After a devastating breakup, loser Marty Melon doggedly reassembles his shattered self. Confidence-boosting Ted Talks, muscle-crushing kettlebell swings, and key episodes of "The Golden Girls" transform him from zero to b-list hero. This suicidal reject, turned pickup artist, turned sensitive new age guy, finally has it all: a house, the quirky woman of his dreams, and abs.
F#%k you, world, he thinks with alpha confidence.
“Challenge accepted,” the world replies, and everything goes to zombie crap.
Will Marty make it? He’s no longer an average frustrated chump. He’s in the best mental and physical shape of his life. "Ninja" bro-crush and gay-best-friend Gary is at his side. But to triumph in the end-of-days, Marty must defeat his most dangerous foe of all—the woman who broke him in the first place.
Steven Bereznai is an author, Travel Writer, Wellness practitioner, recreational water polo player and a big fan of science fiction. I've previously read (and loved) his "I Want Superpowers" - a dark dystopian YA tale that blended all the best elements of the X-Men with The Hunger Games into a compellingly plotted story with a fantastically strong lead character.
As a result, I was particularly excited when my copy of "How A Loser Like Me Survived The Zombie Apocalypse" - I read the opening chapters a few months ago, and was rather delighted to see that my comments had made it to the back cover of the book!
It's the mark of a good author that they're able to write in a variety of genres - many successful authors have stumbled trying to enter new markets or take on challenges too big for them. However, Steven Bereznai does so with aplomb - moving from the dark, intense world of "I Want Superpowers" to the slightly lighter world of "How A Loser Like Me Survived The Zombie Apocalypse". Zombie novels are ten a penny these days, but Bereznai makes sure his is at the top of the pile by ensuring that his tale is told with prose that’s immensely readable, leading to a page turning plot filled with compelling characters. Those characters are where Bereznai really gets to shine – following an everyman throughout a Zombie Apocalypse, Bereznai avoids falling into cliché, and instead creates a real heart for his story – you’ll laugh and cry with these characters, and that’s quite an achievement. There’s also a wonderful thread of dark humour running through the book too - it’s knowing and witty –even when things seem bleak for the characters and allows for the reader to be enjoying themselves in spite of the circumstances, carried through on a wave of warmth and goodwill for characters like Marty, Heidi and Gary. They're built up well throughout the book - and whilst there's bleak humour to be found everywhere, Bereznai also explores exactly how people would react in a situation like the Zombie Apocalypse, with remarkable depth - there's a real empathy and humanity at the core of this book. Bereznai is also skilled at throwing in many a pop culture reference, and they’re well targeted – landing accurately and cleverly on target – no misfires here. If you’re a fan of the Zombie genre – then “How A Loser Like Me Survived the Zombie Apocalypse” should go straight to the top of your pile. If you’re not, but enjoy compelling and exciting tales told with intelligent prose and no end of interesting characters – then you should give it a go too. Anyone with a brain, half a brain, or a penchant for eating brains will have a bloody good time with this book - I certainly did, and I'm not undead (yet).
It’s 1592. Europe is in chaos. Religious factions have torn the region apart and witch-hunts have become a part of everyday life.
In the Company of Wolves follows three groups of travelers – a fearless female pirate roaming the North Sea, a priest and his wife escaping to England to avoid persecution, and a young thief from the slums of Germany looking for a better life. Each has a different reason for venturing out in such tumultuous times – fear, greed, family secrets.
Is the Werewolf of Bedburg still alive, roaming the countryside and killing innocent citizens? Many believe he’s still out there—that religious and political leaders have forsaken the truth in their cunning quest for power.
As each traveler searches for individual answers, these three seemingly separate stories converge in a place which may hold the key for them all. Based on true events involving one of the deadliest witch trials in European history, this tale of adventure, mystery, and the search for truth reminds us that, ultimately, no one is safe . . . in the company of wolves.
"In the Company of Wolves" is the sequel to "Devil in the Countryside" - a book I reviewed earlier in 2017 (review here). An intriguingly dark true story given the historical fiction treatment, it was a compelling read that blended excellent characterisation with a dark, genre-crossing plot. Cory has returned to that world and those characters in "In the Company of Wolves" - and it's a read that's just as compelling as the first.
