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Day Zero (The Zero Trilogy Book 1)
Day Zero (The Zero Trilogy Book 1)
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Top-notch Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Adeventure, March 23, 2015
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I love the post-apocalyptic genre, but I'm not so big on Young Adult fiction; I feel like YA stories pulls back too many punches for the sake of keeping it a light PG-13 rating (if it were a movie, that is). However, that wasn't the case with Summer Lane's Day Zero. It definitely wasn't gory by any means, let there be no mistaking, but violence happened when violence was necessary for the sake of storytelling.

This novella is about Elle (like the letter), a young girl who's been forced to become a fighter and a survivor; she actually reminded me of a the more hardened version of Ellie from The Last of Us. Elle's smart and quick on her feet, but not much of a people person. I like that. Too many times new writers try to make their protagonists a little too perfect, but Elle is flaws - stubborn, a little cocky, sort of awkward, and anti-social. We are introduced to her right off the bat, and soon she stumbles across a group of four other survivors around her age (some a few years younger, some a few years older), while trying to escape a gang called the Klan in post-apocalyptic Hollywood. Her gradual befriending of this group of teens is the catalyst for what follows.

There are elements of Day Zero that reminds me of The Road (except not as depressing), the TV show called Revolution, The Hunger Games (but better, in my opinion), and The Last of Us. I think this is a great book for lovers of Young Adult series, and people interested in post-apocalyptic fiction. Summer's writing is fast-paced and to the point (she won't describe every detail of a blade of grass, for example; she assumes the reader knows what a blade of grass looks like); her character dialogue is realistic; and her style is clean, crisp, and doesn't cause any head scratching moments for the sake of literary experimentation.

Summer Lane is an author I expect great things from.


Dusk (The Hollow Trilogy Book 1)
Dusk (The Hollow Trilogy Book 1)
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Dusk, March 14, 2015
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Upon reading the first few pages, I knew that Brent Kruscke's "Dusk" wasn't a typical self-published story. With his attention to characters and character quirks, Neil Gaiman (and a bit of J.K. Rowling) instantly came to mind, especially upon reading the prologue. Ultimately, "Dusk" is a love letter to the horror genre in which you can feel these characters, and the town of Pointe's Hollow, come alive. Also I'd like to point out that this is Brent's debut novel, so that's an impressive feat within itself. I definitely recommend this book for horror fans, and I can't wait to read the second book in the Hollow Trilogy.


The Hunting Party
The Hunting Party
Price: $7.99
112 used & new from $2.24

167 of 179 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unapologetic, June 17, 2014
This review is from: The Hunting Party (Audio CD)
It’s bizarre. Linkin Park’s bizarre, that is. Not just their genres, or their albums, or their music videos, or their songs, but the phenomenon that IS Linkin Park. Since the late nineties, there hasn’t been a band as disagreed upon as Linkin Park has been. People criticized them for screaming too much in Hybrid Theory and Meteora; they didn’t scream or rap enough in Minutes to Midnight; A Thousand Suns, which blended reggae and rock and hip-hop, was too weird or political (but the naysayers said it was Techno, which is apparently a criticism); Living Things was too dub-steppy (even though the folk elements were prominent too); and The Hunting Party will probably be too loud and aggressive. Linkin Park can’t win, but they will make great music to the unbiased ear. That’s all that matters.

The Hunting Party is heavier than Hybrid Theory and it’s better than Living Things. This is what you’ve been waiting for Hybrid Theory fans (you know, you guys that claim it “isn’t” about Nu Metal, but rather about heavy, aggressive music). With that being said, this is probably Linkin Park’s most important album in the last ten years. This is where we discover whether the naysayers have any merit in their overly hateful—or forcefully indifferent—criticisms . . .

This is Linkin Park’s loudest, rawest, most visceral album to date. If Living Things was a mixture of all their previous albums, The Hunting Party purges out their previous sounds. Like Minutes to Midnight, it’s another clean slate. A new sound. As Mike raps about in the first track on the album, “Careful what you shoot for, ‘cause you might hit what you aim for.” You wanted heavy, you got heavy; you’ll be thirsty for the two mellower songs toward the end of The Hunting Party, because the mayhem which comes before will scorch the sonic landscape of this album . . .

1 / Keys to the Kingdom – 3/5

You’d be wrong if you assumed Linkin Park put their heaviest song in the very beginning, although it would be an easy mistake. It starts off relentlessly heavy; loud guitars; louder vocals. What’s also interesting is the structure of the song. One verse is sung, the next verse is rapped. Kudos for Linkin Park mixing it up.

