Apocalypse Watch Book Review — Masque of the Red Death

Title:  Masque of the Red Death
Author:  Bethany Griffin
Genre:  Pseudo YA steampunk post-apocalypse
Pages:  Hardback, 319
Published:  April 24, 2012
Publisher:  Greenwillow Books
ISBN:  978-0-06-210779-4
Opening Lines:  "The charcoal sky spits cold rain as we rumble to a stop at a crossroad.  A black cart blocks the road, and even in an armored carriage we know better than to force our way past."

"Everything is in ruins. A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them.

"So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

"Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

"But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone dies.

"And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her."

~ Jacket copy

Thoughts:  I have had a love affair with Edgar Allan Poe's works since I was a child.  His words are extremely haunting and captivating.  There was a time in my life that only his words could truly speak to me.  When I heard about this book, I couldn't get my hands on it fast enough.  However, knowing that I would host an apocalypse themed month, it sat on my shelves waiting to be the finale.

Araby is living in her father's shadow.  Being the daughter of the creator of the masks that keeps people from getting the plague, Araby is able to rise above the cellar to a penthouse.  Her life is spent in luxury, beautiful dresses and makeup, clubs, and drugs.  However, even with all of this wealth and status, she is a constant reminder of her brother and seeks oblivion at the end of a needle.  Wanting Will from afar, Araby is startled to wake up one morning in his bed.  And, if that isn't enough, she has caught theeye of her best friend's brother, Elliott.  Both men want her, but for different reasons.  Araby is pulled from her garish world of guilt, drugs, and parties.

This book is a haunting and dizzying ride.  It is a dance of things that are not said; things that need to be said.  While the masks are a form of freedom, they are also a way to hide.  Araby spends her time hiding from herself, her family, and friend.  She lives with unbearable guilt over her twin brother and spends her time with April in the Debauchery Club.  The inside of the Club reminds me of the opium dens in the Victorian era.  The patrons did not find it strange that Araby would lose consciousness, that April had to carry her out of the Club, etc.  Honestly, even though it is not, the inside of the club reminded me of Prospero's party in Poe's short story.

I loved how Araby was defined by her guilt and vow.  However, Griffin did a wonderful job showing how she was able to grow and move beyond that.  The distance between the girl and her parents was extremely heartbreaking.  It was obvious how badly they wanted to reach out and talk to each other.

The little steampunk touches added an interesting element to the story.  I wouldn't go so far as to say the book was fully steampunk.  Granted, there were airships, gaslights, and steam cars.  But it was not a gritty steampunk novel.  It was more of a vehicle for the storyline.  

The landscape in the book was amazing!  Even though Griffin didn't specifically state it, I felt as though they were traveling through a landscape of gray.  The only colour was in the fancy dresses that the upper classes wore, the makeup, and the more fashionable masks.  The clothing was an extreme contrast to the setting.  It was garish and halting.  To me, it was like the landscape of Europe during the Bubonic Plague: bodies littering the streets, people walking around with handkerchiefs in front of their faces, poor begging food, and revelers trying to out dance death.

It struck me that the story kind of takes place before Prospero's party and that the main character was named Araby.  Griffin pulls to two literary greats! 

This book is a page turner.  Once I started, it was hard to put down!  Araby's inner struggle captivated me from the first page and stayed with me until the last.  This book was masterfully written and crafted.  It is hard to read, and it will linger once you have finished.  My hat is off to Bethany Griffin for writing this beautiful piece of literature!

"And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."  Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

Current Pages: 15,723
Current Progress:
52/50 books

Much love, Sinn

Apocalypse Watch Book Review — The Eleventh Plague

Title:  The Eleventh Plague
Author:  Jeff Hirsch
Genre:  YA Post-apocalyptic
Pages:  Hardback, 278
Published:  September 2012
Publisher:  Scholastic Press
ISBN:  978-0-545-29014-2
Opening Lines:  "I was sitting at the edge of the clearing, trying not to stare at the body on the ground in front of me."

"America is a vast, desolate landscape left ravaged after a brutal war, two-thirds of the population are dead from a vicious strain of influenza. People called the sickness the Eleventh Plague.

"Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn was born after the war and only knows the life of a salvager. His family was among the few who survived and took to roaming the country in search of material to trade. But when Stephen's grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler's Landing, a community that seems too good to be true. There Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. When they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler's Landing—and their lives—forever."

~ Jacket copy

Thoughts:  Honestly, the description of this book reminded me of so many that have come before it.  However, the endorsement by Suzanne Collins caught my attention.  I loved the Hunger Games!  In addition, something about biological weapons will usually catch my attention.  For me, aside from war, it seems to be a likely occurrence.  That being said, I had a hard time getting into this book.

The book opens with Stephen's father digging a grave.  After surviving for over a decade in a broken, nonexistent America, his grandfather finally succumbed to the plague.  Now Stephen and his father are faced with the reality of survival without the "iron-fisted" guidance of their patriarch.  While Stephen's dad seems to be optimistic, the boy is very doubtful.  Unfortunately, he is right to have his doubts.  When his father makes a rather stupid move, Stephen is left to deal with his father in a coma and in a town where he is not welcome.

I found Stephen to be rather stiff and one dimensional.  At some level, there is a reason for his reservation; however, I felt that the author carried it too far.  He became rather boring and bland.  It got to a point that Stephen was not a very sympathetic character.  Unfortunately, I felt that Stephen's reservation also bled onto the other characters.  Some of them—such as Violent and Marcus, Sam, and the teacher—could have had very interesting back stories; however, I felt as though they were lost.  Further, for someone how has lived through so much, Stephen's father seemed to be rather stupid. 

The author spent more time fleshing out the landscape and not enough with the characters.  Further, I felt that the whole concept of the slavers wasn't developed.  I wanted to know why the soldiers had a tendency to turn into bands of wandering mercs and/or slavers.  Also, if places like Settler's Landing exist, why don't the slavers find them sooner and raid them for supplies/people?

One of the things that upset me was Stephen taking over the weekend classes.  Here is a kid that never went to school, only read whenever his parents would read with him—and when he was able to find a book or two—and basically had no real book or school knowledge.  After the teacher is injured, he suddenly takes over teaching the little children.  I couldn't quite understand the reasoning behind this move.  It was rather unbelievable.

To me, this book was okay.  It took a bit for me to get into it; however, it did pick up.  The character development was seriously lacking, and the author didn't really think too much about the stuff he threw into the book.  He could have done a lot of things with characters, the storyline, etc.; however, I felt he just let it drop.    

Current Pages: 15,404
Current Progress:
51/50 books

Much love, Sinn

Theme Song Saturday (38)

Welcome to Theme Song Saturdays, a new weekly meme, hosted by yours truly, in which we share our love of music and books! Since I love books and music, this meme is for fun to try to incorporate those two loves! Whenever I read a book, a certain song -- kind of like a soundtrack or theme song -- plays through my head.

Want to know how to play? Head over to this post to read the rules and get the code.

Here's my pick this week:

Ho Hey by The Lumineers just felt like it fit.  After everything that happens to Stephen at the beginning of the book, the whole concept of family/home is rather foreign to him.  However, the Greens are quick to open their lives and family to him when he needs their support the most.  I am not very far into the book; however, I feel as though—due to their shared status in the community—he has found a kindred spirit in Jenny.  Hopefully, with all of the heartache he has been through, Stephen can find something special in her.  

What's yours?  Leave a link in the comments to your post ^_^
Much love, Sinn

Apocalypse Watch Book Review — The Way We Fall

Title:  The Way We Fall
Author:  Megan Crewe
Genre:  YA Post-apocalyptic
Pages:  Hardback, 309
Published:  January 2012
Publisher:  Hyperion
ISBN:  978-1-4231-4616-2
Opening Lines:  "Leo, it's about six hours since you left the island."

"When sixteen-year-old Kaelyn lets her best friend leave for school without saying good-bye, she never dreams that she might not see him again. But then a strange virus begins to sweep through her small island community, infecting young and old alike. As the dead pile up, the government quarantines the island: no one can leave, and no one can come back.

"Those still healthy must fight for the island's dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of the people she holds dearest, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save those she loves.

