Posts Tagged ‘book review’

Used by permission as posted on Tim’s Book Reviews.

Working StiffsPremise: Pro-Well Pharmaceuticals is Pittsburgh’s premiere pharmaceutical company, led by the former meth dealer Marshall Owens, developing drugs that treat diseases and ailments such as erectile dysfunction. When a terrible accident stops production, however, their dirty little secret is revealed: the factory workforce is actually full of zombies who only need payment in human flesh.

The office employees quickly go into survival mode, banding together or falling victim to undead hunger. They gather makeshift weapons of paper cutters and staplers in order to fight off zombie hordes as they try to escape the building before it’s time to clock out. Marshall Owens has barricaded himself in his fourth floor office, but his surviving employees might have plans of making him pay for his crimes against nature.

The zombie horde amassing outside the building makes their escape plans even more of a challenge, especially with no contact with the outside world. The outbreak has spread to other parts of the city, but the surrounded building isn’t enough to make these employees work overtime.

Themes: Survival is the key in any zombie outbreak, and that is no different in Working Stiffs. Improvisation is essential, especially when trying to find food, water, and weapons. Knowing your enemy is important as you make a plan for survival. The employees search for office supplies that can double as weapons and do their best to plan for escape from the Pro-Well building. We are given insight into the creativity needed for survival situations.

Romance sort of plays a role in the story, though a small part, even if it is unrequited or hidden between unlikely characters. Two employees make their secret romance known, while the goth girl on her first day of work longs for the gay pessimist who becomes the appointed leader of the survivors.

Pros: The dialogue is pretty funny if you aren’t offended by obscenity. The unique characters are probably the best part of Working Stiffs, being thoughtfully characterized without becoming too much of a caricaturization. I liked the fast pace of the action and the funny conversations, especially of the boorish O’Brien. And the loveable General will surprise everyone with his leadership. I also liked that no one is safe when it comes to becoming a zombie meal.

Cons: One of the problems I had with Working Stiffs was that I wasn’t convinced the improvised weapons would have been quite as effective as they were. I don’t think reams of paper and telephones with cords attached would smash a skull as well as they did in the story. A minor gripe considering the humorous nature of the book, I feel like it ended with a few loose ends unresolved while other things tied up too quickly. Perhaps it needed a bigger climactic event to have more payoff. I thought some of the content was offensive for the sake of being offensive, such as with the self-depreciating homosexual or the comments about obese people.

Recommendations: If there is such a thing as a lighthearted zombie gore fest, this falls into that category. Working Stiffs is humorous, full of violence, gore, profanity, and indiscriminately offensive toward all social groups, from geek to goth, including religion, race, age, sexual preference, weight, et al. Some people will be offended by these things while others will greatly enjoy the book because of them. I have a feeling after reading this review you will know which camp you fall into. Think of Working Stiffs as a cross between Office Space and Shaun of the Dead.

– Tim
Working Stiffs on Goodreads
Lucy Leitner on Twitter
Working Stiffs on Facebook
Buy Working Stiffs on Amazon
Necro Publishing

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And now for the giveaway!
We will pick two US/Canada winners to receive a signed copy and one international winner to receive an ebook. All you have to do is answer the question in the comments below:

“What would be your weapon of choice if you were stuck in an office building during a zombie outbreak?”

You can also get extra entries in the contest, but you must answer the question for them to count:
+1 Follow Lucy on Twitter @TheLucyLeitner
+1 Follow ZAI on Twitter @zpoc_awareness
+1 Tweet about the giveaway & post a link to your tweet
+1 Like Working Stiffs on Facebook
+1 Like Zombie Awareness International on Facebook

Make sure you post extra entries in your comment. Also let us know if you are a US/Canada or international entry. You have until 11:59 p.m. PT on Friday, October 26 to enter. Winners will be chosen from entries and contacted by email within 48 hours to get your shipping information. Good luck to everyone!

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Used by permission as posted on Tim’s Book Reviews.

By the Blood of Heroes (The Great Undead War, #1)Premise: In the midst of World War I, Major Jack Freeman gets in a dogfight with Baron Manfred von Richthofen. When he is shot down by the Red Baron, veteran Captain Michael Burke is the logical choice to go in to rescue him. Burke must gather several trusted men to make the suicide mission because not only is Jack his half brother, but he is also the son of the president.

To make things worse, the Germans have produced a corpse gas that turns the dead into zombies, raising enemy and ally to fight again and unleashing an almost unlimited supply of new soldiers into the fray. On top of this, it also seems that they have modified the gas to work on the living as well, raising Richthofen from the dead but also giving him enhanced abilities and strength.