One Word Summary: Electric

2 / All For Nothing (featuring Page Hamilton) – 4/5

This song reminds me of why I used to like Hip Hop (Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and The Roots) in the late 90s, early 2000s. While Page Hamilton is a guest singer on the song, he doesn’t steal the show; it’s all about Mike Shinoda’s rapping force. He doesn’t play around, doesn’t sugarcoat the lyrics, doesn’t make it have a pretty rhythm—he just fires it out. The chorus, sung by Page and Chester, is also very catchy and anthemic.

One Word Summary: Anthem

3 / Guilty All The Same (featuring Rakim) – 4/5

I’m sure most of you already have an opinion on the song. They were smart to have it be their first single, because if you don’t like this song, you very likely won’t like 70 percent of the album.

One Word Summary: Sampler

4 / Summoning (instrumental) – N/A

It would be pretentious to score a 1 minute instrumental, but let’s just say it feels like something from A Thousand Suns.

5 / War – 4/5

I have a feeling that a lot of people will like this song because of how loud and aggressive it is. It’s a better song than Living Things’ Victimized, fusing rock and punk. This is the heaviest song on the album.

One Word Summary: Heavy

6 / Wastelands – 5/5

This is the first song on the album that feels like a Linkin Park song. And that’s a good thing for a Linkin Park fan. It’s familiar territory; it’s a sonic haven; and it might just be Mike Shinoda’s finest rapping to date.

One Word Summary – Exhilarating

7 / Until It’s Gone – 5/5

It’s interesting they placed Wastelands and Until It’s Gone back to back. While Wastelands feels like something from A Thousand Suns or Living Things, Until It’s Gone really resonates to a sort of—dare I say it?—Nu Metal quality from their first two albums, from lyrics to the music. It’s also the first ballad on the album. If you’re listening to this album from beginning to end (like you should), you’ll really appreciate this song, like finding an oasis in a desert.

One Word Summary: Throwback

8 / Rebellion (featuring Daron Malakian) – 5/5

If it wasn’t for having the catchiest chorus on the entire album, well, it would probably still be a 5/5. This song also features one of Daron Malakian’s best guitar performances ever. If we were still in the nineties, this would be a massive single, since it feels so much like a Nu Metal song, but we’re not, so it won’t be. Shame.

One Word Summary: Catchy

9 / Mark the Graves – 5/5

This song here will be polarizing. Most Linkin Park albums, you could make a single out of every single song on the album. However, with Mark the Graves, it isn’t single material. It’s kind of offbalanced with too much guitar solos and not enough singing (kind of like Roads Untraveled’s loudmouth cousin), but it’s quite an organic song. It’s a risky song.

One Word Summary: Experimental

10 / Drawbar (Tom Morello) – 5/5

Okay, yes this is an instrumental. And no, I’m not that familiar with Rage Against the Machine. But it deserves a score (unlike Summoning), because it really captured something inside of me. It felt like a musical piece you would hear in PS3’s The Last of Us. It’s experimental and moody and defines what Linkin Park is all about.

One Word Summary: Moody

11 / Final Masquerade – 5/5

You could put this song on any of their albums and it would work. This is the softest song on the album and will be the only song that your mother would probably like (unless she likes really, really loud music). It’s cut from the same thread as In Pieces, and it was clearly made to balance the album’s heaviness, and as a transition into the final, craziest song of the album . . .

One Word Summary: Beautiful

12 / A Line in the Sand – 5/5

This might be considered the spiritual successor to The Little Things Give You Away, and for good reason. It not only captures the essence of the entire album, but it also makes a solid point; it’s the thesis of the album; the apotheosis of the statement they were making with The Hunting Party. A Line in the Sand is the longest song on the album, and the most satisfying. Unless you were familiar with Linkin Park, you probably wouldn’t know it was them until Mike starts “sort of” rapping.

One Word Summary: Masterpiece

CONCLUSION:

The Hunting Party is a mean, jerky rollercoaster that isn’t comfortable; it’s not hiking, it’s mountain climbing for your ears—you’ll appreciate when you get to Final Masquerade, which is the only mellow song on the album.

YOU WILL probably like this album if you like bands like System of a Down, Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, and early Deftones.

WARNING: This album is NOT your friend. Hybrid Theory and Meteora may have provided you’re the tissues to wipe your tears, but The Hunting Party will kick your a** and tell you to suck it up and toughen up.