"Because how will she go on if there isn't?"

~ Jacket copy

Thoughts:  I admit, since I first read Speak, books written in the form of journal entries have had a special place in my heart.  Even though it only gives the main character's POV of the other characters, there is something unique about the reading experience.  When I discovered that The Way We Fall was written in a series of journal entries, I was pretty excited.

The book starts with Kaelyn writing in a journal to her best friend, Leo.  After a fight, he left the island for a private boarding school in New York.  Unsure whether she will be able to bring herself to talk to him when he returns for the holidays, she has decided to start writing in the journal as a pseudo catharsis.  However, a strange virus hits the island, people start dying, and the Canadian government puts the island under a strict quarantine.  Kaelyn sets out to chronicle everything that is happening.  She hopes that—if Leo is able to return to the island—her journal will be able to tell him everything that has happened since the virus started.

When I could pull myself away from Resident Evil and knitting, I had a hard time putting this book down.  It was extremely engaging, well written, and also heartbreaking.  I loved how raw Kaelyn was in her journal entries.  She was a very sympathetic character, and she was really easy to feel connected to.  Even though the audience only sees the other characters through her eyes, the author did a wonderful job balancing how Kaelyn perceives them and who they truly are outside of her perceptions.

At some level, it would have been nice if there had been a little more gang activity.  However, it is quite possible that there wasn't more because Kaelyn didn't spend a ton of time outside of the house or away from the hospital.  That being said, the reasoning behind burning down houses and buildings was very interesting.  Usually, it appears as though the gangs of people are just out for meaningless destruction.  Crewe did a wonderful job of focusing their anxiety.

The love interest was wonderful.  Considering that it was exceptionally horrible timing, Crewe was able to write in such a way that everything was still innocent and sweet.  In a lot of ways, the fragile, budding romance was one of Kaelyn's greatest joys.

This is an excellent book following the outbreak of some unknown virus and human nature.  It also shows the depth of character that some people are able to find during such trying times.  The next book comes out February 12, 2013!

Current Pages: 15,126
Current Progress:
50/50 books

Much love, Sinn

Apocalypse Watch Update

So, ah, I've been kind of absent from the book reviews . . . However, I have extremely awesome reasons :)

On Tuesday and Friday of  last week, I sat down with an awesome friend, and we started playing through Leon and Helena's campaign in Resident Evil 6!  It was freaking awesome to spend hours with my first video game crush ;)  Seriously, how could any girl resist the complete awesomeness that is Leon S. Kennedy? 

As a rule, I am really horrible at shooters, so I avoided this game.  However, this is the first game Leon has been in for awhile, and I desperately wanted to play.  My dear friend has beat all of the campaigns and offered to come over  play it with me.  Taking Helena, he has helped me get through the first three levels.  But, even with my complete ineptitude when it comes to shooters, I keep getting a B rating on each level and managed to pull a gold ranking for five consecutive head shots twice!  w00t!  I have found that I am pretty good with the sniper rifle and melee attacks.  *squee* I cannot wait for us to get back to the game!  Oh, and on a side note, once you beat a campaign, you can play as a zombie in another Live player's campaign!  To me, that is icing on the cake :)

Lovelies, this game is so awesome that I asked him to set up a time once or twice a week for us to slowly work through all of the campaigns together @_@

After a failed attempt six years ago, I decided to pick up my knitting needles and try to teach myself to knit again.  I've been crocheting for over a decade.  Even though I absolutely love what I can do with my hooks, there are things that cannot easily be done without knowing how to knit.  So, while watching The Walking Dead, I started out slowly on a scarf done completely in garter stitch.  Finding that I wasn't dropping any stitches and  my tension was fairly consistent, I put it down.  A scarf is rather boring . . . Luckily, a friend of mine just announced to everyone that she is five months pregnant!  Usually I will make one crocheted baby blanket for my friends.  After some thought, hours on Ravelry, and talking with my knitting maven friend, I decided to make her a knitted baby blanket!  Unfortunately, I ended up frogging the damn thing six or more times.  For some reason, no matter what I did, the count ended up off.  In a moment of desperation, I decided to pick it up one final time before it was scraped for a crocheted blanket.  And, you know what, the count was finally correct!