Burke must find a way to sneak into the German prison camp to rescue Freeman before they learn his political secret, but also before they have a chance to experiment on him and release their new and improved corpse gas upon the world using tunneling machines and airships to turn the tide. Will Burke be successful, or will it be too late for the Allies and the world?

Themes: By the Blood of Heroes is almost primarily a war story. It could survive on its own without the zombie and steampunk elements, though these things create a mystique and incorporate current trends with the military aspects of the book.

In a way, By the Blood of Heroes is a heist novel in the way that Burke and his men plan their infiltration of the German camp to accomplish the goal of rescuing Freeman. Among other things, in their discovery of the corpse gas production facilities their plans change and they are forced to improvise as they go.

Pros: While I can’t vouch completely for the accuracy of all the weaponry, the historical military lingo is evidence that Joseph Nassise did his homework for this book. The blending of steampunk and zombies in the historical military setting is accomplished masterfully, creating a zombie novel far better than others I have read, but quite unique comparatively.

Cons: Knowing what I know about zombies, it is hard to believe that they have the potential to have heightened senses and abilities while at the same time constantly decomposing. I also wasn’t a fan of the cover. Despite its unique setting, seeing the Red Baron with a decomposing face seemed cliche for the zombie genre.

Recommendations: On seeing the cover for By the Blood of Heroes and reading the blurb, I was wary of it being too cheesy. I was thankfully proven wrong that this turned out to be a historical war story that played the zombie and steampunk cards judiciously. I put this up there in the same vein as Boneshaker and Dreadnought by Cherie Priest in the realm of successful cross-genre fiction, blending historical fiction, zombies, and steampunk all in one tasty story. I am very much looking forward to Book 2.

Joseph Nassise’s website
By the Blood of Heroes on Goodreads

– Tim

Hollowland (The Hollows, #1)Premise: In a post-apocalyptic world, the zombie virus had spread and zombies run rampant. The place where Remy King and her brother Max had been living is overrun with zombies and she is forced to escape. The only problem is that she thinks Max has been taken by the soldiers there to a quarantine to the north. That is her goal, but one of the other girls there, Harlow, ends up coming with her.

Along the way, they find a zombie-eating lion (of course), which Remy quickly names Ripley after Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien. They also meet Blue, the reliable and intelligent pre-med student, and Lazlo, the former rock star. This small group encounters marauders, a religious cult, and of course zombies on the way to the quarantine where Max supposedly has been taken.

Remy must do everything she can to get to her brother, to find out where he is and what has happened to him. They hope to make it to the quarantine, but will Max be there even if they do?

Themes: Obviously, this is a story of survival. Not only must they survive zombies, but they must also survive their encounters with other people.

Hollowland is also a story of a journey. Getting from one point to another with a vehicle is one thing, but when roadblocks are thrown in the way the journey is more difficult. Going on foot becomes even more difficult when the way is teeming with zombies. It is also a journey of growth for the characters, as well.

Remy goes through a lot of self-discovery in the story, facing death, her ability to survive, be a leader, and keep other people alive. She also discovers herself as it pertains to romantic relationships. Her dislike of Lazlo is put to the test. Can she care for someone when survival is so uncertain?

Pros: If you like gory scenes of zombies being killed in strange and inventive ways, that is about all Hollowland has going for it. The other reason I even read it is that it is currently a free download on Amazon.

Cons: This is a classic case of show, don’t tell. That is, it is a case of what not to do. In a first person perspective, this book suffers from explaining things through internal monologue rather than just having them actively engage in the action. Another problem was even though this is first person, a very vital piece of information is held back until over halfway through the book, a piece of information that the protagonist knows that is only revealed seemingly when it suits the author in order to build false suspense. This is just sloppy writing, not to mention the myriad of grammar and spelling errors that plague this novel. There are more minute details that could have used some research, such as the main character sharpshooting a man off a roof a block away with a handgun. On top of all these things, we are left with a cliffhanger that requires us to read the next book in the series to find out what happens to the protagonist. The real problem is that at the end of this emotionless book with stilted prose I just didn’t care about any of the characters.

Recommendations: If you like mindless stories about zombies, this book might be for you. Its only redeeming quality is that it cost me nothing other than my time to read it. Other than that, I can think of much better books to waste time with than this. If you are going to self-publish, at least have the decency to have your books edited. I can see why Ms. Hocking had collected so many rejections by traditional publishers after reading Hollowland. I suppose she may have the last word since she has made millions in book sales, but it doesn’t make her books any better quality, at least not this one. If Hollowland is any indicator of her writing, I doubt I will ever read anything else she writes.