PROS:
Album Concept
Album Length
Epic Guitar Solos
Energy
Better Than LIVING THINGS
Best Song(s): Final Masquerade, A Line in the Sand

CONS:
Could Have Had One More Song
Tom Morello’s Underdone Presence
Rakim’s Overdone Presence (Mike and Rakim should’ve alternated)
Not Quite as Interesting as A THOUSAND SUNS
Doesn’t Contain Any Massive Singles
Worst Song(s): Keys to the Kingdom
Comment Comments (20) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 10, 2015 6:52 PM PST


Insomnia
Insomnia
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from $19.94

3.0 out of 5 stars Forced..., May 7, 2014
This review is from: Insomnia (Paperback)
(there are some *minor* spoilers)

INSOMNIA ultimately lies between a rock and a hard place; it tries too hard to have a pro-choice message, to the point in which I wasn't sure if the villain -- Ed Deepneau -- was supposed to be a good character or a bad character (yes, he goes nuts and beats his wife: but is he only nutty because he's against abortion? And then he does some even worse stuff), and then it tries too hard to have a DARK TOWER connection toward the end of the book. In fact, it has a very important DARK TOWER connection . . . which is a shame, really.

Here's the rundown:

Pros:
+ Great last 200 pages
+ The mystery of the green man...

Cons:
- ...but seriously, who is the green man?
- Goofy, unnatural dialogue
- Oversweet pro-choice message
- Dark Tower connection seems like an afterthought.
- It doesn't feel like the same Derry from previous novels
- It could've been half the length if it cut out the political mumbo-jumbo
(and to be fair, I didn't mind the political views in The Dark Tower series)


Wool
Wool
by Hugh Howey
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.99
166 used & new from $0.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Game of Thrones' in the Confines of an Underground Silo, December 9, 2013
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This review is from: Wool (Paperback)
A lot of people will say that Wool is the greatest science fiction novel in decades. And then you’ll have the occasional straggler who says Wool is utterly overrated. The thing is, if you’ve discovered Wool prior to its Simon & Schuster-published release on March 12th, 2013, then you very likely specifically searched for dystopian or post-apocalyptic books—more likely than not, you found Wool on countless Goodreads lists or maybe a blog or two (plus, at the time, Wool’s Omnibus edition was quite cheap)—and with that being said, Wool delivers on its promise (and premise): it is an original science fiction book with dystopian and post-apocalyptic undertones.

What makes Wool so dang good is that I can actually see the world and people he describes; and I—despite the avid reader that I am—have trouble with some science fiction works within the last decade (Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age comes to mind: the concept is good, but its discombobulated with so many scientific terms and ideas that the characters and details are lost in the background; Wool’s characters and locations, on the other hand, are crystal clear). And Hugh Howey never lets the science outweigh the characters. We accept that the characters know what they’re doing; that’s good enough for the reader. Many science fiction writers tend to go overboard on the “science” part of science fiction, rather than the fiction.

The premise is simple. It’s not overly perplexed. People live in underground silos; to control their population, one person is sent out to die in a toxic world (which brings us to the plot of the novel, and the reason for the title—the people are given wool suits to wear; they are given the task to go out into the wastelands, clean the sensors—which are essentially cameras, so everyone else can see the landscape—and then . . . die), and then, after the cleaning, one married couple are given permission to have a child. This processed has gone on for hundreds of years.

Wool begins with a LOST-esque mystery which unravels over the course of a few chapters until we meet the main protagonist, Juliette. That’s as much of the plot that I’ll get into. Just consider Wool as Game of Thrones-esque drama in the confines of an underground silo.

Expect great things from Hugh Howey in the future because the future of science fiction (and self-publishing) is in his hands.


The Doll
The Doll
Price: $0.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Channels Early Clive Barker / Robert McCammon, August 23, 2013
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This review is from: The Doll (Kindle Edition)
I bought this because I was looking up Stephen King books and it popped up, and, hey, it was free, so what the heck. And I read the entire short story in one sitting ... which says a lot, because I don't give that many new writers a chance. Usually young writers are inflicted with terrible writing styles and bad grammar and bad storytelling abilities. But not J.C. Martin. For a short story, this was great. Reminiscent of "The Ring" and something bizarre. Yes it's short, and I'm glad it was. It was just enough to allow me to know she's a good writer.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 11, 2014 4:02 PM PST