And, if this isn't enough, reading, watching The Doomsday Preppers, and playing Resident Evil 6, I find myself having weird dreams/nightmares of trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.  On Tuesday, my night was spent trying to find food and ammo, keeping my loved ones safe, and so on.  Every time I went back to sleep after waking up to let the dogs outside, I went right back into that same dream!  Even with approximately eight hours of sleep under my belt, I felt more tired when I woke up than when I went to bed!  Friday night had me standing by Leon's side (*insert stupid grin*) fighting off a horde of zombies! 

With that, I promise to have a review of The Way We Fall up later today!  With all of my focus on the apocalypse, I need to head to the gym.  Remember, the first rule of the zombie apocalypse is cardio ;) 

Hey, if you're interested in hooking up on Resident Evil 6 sometime or other games, leave me a comment if you want my Live gamer tag :)  
Much love, Sinn

Theme Song Saturday (37)

Welcome to Theme Song Saturdays, a new weekly meme, hosted by yours truly, in which we share our love of music and books! Since I love books and music, this meme is for fun to try to incorporate those two loves! Whenever I read a book, a certain song -- kind of like a soundtrack or theme song -- plays through my head.

Want to know how to play? Head over to this post to read the rules and get the code.

Here's my pick this week:

Nice to be Dead by Iggy Pop is a fairly upbeat song for the subject matter, and it is also kind of a morbid choice for this book.  That being said, it was the song that caught my attention this week.  Honestly, there is no rhyme or reason for my decision this week ^_~

Well, that's my weird and macabre pick this week!  What's yours?  Leave a link in the comments to your post ^_^
Much love, Sinn

Apocalypse Watch — Theories

One of the prevalent theories surrounding the apocalypse is a worldwide outbreak of an infectious disease. Since Europe was knocked to its knees during the Bubonic Plague and the United States was hit by the Spanish Flu, we have feared another disaster based on an epidemic. With the increase of vaccinations, it is apparent that we are trying to find some way to control something that might be inevitable. It is believed that the next war will be fought with biological weapons. As we learned with infected blankets and Columbus coming to the New World, without the proper immunities, an epidemic could completely decimate the world population. With the increase of travel, it is easier to spread infectious diseases; thus, making it easier to start a pandemic.

Here’s the most frightening thing: flu researchers say it isn’t a matter of if we will have a pandemic, but when.

The third family on an episode of Doomsday Preppers was very concerned with the possibility of biological warfare using smallpox. The smallpox virus has an incubation period of twelve days. The signs and symptoms of the virus are too numerous and disturbing to list here. Let’s just say that it isn’t pretty.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smallpox is not a fast moving virus. They say that it spread slower than chickenpox. Further, large outbreaks were uncommon. However, with the ease of travel and the inclination not to stay home when sick, I have to wonder whether this could be true now. From my years in college, it was normal for a student to come to class when they were very ill. Needless to say, campus was an incubator. While I can see parents keeping their children home when sick, a lot of people will still go to work when they are suffering from smallpox.

WHO also states that only two laboratories have the smallpox virus; however, there are many conspiracy theorists that believe this isn’t the case. Even though they firmly stand by their statement of the two laboratories, WHO has been making efforts to prepare on the off chance that the virus could be released.
There is no cure for smallpox, but vaccination can be used very effectively to prevent infection from developing if given during a period of up to four days after a person has been exposed to the virus. This is the strategy that was used to eradicate the disease during the 20th century. New antiviral drugs, that have been developed for other diseases since smallpox was eradicated, may have a role. No studies of their usefulness, or safety, have been conducted on humans exposed to smallpox. (World Health Organization)

The family on Doomsday Preppers had a plan to “bug out” and get to a isolated location. It makes sense to try and separate yourself from the population in case of an outbreak, but I am reminded of The Masque of the Red Death by Poe. Despite his best efforts, Prospero still managed to lock the Red Death into the party, which resulted in all of the party-goers contracting the illness and dying.