Hollowland on Goodreads
Amanda Hocking’s website
Amanda Hocking’s blog

– Tim

Dreadnought (The Clockwork Century, #3)Premise: Dreadnought is the followup novel to Boneshaker in the Clockwork Century series (if you exclude the novella Clementine). It is set during the Civil War, this time beginning our story in Richmond, Virgina in a Confederate hospital. Nurse Mercy Lynch is good at what she does and has seen her fair share of bloodied soldiers, but when she discovers her Union husband has been killed and her father is dying, she decides to leave for Tacoma, Washington to see him before he is gone for good.

The trip is difficult, to say the least. She has to hop a dirigible through the front lines of the battle. The airship she is on gets shot down but she is able to make it to St. Louis. From there she gets on a Union train known as the Dreadnought to travel through the vast expanse of land west of the Mississippi. The mysterious cargo it is carrying, however, draws the attention of bandits, Rebel soldiers, and an even faster Confederate train as they race to their destination over the Colorado Rockies. On the way to Salt Lake City, will Inspector Galeano discover what happened to a group of missing Mexican soldiers, and will Texas Ranger Horatio Korman learn what is in the last two cars of the infamous train?

When Mercy arrives in Tacoma she meets up with the sheriff who is supposed to lead her to her father. It is here in the Pacific Northwest that she encounters a completely different world full of characters familiar to those who have read Boneshaker. She is introduced to these new people by her maiden name: Swakhammer.

Themes: What is important to you when you are on the edge of losing everything? When she loses her husband and her father is on his deathbed, Mercy is faced with choosing what is important to her. Knowing her father and seeing him before it’s too late become the most important thing to her at this time, so the obstacles in her path are dwarfed by her desire to know the only family she has left.

This is also a story about personal growth. This journey to Tacoma is as metaphorical as it is literal as she makes important life decisions. Mercy left Richmond a strong-willed widow but her arrival in Tacoma and Seattle bring her face to face with her unknown past and an unsure future.

Pros: Mercy is an incredibly strong female lead character that can handle being on her own. She doesn’t swoon over the sight of a man, but she is also feminine and has personal conflict, all of which makes her likeable and realistic. The pacing for Dreadnought was perfect, starting with the creep of sickened soldiers and building to racing locomotives. All the story elements – airships, zombies, the steam walkers – stood the chance of being cheesy tropes, but here they are executed and woven together with a skill that makes them all believable and interesting. I liked the train plowing through hordes of zombies, but it was the giant steam-powered walkers that I really loved.

Cons: Some of the motivational conflicts between characters seemed a little forced in order to move plot points along, but when facing zombies I can see how they would make some of the decisions they did in spite of their allegiances. Since I liked the walking war machines I could have seen more of them in the story. Besides, I wanted to see a fight between a walker and zombies.

Recommendations: Dreadnought gathered steam (pun intended) beginning with the sobering realities of war and accelerating to breakneck speeds of shootouts on dueling trains. Cherie Priest took the foundation she laid with Boneshaker and created something new in Dreadnought, with a few tie-ins to its predecessor. The two stories are greatly different and you can read one without having read the other, but why would you want to? This story is a speeding juggernaut of action, mystery, and intrigue…with zombies.

Dreadnought on Goodreads
Cherie Priest’s website

– Tim

This is not your typical zombie book. In fact, it was an unexpected place to find zombies at all.

Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century, #1)Premise: Set during the Civil War, a poisonous gas is released when a burrowing contraption called the Boneshaker runs amok underneath downtown Seattle. Briar Wilkes and her son Zeke run through subterranean tunnels to find their way out of the walled downtown area to catch an zeppelin into fresh air. Throw in zombies and steampunk elements to this alternative historical fiction and you have Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

Zeke sneaks into the walled city of Seattle to find evidence that might clear his father, Leviticus Blue, of the crimes of burrowing under the city in the Boneshaker machine, originally designed to drill for gold, and releasing a toxic blight that changes people into zombie “rotters” that roam the streets. There are still people living in the sewers who have secured entrances and have found ways to filter the gas from their underground home. They have some helpful mechanical tools that aid them in their life that Dr. Minnericht has built, but no one really knows who he is or where he came from.

The mysterious Dr. Minnericht provides the people with tools and weapons, but he is also quite unknown. It is he who Briar seeks out to find her son, Zeke, because it is rumored that he could be Leviticus Blue, but she knows that to be impossible.

Themes: The relationship between a mother and her son plays a huge part in Boneshaker. She has raised Zeke alone since her husband took the Boneshaker for a destructive joyride by working in a factory and making sacrifices of the kind that parents do for their kids. Briar is even willing to delve into a zombie-infested cesspool in order to save and protect her son from harm.