In fact, it appears to me that Barclay has really hit his stride in "In the Company of Wolves". The interactions between characters seem more natural, and the pacing is fantastic, with the switching of viewpoints allowing for a huge amount of brilliant cliffhangers to crop up through out the course of the book. The distinct viewpoints are interesting enough that, whilst I was left eager to know what had happened to a character, I wasn't too annoyed when I was torn away from one journey and showed another - especially as, for a lot of the book, the individual chapters are rather short - allowing for a swift and interesting read that keeps the reader moving through this dark and dangerous world at considerable speed. It's a nice touch, and reminded me somewhat of the Victorian Penny Dreadfuls - dark stories told in quick, easily readable snippets.
A real draw of these books is that Barclay shines a light on historical events that have been all but forgotten - and shining a light on the "Trier Witch Trials" makes for immensely fascinating reading. The characters drawn from history are brought to life with considerable skill, joining the already impressive fictional creations of the author in order to guide the reader through dark, dramatic but ultimately incredibly well researched historical events
Things feel a little unfinished towards the end - but I'm sure they'll be resolved well in Book Three, which I'm already looking forward too! Thanks to Cory for the copy - and make sure to pick up "Devil in the Countryside" first in order to make sure you know what's going on!
It’s 1588, the height of the Reformation, and a killer is terrorising the German countryside. There are reports that the legendary Werewolf of Bedburg has returned to a once-peaceful land. Heinrich Franz, a cold and calculating investigator, is tasked with finding whomever — or whatever — the killer might be. He’ll need all the help he can get, including that of a strange hunter who’s recently stumbled into town. Though they’re after the same thing, their reasons are worlds apart. And through it all, a priest tries to keep the peace among his frightened townsfolk, while a young woman threatens his most basic beliefs. In a time when life is cheap and secrets run rampant, these four divergent souls find themselves entwined in a treacherous mystery, navigating the volatile political and religious landscape of 16th century Germany, fighting to keep their sanity — and their lives.
Cory Barclay is an author, songwriter and guitarist from San Diego California. “Devil in the Countryside” is his second novel.
Now, I love a bit of historical fiction. I’m a big history fan, and when done well, historical fiction can shine a light on events of the past, whilst creating new and exciting situations for the reader – something Cory Barclay has most certainly done on this occasion. “Devil in the Countryside” is a dark read -full of death and gore, but Barclays expertly balances this out – the overwhelming darkness of the world that surrounds these characters is brightened out, at least initially, by the motivations and personalities of the characters who fill this book. All are compelling – none are straight forward and all have very individual personalities, meaning that the distinct viewpoints that Barclay employs throughout the book are easy to follow. These characters are layered and well developed – all regularly make decisions that are not always easy to empathise with, but Barclay sells their motivations and drive to the reader well. It’s particularly fascinating to see how the characters develop alongside the plot – seeing the effect that the investigation at the core of the plot has on the characters is particularly compelling, and drives the reader towards the compelling conclusion.
In terms of historical fiction, Barclay manages to keep this a relatively light read – he doesn’t go overboard on exposition, but one still comes out of this read feeling relatively enlightened on the subject of the Germany of the late 1500’s. Little facts and details are dropped in throughout, and whilst there are a few pages that are fairly heavy on sharing facts with the reader, one is invested enough to not care – and in fact they add a good level of depth to an already compelling story.
A skin prickling, puzzling, page turner – “Devil in the Countryside” is a fun read and Barclay is an author with a strong command of language and a talent for fantastic structuring a cracking story – bring on the sequel!
Beginning with Moby Dick: The Rise of the Undead (Part One), Tex Daw chronicles the passage of two men on board the Pequod, a whaling vessel poised on the edge of a world that is about to change forever. Haunted by the riddle of the vampire’s dance, each of the men is transformed, and the world is made anew…
Tex Daw is a digital collage artist, a tai chi practitioner, and an avid BMX rider. He is currently living in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and is a keen instagrammer – follow him @texdaw.
In the last ten years or so there have been a wave of reimaginings of classic tales with supernatural elements – the unexpected popularity of”Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” beginning a flood of titles that included my personal favourite (in terms of titles, I’ve yet to read it – )”Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”. Some of the books were okay, some were no more than cheap cash-ins that failed to stay true to the original, so the trend seemed to die down a little – a fact cemented by the recent box office bomb that was the film adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. So, when I received a copy of “Moby Dick – The Rise of the Undead”, I can’t deny that I was a little concerned about what kind of read it would be…
Thankfully, it’s really very good indeed.