What do you think? Is there a high chance of smallpox coming back to bit us in the ass? Will the world end with a global pandemic? What are your theories?

If you want more information, check out The World Health Organization website.

Much love, Sinn

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the follow:
  • Grab your current read
  • Opening toli a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share Title & Author, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!

Here's my teaser this week:

"And whatever it was, to Thomas it meant one thing: the fact that they could no longer see the sun probably meant they'd never been able to in the first place.  A sun couldn't just disappear."
The Maze Runner by James Dashner, 219

Much love, Sinn

Apocalypse Watch Book Review — The Other Life

Title:  The Other Life
Author:  Susanne Winnacker
Genre:  Post-apocalyptic
Pages:  Hardback, 254
Published:  May 15, 2012
Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish
ISBN:   978-0-7614-6275-0
Opening Lines:  "3 years, 1 month, 1 week, and 6 days since I'd seen daylight.  One-fifth of my life."

"Sherry has live with her family in a sealed bunker for more than three years. Her grandfather's body has been in the freezer for the last six months, her parents are at each other's throats . . . and two minutes ago, they ran out of food. Sherry and her father must leave the safety of the nunker. What they find is an empty Los Angeles, destroyed by bombs and haunted by "Weepers"—savage humans infected with a rabies virus.

"While searching for food, Sherry's father disappears and Sherry is save by Joshua, a hunter. He takes her to Safe-haven, a vineyard where a handful of survivors are picking up the pieces of their 'other lives,' before the virus changed everything. Sherry must find a way to help her family, stay alive, and decide whether Joshua is their savior or greatest danger as his desire for vengeance threatens them all."

~ Jacket copy

Thoughts:  To be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about this book.  When I decided to do an apocalypse themed reading month, this book came to my attention.  The idea of a virus turning most of the population into mindless killing machines is awesome!  It is close enough to zombie fiction that you will get me every time.  However, when I read about a savage rabies virus, I instantly thought of Quarantine with Jennifer Carpenter (And, yes, I was the only person that laughed when that was revealed.  I got rather strange looks from the other two people in the audience . . .).

 The book opens with Sherry counting the years, months, weeks, days, etc. since she has last seen daylight, and the startling realization that her family of six has just ran out of food.  During the next few pages, the audience learns that the citizens of L.A. were told to barricade themselves in their bunkers until the military told them everything was safe.  However, it doesn't appear as though they fully know why.  Regardless of that, after the military radio message has stopped, Sherry's family remained in their bunker.  Unfortunately, with the last can of food already gone and the family facing slow starvation, Sherry and her dad must leave the safety of their bunker to brave an unknown L.A. in order to find food for the family.  What they didn't expect is coming across weird, furry humanoid creatures with a milky white substance leaking from their eyes and an insatiable desire to ingest their flesh.  And, if that isn't bad enough, Sherry's father is abducted by these creatures and taken to their food stores.  However, Sherry is lucky to be rescued by Joshua—the typical Byronic Hero of YA fiction—and taken to a Safe-haven of other survivors.  This begins their quest to save Sherry's family and rescue her father from the Weepers.

Honestly, even though this book was rather formulaic and predictable, I enjoyed it!  Sherry's constant counting of time started to get on my nerve; however, after being locked in a bunker for over three years, it seemed inside the realm of possibility.  Further, it kind of appealed to my OCD.  In a lot of ways, Sherry was the classic teen figure in YA fiction.  However, I did appreciate that the author didn't make her perfect.  Her inability to fire a gun under pressure, using too much ammo, etc. was believable to me.  Even going through a lot of target practice, faced with shooting somebody, especially in an intense situation, does not guarantee that you will be a good shot.  However, that did improve as the story progressed.

I wish the author had spent a little more time developing the supporting characters.  Their lack of development made them feel more like scenery.  It was worse with Sherry's grandmother.  When one of the characters died in the book, I didn't feel any real loss.  And, sadly enough, I felt Sherry and the other people had the same reaction.  That really distressed me as a reader.  Further, since Joshua was important to Sherry, the author should have spent a lot more time on him and fleshing out his back story.  Granted, I understand that she was pulling the classic Byronic Hero, but he needed more.