The Sound and the Fury (Norton Critical Editions)
The Sound and the Fury (Norton Critical Editions)
by William Faulkner
Edition: Paperback
110 used & new from $0.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Felt Like Mountain Climbing, July 14, 2013
It's not a perfect score because I am a believer that classics become outdated over time. This is true with "The Sound and the Fury." The plot is pretty tricky to follow; it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense until the last segment (which is an omnipresent 3rd person instead of a limited 1st person--which the previous segments were with three different narrators: a mentally handicapped manchild named Benjy; Benjy's older and smarter brother Quentin; and Jason, the youngest brother and the meanest). I'm going to be honest, a lot of the book was mountain climbing; I read just to get to the good parts, to find a spot to rest. Boy oh boy, and those parts were usually worth the wait. My favorite narrator was Quentin, although his was the hardest to read when he goes all . . . nutty and reminiscent. I didn't particularly "enjoy" this book, but I don't think it was meant for enjoyment. It was meant for reflection on a certain--and at the time, modern--southern attitude . . . which is why it's outdated. Yes, there's a good historical merit, and yeah, it's a classic. If you're a reader or a writer, then you should probably read Faulkner . . . although I recommend starting with "As I Lay Dying."

Although I gotta say, like drinking a disgusting detox smoothie, it feels better once it's swallowed and with something else to wash it down, like Stephen King.


Abarat
Abarat
by Clive Barker
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.63
86 used & new from $3.55

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Expect "Hellbound Heart"; It's Nowhere Near as Dark, But . . ., July 5, 2013
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This review is from: Abarat (Paperback)
I first tried reading this book about four years ago. I borrowed Clive Barker's "Abarat" and "Books of Blood" from the library. First I read the first few short stories in "Books of Blood" and then tried reading "Abarat," but it wasn't nearly as dark as I was hoping . . .

. . . four years later, I didn't have unfair expectations, and thus I enjoyed the book for what it was: a young adult fantasy with dark undertones; it's never as nearly as dark as "The Hellbound Heart" or "Books of Blood" but it doesn't need to be.

Reminiscent of "Harry Potter," "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," and "Alice in Wonderland." I highly recommend reading "Abarat" if you're into young adult. If not, I recommend Clive Barker's mature books--"Hellbound Heart," "Books of Blood," "Cabal," etc. . . .


State of Emergency (Book) (Volume 1)
State of Emergency (Book) (Volume 1)
by Summer Lane
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.99
18 used & new from $7.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good debut from a young author, April 29, 2013
Considering this is a debut novel from a pretty young writer is an accomplishment of itself. It's definitely one of those novels in which you know exactly what you're getting into; you'll read what you're expecting to read. That's not to say that it's a stereotypical post-apocalyptic fiction, because there are moments of pure originality, but at the same time it doesn't deviate too far from the path of the genre that you're expecting if you're reading this book.

All in all, it is what it is; it is what you expect.


Drive (Movie tie-in)
Drive (Movie tie-in)
by James Sallis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.18
35 used & new from $1.17

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something's Lacking . . ., March 28, 2013
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This review is from: Drive (Movie tie-in) (Paperback)
I saw the film before the book, guilty as charged. The film was majestically dark, elegantly offbeat, with beautiful cinematography and it had the best soundtrack of 2012. The only thing the movie has in common with the book are the name of the characters, a line of dialogue in the beginning of the book, an action sequence in the motel where the chick from AMC's Madmen dies, and the ending of the book; that's not a spoiler by any means, that's just something that fans of the movie should know right upfront. Driver (the character's "name") in this novel isn't the quiet, cool guy that Gosling played in the film; this Driver is talkative, witty, smart, sometimes even obnoxious. I actually prefer the Gosling counterpart, but that's me.

Okay, so now let me talk about the book without comparing it to the movie. I think James Sallis was going for a Godfather-esque, noir story, but the plot was just so simplistic that the author had to scramble the scenes around like eggs; it wasn't necessarily hard to know if a scene took place in the past or present or future, but at the same, it wasn't necessary either. In fact, the first chapter in this novel was repeated in another chapter later on--word for word (or at least, almost word for word--because the narrative was repeating what had already happened in the beginning).

I think Sallis tries to write like McCarthy, but he ends up sounding amateurish. He tends to miss words in sentences; for instance: Instead of, "The dog ran into the street to fetch the ball," Sallis would write, "Dog ran into street to fetch ball"--some of that works, but Sallis overuses this writing method to shorten sentences . . . it was almost as if he was trying to get below a certain word count, so he deleted a lot of words.

Another problem I had is that most of the characters talked the same way. The character's speech patterns actually missed words too (convenient, huh?).

Ultimately Drive was a disappointment. I prefer Cormac McCarthy's prose, but I suppose he's impossible to compete with. I see potential in James Sallis's writing . . . but he needs to flesh out his paragraphs, flesh out his characters, flash out his plots, and write a story in chronological order instead of scrambled scenes.


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