Moby Dick, in it’s original form by Herman Melville, is already a very strange, gripping read, filled with giant sea creatures, strange prophecies, lost coffins and rampant homoeroticism. Tex Daw has taken all of the elements that make Moby Dick a great read and amped them up somewhat – but he’s done so with great respect for the original text. As a result, this is very fun read – a dark and moody adventure peppered with the supernatural, the subterranean, and gallons of seamen (pun very much intended!). It’s no light read either – the prose is at times elaborate and clever, with some very amusing phrases and snippets of dialogue really brightening the book up.
If you like men, whales, the sea, or simply fun takes on old classics, “Moby Dick – The Rise of the Undead” is a fun and thrilling read – bring on part two!
Seb Logan is being watched. He just doesn’t know who by. When a dark figure appears and shatters Seb’s idyllic life, he soon realizes that the murky past he thought he’d left behind has far from forgotten him. What’s more unsettling is the strange atmosphere that engulfs him at every sighting, plunging his mind into a terrifying paranoia. To be a victim without knowing the tormentor. To be despised without knowing the offence caused. To be seen by what nobody else can see. These are the thoughts that plague his every waking moment. And once his investigation leads him to stray across the line and into mortal danger, he risks becoming another fatality in a long line of victims.
Adam Nevill is a British author, known for his gripping, intense, and downright scary reads. Under A Watchful Eye is his latest, and it’s a chilling book that takes the reader to extremely frightening and visceral places, repeated journeys into the supernatural that leave one on edge. This is no mere potboiler though – Nevill combines the scares and shocks with a strong plot and incredibly well drawn characters – Seb as a lead character is complex, flawed and hugely believable, which is important given the often bizarre journey that the reader accompanies him upon.
I’m not a huge reader of horror, it has to be said. A childhood spent devouring ghost stories bought in charity shops, then the endless nights unable to sleep for fear of ghosts visiting me (one particularly difficult period had me convinced that the spectre of Abraham Lincoln was under my bed…) has left me rather keen to avoid anything too scary – but I was sold on this by the excellent reviews of Nevill’s previous work, and the fact that I have a ginormous cat who provides some comfort when scared, even if I imagine he’d be absolutely hopeless in the case of an actual emergency…
It should be said that this isn’t a book that immediately grabs you – instead Nevill allows the reader to get to know Seb well first, before planting seeds of doubt in both Seb and the reader as to the truth behind the strange encounters and events that Seb seems to be having. It’s a clever move – helping the reader form a strong bond with the character, especially given that he’s not one who is always that likeable. When the descent into full blown horror eventually happens, it’s made even dizzier due to the careful planning and build up that Nevill has given it, and it’s all the more horrifying as a result, leaving me with a feeling in the pit of my stomach like I’d plunged down a steep drop on a rickety rollercoaster. The Devon coast makes for an intriguing setting too – the sunny familiarity of the setting descends into dark shadows with a power that will make even the bravest of readers check over their shoulders every now and then…
Nevill is a superb writer, and has carefully crafted a journey for his readers into dark, dark depths. Written with huge skill, the events of the plot may well make the reader not notice some of the rather beautifully crafted prose that Nevill has drawn his story together with, and it’s well worth going over the book again for the haunting phrases and carefully worded descriptions that keep this book in the reader’s mind far longer than may have happened otherwise. It’s also particularly impressive that he’s taken a trope as old as the Troubled author leads isolated life one and breathed new and original life into it, making this a read unlike any I’ve ever had before.
Part modern psychological thriller and part tribute to the more traditional horror story of those like M.R. James, Under A Watchful eye is a gripping read and an intriguing world that author Adam Nevill has populated with memorable characters and an original plot. Curl up in front of the fire with this tale of fear, despair and confusion – but make sure to leave a light on when you go to bed… Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
This review was written for and originally posted on The Bookbag – http://www.thebookbag.co.uk
1988, Charleston, South Carolina. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries – and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship enough to beat the devil?