Despite its formulaic plot, this book was enjoyable!  I loved where Safe-haven was located, the surveillance was awesome, and it was just fun.  It appears that the next book should be published in March, and I honestly cannot wait that long.

Current Pages:14,817
Current Progress:
48/50 books

Much love, Sinn

Apocalypse Watch Book Review — This World We Live In

Title:  This World We Live In
Author:  Susan Beth Pfeffer
Genre:  Post-apocalyptic
Pages:  Hardback, 239
Published:  2010
Publisher:  Harcourt
ISBN:  970-0-547-24804-2
Opening Lines:  "I'm shivering, and I can't tell if it's because something strange is going on or because of the dream I had or just because I am in the kitchen, away from the warmth of the woodstove."

"It's been a year since a meteor collided with the moon, catastrophically altering the earth's climate. For Miranda Evans, life as her knew it no longer exists. Her friends and neighbors are dead, the landscape is frozen, and food is increasingly scarce.

"Miranda and her two brothers spend their days scavenging for food and household items, while their mother stays at home and desperately tries to hold in to the ordinary activities of their previous life. But they all know that nothing is truly normal in this surreal new world they live in.

"The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda's father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and has Miranda's complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for his future thwart their relationship. Then a devastating tornado hits the town of Howell, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever."

~ Jacket copy

Thoughts:  Wow, what a difference it makes going back to Miranda being the narrator through diary entries.  Honestly, it was hard to tell the difference between this book and Life As We Knew It.  Aside from adding Alex and Julie to the story, I felt as though the transition between the first book and this one was pretty seamless.

According to Miranda's first diary entry, this book picks up about a month after the first one ended.  The family is still getting weekly food deliveries; however, survival is extremely hard.  In some ways, I didn't feel that the characters developed too much beyond the end of the first book.  Even though he is now 15, I found Jon to still be extremely juvenile and babyish.  Matt continues to be a asshole, and he still tries to exert control over the family.  As time goes on, I think he is more hell bent on running the family.  It was obvious that he tried to step into his father's role when he left; however, he just ends up being an ass.  That being said, their mom isn't always the most logical thinker.  And, on top of that, Miranda is still struggling with her new life and identity.  She can no longer be a kid, but she is desperately trying to keep some sense of normal.  While I might be able to see the argument that all the characters are seen from Miranda's view point, I felt that the character development was either stunted or non-existent.

It seemed that the author was trying to throw a few things into the mix and spice the story up a little; however, she didn't really have good follow through.  The addition of Syl seemed extremely frivolous.  Near the end, it becomes apparent why she was there; however, it almost would have been better if she had just been someone passing through.  Unless it dealt with things like Horton and the catalyst for the occasional fight, she lived in her bedroom.  As one review pointed out, it almost appeared as though she was meant as a sinister element; however, nothing came of that.  In addition, her rapid religious conversion had me extremely confused from quite some time.  It wasn't until Miranda mentioned it several chapters into the book that it was marginally explained.  Even then I wondered why she would so quickly change from worshiping Diana to being a born again Christian.  It was rather odd.    

Aside from the weather changes, the inconvenience of biking into town for the food, and the addition of new people, there really was no danger.  In a post-apocalyptic world, I would think there might be bands of roaming maniacs, disease popping up when the weather got warmer, etc.  There was nothing.  It was rather anti-climatic.  Honestly, I think the tornado was the only big event in the book, and that lasted only about a page.

In some ways, I found Alex to be far more anal and unbelievable in this book.  Granted, I understand holding onto his religious upbringing—especially living in a post apocalypse world—but his insane goal to bring Julie to the convent was a little out there.  Even though Carlos was adamant about Julie going to the convent, I think he might have agreed that Julie was better off with Miranda's family.  At least there she was guaranteed some measure of safety, she had a family, and she was looked after.  There was no way to even be sure the convent would take her.  Further, for someone who is supposed to care of the well being of his sister, Alex was a major ass.

Even though I had some issues with this book, I did end up enjoying it.  Had life not happened in abundance, I would have tore through it in about a day.  It was nice that Pfeffer was able to return to the same mood of the first book.  After the horrible disappointment of the second, I was extremely reluctant to read this one.  And, despite my issues, I was pleasantly surprised.