Survival is hard enough without the threat of zombies, the yellowish noxious gas, the recurring earthquakes, and living under the whims of Dr. Minnericht. In such an unforgiving world, survival takes on a new meaning. Where else do you have to cover all your skin and wear a gas mask to go out in the streets and rummaging through buildings for simple supplies?

This is also a book about facing your demons. For Briar, going into the city is a challenge not only because of the rotters, but also because it means going to the home she left behind and unearthing the memories of the things that Leviticus Blue did to bring the city to its current state. Her husband supposedly died, but her father, Maynard Wilkes, saved people in the carnage caused by Leviticus. Will the people there know Briar by the legacy left by her father or the mistakes of her husband?

Pros: Priest successfully manages to combine elements of steampunk and zombie novels into one without coming across as forced or cheesy. The characters are well done, with a strong female main character that is far from cliche, her independent teenage son without all the expected angst, a cool Jeremiah Swakhammer that knows how to survive in the city, and the towering airship captain Andan Cly that helps Briar into the city to find Zeke. Boneshaker has an atmospheric style that makes this a fun read from start to finish.

Cons: I would have liked a little more world building simply to give genre fans something more to chew on. Basically, more zombie action for the zombie fans and more steampunk elements for the steampunk fans. Any twists at the end were also fairly obvious.

Recommendations: Needless to say, I loved this book. Even the brown printed text helped suck me deeper into the gritty world Priest has created. For people new to either steampunk or zombie books this is a good entry point for either. Others familiar with either genre (or subgenre) will be pleasantly surprised with new elements to both. This will be a flagship book for the steampunk genre, if it isn’t already.

Boneshaker on Goodreads
Cherie Priest’s website

– Tim

The Walking Dead: Rise of the GovernorPremise: Based on Robert Kirkman’s comic books of the same name, The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor is set in time before The Walking Dead series on AMC, focusing on how the character of The Governor from the comics comes to power.

The novel follows Philip and Brian Blake, two brothers trying to survive in the midst of a strange outbreak of flesh-hungry undead, along with Philip’s young daughter Penny, and two of Philip’s friends. They move from place to place trying to find a way to make a new life in this world of zombie apocalypse, where they face bandits, paranoid survivors, and the ever-present threat of zombies.

The circumstances obviously are difficult for everyone to endure and people are pushed to their limits of what they are willing to do to survive. As Philip becomes more unstable, we see Brian willing to overlook increasingly heinous acts as he makes excuses to Philip’s friends for his behavior, especially as it pertains to protecting and doing what is best for Penny. They finally come to the town of Woodbury and find themselves in a leaderless situation on the brink of collapse.

Themes: In this story, we read about the relationships of people, both family and friends, and their loyalty to each other in a life or death situation. The Blakes are willing to do anything for each other, including overlooking faults and lack of judgment, for the sake of keeping their family together. Bobby and Nick are Philip’s friends, and they are loyal to him. In spite of Philip’s disdain for his brother’s weaknesses, he still remains loyal to Brian because they are family. Above all, Philip is willing to do anything to protect Penny, as is Brian, who keeps that as the one thing he is able to do amidst the killing and mayhem around him.

We also see the obvious theme of people pushed to the limits and what they are willing to do to survive when all options are exhausted. With roaming zombies biting and tearing people to pieces, scavenging thugs with guns, food and running water scarce, and shelter never quite being secure, characters will stab each other in the back, even if they are family. As Philip loses it, his actions help them all survive, but the also eventually bring more and more harm to the people around him. What are you willing to do to survive in dire circumstances?

Pros: The story is told in a third person present tense that adds to the immediacy of the narrative and gives the story an inherent tension. For a zombie thriller, I would say this is a good thing. The interactions between the characters are interesting, especially between Philip and Brian. I was intrigued by how Philip treats his older brother, who is quite the pushover. But Brian, who also looks up to his much tougher younger brother as someone who knows how to handle himself in tough situations and is the most likely to be a survivor, gives Philip the benefit of the doubt in the midst of ridicule from his brother. If you are looking for pure gore and zombie killing, you will find plenty of that here.

