the depths of Minnesotan waters. Sci-fi/Fantasy is my pen of choice.”

Carissa Andrews is a Minnesota-based genre bending author who writes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. When not writing her own books, she’s busy reading them.

Her first novel, Pendomus, was the first of a three-part series and was published in 2013. Now, four years later, Polarities (Book 2) of the Pendomus Chronicles, and Revolutions (Book 3) will be released at the end of 2017.

For more information on their release, visit Carissa Andrews’ author website: www.carissaandrews.com and sign up for her newsletter notifications.

Carissa is also a freelance graphic designer, writer and content creator, social media manager, and marketing professional. She writes consistently on topics of science, technology, art, writing, photography, graphic design, health, self improvement, and more. Her articles can be found published across the interwebs. Carissa is also a Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and can be contacted for freelancing opportunities: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011fb5962824326eaa/

Other author links:

Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest
Google // YouTube // BookBub // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

         10/10 – Book Lover’s Life (Article – My Journey So Far)

         10/11 – Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile – Review

         10/12 – Cabin Goddess – Review

         10/12 – Escaping Reality with Books – Review

         10/13 – Buried Under Books – Review

         10/14 – Contagious Reads – Review

         10/15 – Carissa’s Blog (Article)

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