Current Pages:14,563
Current Progress:
47/50 books

Much love, Sinn

Apocalypse Watch Book Review — The Dead & the Gone

Title:  The Dead & the Gone
Author:  Susan Beth Pfeffer
Genre:  Post-apocalyptic
Pages:  Paperback, 308
Published:  2008
Publisher:  Graphia
ISBN:  978-0-15-206311-5
Opening Lines:  "At the moment when life as he had known it had changed forever, Alex Morales was behind the counter at Joey's Pizza, slicing a spinach pesto pie into eight roughly equal pieces."

"Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event--an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle.

"With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful new novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities."

~ Goodreads

Thoughts:  After reading this book, I have one question: what happened?  When I finished reading Life as We Knew It, I was desperate to read the next books in the series.  Once I started this book, I constantly found myself wondering what happened.

The Dead & the Gone follows Alex and his two sisters fighting for survival in New York City following the asteroid knocking the moon out of it's orbit.  Like Miranda in the previous book, the Alex and his sisters struggle with food shortages, no electricity, no communication, and just about everything that goes along with an apocalypse.  However, unlike Miranda, Alex and his sisters are alone; they must rely on each other for survival.  Throughout the book, Alex is trying to find ways to provide for his sisters and find an escape from the city.

Unlike the first book, this one is not written in journal entries.  Further, it is not told from Alex's POV.  The author takes a third person limited perspective.  The story follows Alex, his thoughts, concerns, and motivations.  To me, the impact of the first book was primarily due to POV.  I couldn't figure out why Pfeffer decided to take such a huge step back from the main character.  In addition, the first book did a good job giving the supporting characters some depth.  This book really lacked in that regard.  At some level, Alex was fairly one dimensional.  His sisters were stock characters, the priests were too stereotypical, and so on.  To me, the only character that stood out was Kevin.

From the start, this book was rather stilted.  The conversation was too forced, canned, and scripted.  Really, if I am too be honest, the whole story was too formulaic.  There was nothing that surprised me, I never felt impacted by the events in the book, and didn't feel anything for the characters.  Honestly, I could have cared less whether they lived or died.

The ending was extremely anti-climatic.  I found myself flipping through the extra material in the book, because I was convinced I had missed something.

This book was extremely disappointing.  Life as We Knew It was amazing, well thought out, and brilliant.  With this book, I am not sure what happened.  At some level, I wonder whether Pfeffer should have just started and finished the series with the first book.  After finishing this book, I am very timid about picking up the third book . . . If you're looking for an awesome continuation of Life as We Knew It, be ready for disappointment.  Unless the third one really makes up for this book, I would suggest not reading The Dead & the Gone.

Current Pages: 14,324
Current Progress:

46/50 books

Much love, Sinn

Theme Song Saturday (36)

Welcome to Theme Song Saturdays, a new weekly meme, hosted by yours truly, in which we share our love of music and books! Since I love books and music, this meme is for fun to try to incorporate those two loves! Whenever I read a book, a certain song -- kind of like a soundtrack or theme song -- plays through my head.

Want to know how to play? Head over to this post to read the rules and get the code.

Here's my pick this week:

Join Me in Death by HIM is kind of a macabre choice for this book; however, it keeps playing in my mind whenever I think about it.  It is especially weird when I am not overly fond of HIM. Hmm, I guess if I were to try and find meaning, I might link it to the fact that the teens are surrounded by death and Sloane desperately wants to end her life.  However, she is lucky enough to find someone through all of her hardship.  So, in some ways, maybe it is about this world they live in, death on all sides, etc.  But, then again, I could be completely full of shit ^_~

Well, that's my weird and macabre pick this week!  What's yours?  Leave a link in the comments to your post ^_^
Much love, Sinn

Apocalypse Watch Book Review — This is Not a Test

Title:  This is Not a Test
Author:  Courtney Summers
Genre:  Post-apocalyptic
Pages:  Oversize paperback, 322
Published:  June 2012
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
ISBN:  978-0-312-65674-4
Opening Lines:  "Lily, I woke up and the last piece of my heart disappeared.  I opened by eyes and I felt it go."