Cons: The character perspective changes a lot. I think it changes too often. I understand that you are seeing through the eyes of characters that go off on their own and there needs to be a tension of fear through their eyes, but for a novel it is distracting and sometimes confusing. The character motivations and consistencies just weren’t there for me either. I didn’t get the idea that Nick was a Christian until too late in the novel. I also thought that Brian’s eventual actions were too inconsistent with his character for the entire book. It is one thing to be pushed beyond reason or sanity, but you still have to keep character consistency. I’m also not the biggest fan of swearing in fiction, but especially when it is in narrative. Because the narrative is from the point of view of different characters and not an omniscient perspective this means that you see things through the characters’ eyes, but it doesn’t mean that the narrative in their heads needs so much swearing. I would say it was too much and unnecessary. Finally, if this is meant to be a trilogy (which I discovered it is) you still have to have a complete book and fulfill readers’ expectations. This book felt as if it was lacking an ending, especially for people who have never read the comics and have no idea who the Governor is. Not once does the book say that name.

Recommendations: If you are a fan of The Walking Dead series, definitely give this a try. It will give some back story into a character they may introduce in season two. If you are a fan of the comic books, you will probably enjoy reading some of the back story of a horrible villain. This is definitely an adult book with adult themes and adult language. Be aware of that when you are going into this. The Walking Dead is not for kids. My guess is if you like the television series you won’t be offended by anything in here. If you like an old-fashioned zombie flick, The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor is also right up your alley. A caveat I’ll throw in there would be that I might suggest waiting until all the books are out to read them together so that you’re not disappointed when you get to the end of this first book and it leaves you hanging.

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor on Goodreads
Robert Kirkman’s website
Jay Bonansinga’s website

– Tim

Monster Hunter International (MHI, #1)Premise: Monsters are real and there are competing organizations, including the government, out there fighting them in secret. Owen Z. Pitt is an accountant who is attacked by his werewolf boss one day and discovers he has a penchant for killing creatures, which leads him to be recruited by the private organization: Monster Hunter International. His size (he’s a big guy), upbringing with firearms (dad trained him from childhood with guns), and cage fighting past (he was also a bouncer) doesn’t hurt. This book contains just about every monster you can think of: vampires, werewolves, zombies, wights, ghouls, and even the mythical Wendigo.

The Monster Control Bureau is the secret government organization in charge of monster eradication. While not the primary antagonists in this story, they aren’t exactly shown in a pleasant light. They are what you might think of when you hear talk of “the Feds” with coverups and secret missions. They are a fine counterpoint to MHI and lead to some additional conflict throughout the story, even when the two organizations are forced to work together to fight the evil Cursed One, bent on not only ruling the world but destroying it.

Themes: One of the main plot threads through the story is love. Owen finds in Julie his soul mate: a beautiful woman who is still somewhat of an outcast because of her profession and her love of guns. Owen is immediately enamored with her for all of these things, even to the point of putting himself in harm’s way to protect her. The story behind how the Cursed One came to be gives us an insight into his motivation, with love at the center yet somehow still not truly being a motivating factor. For the Cursed One, love is simply another tool to be used to gain power. Love is a strong enough motivator for many of the characters to be willing to do anything to protect it.

Faith is prevalent throughout Monster Hunter International. Owen isn’t necessarily a religious person, but there are characters, like Trip and Milo, who are. At one point this theme is quite obvious, with Milo using his faith to fight a vampire directly. At other points the theme of faith is more subtle, with Owen’s team putting their faith in him to figure out how to save them even when he doesn’t know how to do so.

One more theme is the idea of finding your calling. Owen is an accountant, and has also been a bouncer, a cage fighter, and a competitive shooter, but he finds these things all leading him to his true calling of being a Monster Hunter. He also discovers his calling through the prophecy behind the Cursed One which leads to the final battle to save the world.

Pros: Monster Hunter International is a story for gun geeks and classic monster stories. If reading accurate descriptions of just about every firearm and weapon you can think of is your thing, then this book is for you. MHI abounds in splattering monsters from volleys of bullets. Again, if that is your thing, this is your book. Not only does the author prove he has done his research and knows his stuff, he also gives the reader some good characters and intense story pacing. This is a fun read with 700 pages that go by quickly, almost too quickly.

Cons: If your idea of vampires is sparkling and wooing teenagers then you will probably want to pass. If you aren’t into the gun porn, this isn’t your book either. If I had to have a complaint with this book it would be that I could see how the gun descriptions could grow tiresome to some readers after a while. I will say that Correia did back off the gun descriptions as the story progressed, but there were perhaps still too many for those sensitive to violence and guns. I also found some typos but those can be found in just about any book, even with the most diligent of editors.

Recommendations: If you want a fun, shoot ’em up monster story with a new flavor, look no further. Correia’s Monster Hunter International delivers, and not just with the premise. He proves in this book that he’s a good storyteller and writer.

Monster Hunter International on Goodreads
Larry Correia’s website

– Tim