Supernatural dramas often tend to centre around teenagers – something about the maelstrom of rage, angst and hormones that is adolescence, along with bodies sprouting hair and changing beyond all recognition, mean that tales of the supernatural and strange seem, well, almost normal compared to all the other bizarre things that are going on. Add to that the fact that many teenagers feel like complete outsiders – and demonic posessions, lycanthropic transformations and vampiric urges hardly feel that surprising.
It’s a theme that Grady Hendrix exploits to maximum effect in My Best Friend’s Exorcism – an incredibly charming ride through suburban America and the lives of high school girls. Anyone who lived through the 80’s, or, like me, missed the majority of it but revels in such films as The Breakfast Club and Heathers, or has a bizarrely indepth knowledge of Madonna’s 80’s output, will feel absolutely at home in the world that Hendrix has recreated.
Outwardly, this is a horror story – and the author doesn’t spare the reader any gory details, with the last few chapters really taking a rather dark turn, some moments of which are rather hard to read. However, the real heart of the book is in the friendship between Gretchen and Abby – it’s believable, touching, and, even with the risk of demonic possession, incredibly true to life. The humour between them and their friends is also wonderfully well drawn, and provides the book with a large amount of warmth it would lack if the author had just focused on making this a horror tale. A special note should go to the designers of the book too – the yearbook effect sets the scene wonderfully.
Incredibly funny, surprisingly moving, wonderfully scary and crammed full of on the nose pop culture references, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is definitely one of my reads of the summer – so many thanks to the publisher for the copy.
Review originally posted on The Bookbag – http://www.thebookbag.co.uk
Nobody knew where the virus came from. Fox News said it had been set loose by ISIS, using spores that had been invented by the Russians in the 1980s. MSNBC said sources indicated it might’ve been created by engineers at Halliburton and stolen by culty Christian types fixated on the Book of Revelation. CNN reported both sides. While every TV station debated the cause, the world burnt… Pregnant school nurse Harper Grayson, had seen lots of people burn on TV, but the first person she saw burn for real was in the playground behind the school. With an epic scope and huge emotional impact, this is one woman’s story of survival at the end of the world.
I’m a bit of a wuss, all things considered. You won’t often find me in the Horror section of a bookshop, and chances of getting me to watch a horror film at the cinema are slim to none – I think the last one I managed was The Others, and that was a good fifteen or so years ago. I have, however, read some of Joe Hill’s books before, and he’s an author who has always managed to blend elements of horror with humour, warmth, and thrills – so whilst his books often keep me up at night reading, they never leave me too scared to sleep…
The Fireman is certainly a dark tale – a mysterious virus causes people to be covered in a dark scale that, eventually, causes them to burst into flames. With no identified cause and no identified cure, panic rules. When Harper Grayson, a school nurse, becomes inflicted with the scale, she finds herself in an isolated community – all infected with the virus, but all seemingly able to keep it under control. As tensions build within the community, and the virus in Harper flares up, it becomes unclear what or who will combust first. The book is laced with tension – almost every page is taut with the promise of drama, and Hill never disappoints – his cliff-hangers and climaxes are always resolved with a deftness that never fails to paint the next dramatic brushstroke. Page Turner may be a phrase that’s a tad overused these days, but The Fireman is the very definition of one – I actually cancelled plans on a Saturday morning so I could stay in bed and finish this book, so wrapped up had I become with the drama. This isn’t just an epic apocalyptic type saga though – Harper is a strong, human character whom the reader can’t help but empathise with, and the other characters encountered are just as strong, all layered, well built, and the devastation when one (as happens to many) dies, is very much a real thing.
I’ve read that this book is being compared to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and whilst I do get the comparison – both are beautiful books set in a post-apocalyptic world, and both explore the humanity of such a situation in a very personal way. However, I found that, for all of the pain and suffering it contains, The Fireman wins for me due to the fact that there is an optimism and hope to the book that I think is oft found in such grim situations. Don’t get me wrong – the hope is challenged and punished every single damn chapter, making the read an exhilarating one, if completely emotionally exhausting – but it’s absolutely worth it in the end. Hill often gets compared to his Father (when you’re the son of Stephen King, I think it’s somewhat unavoidable). For me, The Fireman is a book that easily stands with the best of King’s work – it’s one ridiculously talented family. Huge thanks to the publishers for the copy.