"It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?"

~ Goodreads

Thoughts:  Honestly, I wasn't sure to expect when I started this book.  Reading the description, it looked as if it might be an interesting adventure.  It seems as though a lot of young adult books are focusing on the apocalypse and/or the aftermath.  To me, that it an intriguing concept.

At the start of the book, the audience meets Sloane while she sits in her bathroom thinking about her sister and the veins in her wrists.  From her internal dialogue and her father's reaction to her, the audience learns that Sloane lives inside a nightmare—she is abused by her father, her sister left her, and she has decided to kill herself.  As she puts it later, she died a long time ago, her body just hasn't caught up.  And, from there, the zombie apocalypse hits her. She finds herself with a group of five teenagers trying to survive in their old high school.  All the while, she is struggling her with her own internal battle, her desire to end it all, and whether there really is a reason to continue trying.

This book was raw, heartbreaking, gritty, and real.  In some ways, out of all the books I have read this year, This is Not a Test has been the hardest.  Since the book is all written from Sloane's perspective, the audience is inside her head.  It was hard to live inside her nightmare, watch her relive her abusive past, struggle with trying to love someone, and trying to work out a way to die.  When she is offered a kind, gentle touch or some love and compassion, she is quick to shy away from it.  She makes comments that it is so foreign to her, she is unsure how to even respond.  On a deep level, I was able to connect with her.

I felt the author did a good job trying to flesh out the other characters and their interactions.  It was apparent that the teens really didn't know each other before they were thrust together.  While Sloane had spent the night at Grace and Trace's house, they were, at some level, still strangers.  They all knew Cary was a dealer and a slacker; Rhys hung out on the corner and smoked; and no one really knew Harrison.  However, even though they didn't know each other, they were all able to form some sort of bond due to the circumstances they were facing together.  The author did a wonderful job portraying that.  Even though it got hard to read and a little annoying, the tension between Trace and Cary was well done.  Honestly, at times, I wondered whether they would end up killing each other.

Most of the book is spent inside the school.  While the teens usually didn't stray too far from the auditorium, it was obvious that the author had a full blueprint of the school in her mind.  I loved how the school—and their previous classmates—became pseudo characters.  When they were going through the lockers, I found it a nice touch that Sloane and some of the other teens felt as though they were doing something wrong.  The fact that the classrooms were still a big part of their life and their identity, showed how they were still attached to their old life.  And, as a way to highlight this, the teens still called their English teacher Mr. Baxter.

However, aside from all the good things in this book, there are some things that really stuck out to me.  Even though her father was obsessive about hiding his abuse, I couldn't understand why the teachers didn't notice Sloane's behavior.  At some level, I think she wonders the same thing.  Further, I wish the author had stuck with Mr. Baxter a little longer.  While I liked his introduction and the story around it, I felt it ended all to quickly.  Finally, the grammar started to annoy me.  Honestly, it felt as though the author didn't understand compound sentences.  

Thinking about it, for me, this book really wasn't about zombies or the end of the world.  This book was about Sloane, her journey, and what needed to happen in order for her to wake up.  And it takes her until the end of the book for Rhys' comment to finally set in, "We're still here."  If you're looking for a book with a lot of zombie violence or horror, this book is not for you.  That being said, it was well written and wonderful.

Current Pages: 14,016
Current Progress:

45/50 books
Much love, Sinn

Welcome to Apocalypse Watch 2012

Welcome to Apocalypse Watch!  As you all know, December 21, 2012 is the predicted end of the world.  In celebration of the completion of the Mayan calendar, Sinnful Books commits to reading, watching, and listening to everything related to the apocalypse/post-apocalypse. 


If you want to join in the festivities, grab the button, read along, and post about it!  If you're a survivalist, tell us your story!

Much love, Sinn



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"If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag! If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass! It’s our time now, To let it all hang out!" I am a recovering English major, closet bibliophile, breve addicted, zombie lover with a rockabilly and heavy metal fetish.
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