World War Z

Author: Max Brooks
Publisher: Duckworth Overlook
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Date Read: April 1st to 7th, 2014
Review:
If you’ve read my review of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, you would know that my interest in zombie apocalyose fiction has been heightened thanks to The Walking Dead. Thanks to fantastic stories behind different fictional apocalypses, my reading interests in the genre have expanded. This inevitably led me to World War Z.

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On The Beach

Author: Nevil Shute
Publisher: Pan
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: February 24th to 28th, 2014
Review:
When it comes to the end of the world books and movies, you don’t really hear a lot about Australia. Everyone’s so worried about the US and Europe that nobody thinks of us down here in little old Australia. On The Beach shows what happens to Australia when the rest of the world is dying out.

After radioactively bombing the hell out of each other, China, Russia, America and the rest of the northern hemisphere are no more. As the radioactive poisoning drifts southward, infecting the entire world, the last major city existing is Melbourne, Australia, where life is continuing as normal for its inhabitants who just can’t accept that the end of the world is coming to them. So they keep going to work and planting gardens and thinking about next month, next season, next year – even when, in their hearts, they know their time is limited, they just carry on. Captain Towers plans to go home to his wife and children in America when his deployment is up, the Holmes’ plan their garden they won’t be around to see, Moira Davidson takes a typing course she won’t use. No one wants to face what’s coming to them, so they just live their lives as normally as they can.

This is what got to me the most. There was no rioting, no stealing from each other, nothing untoward because there was just nothing the people could do but help each other through to the end. From the farmer who offered to take Mary Holmes milk while her husband Peter was at sea, to Moira Davidson who kept a lonely American sailor company through his last months when he was separated from his family – everyone did what they could to help their neighbour. And if we (I don’t mean ‘we’ the Australians but ‘we’ as the human race) were ever arrogant enough to get ourselves in a position that meant the extermination of life on Earth, I would hope that this is what would happen. That we wouldn’t turn against each other, or fight for the last of the supplies, but support each other through to the end.

There was something about the simple tone of this novel, and the quiet determination of the people to just live through one more day until they couldn’t anymore that was incredibly touching. It is a very bleak and worrying vision of the future. It wore something down in me just thinking of how it would be, knowing you and everyone else left on Earth had only a week or so to live. Feeling yourself getting sick, and knowing that you were the last of the human race. The novel is simply about the death of the human race and the T.S. Eliot quote in the front of the book is extremely fitting: This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.

This book is an Australian classic that we don’t talk about enough.

Angelfall

Author: Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & The End of Days, Book 1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Star Rating: 4.5/5
Date Read: October 10th to 11th, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
I was of the impression, before I started this book, that we really didn’t need any more YA angel stories. Been there, read that, nothing different, yawn, big flapping things. But after seeing so many glowing reviews for this book, I thought (as I do!) I’d give it a go.

It’s the apocalypse. And the end of humankind can be attributed to the angels who flew down from somewhere (not yet been confirmed if it is in fact from Heaven!) and started destroyed the world as we know it. 17-year-old Penryn spends her time and energy trying to find food and shelter for her wheelchair bound sister, Paige, and their schizophrenic mother. But when they witness a fight (five on one, mind you!) between angels, where the one has his wings sliced off (ouch!), Paige is swept up by an angel and carried off. Her mother having fled, Penryn knows she must do anything to find her sister, and she’ll use the injured wingless angel as a hostage to help her.

I enjoyed this book far more than any of the other ‘angel’ books I have read. The apocalypse seems so surreal and yet because of it, it is fascinating. Penryn is strong, determined and stubborn but despite this tough facade you can see how important her sister is to her and that she really will do anything to get her back. Raffe, the injured angel, is intriguing. I really want to know his backstory, and more of Penryn’s too. Slow reveals are agonising but I think this one will be worth it in the end! I like how Penryn thinks, how she won’t let anyone tell her what to do. There was a line that stuck out to me, But I’m not quite ready to throw away centuries of scientific progress to start thinking like a medieval peasant (page 235). So they say they’re messengers from God? Prove it!

There were a few lines that made me chuckle as well, especially watching Raffe and Penryn trade insults. But also my heart broke a little bit to see how much he cared for her in the end, knowing that as its the end of the world and all, there may not be anything for them. Especially considering the cross-species thing. All in all I was thoroughly entertained by this novel and am looking forward to the next one! So much for not caring for more angel books!

Find my review of Book 2 of this series, World After, here.

Monsters

Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Series: Ashes Trilogy, Book 3
Publisher: Quercus
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: November 5th to 7th, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
It is very rare that I am satisfied with the ending of a YA trilogy/series. At the end of Monsters I felt breathless, my chest contracting, like I’d been running a marathon. I feel slightly exhausted. I devoured this in two days, unable to put it down amid all my study, hoping and hoping that somehow, things would turn out alright.

Needless to say, Monsters, a huge chunk of a novel promising a lot, did not disappoint me. I was flipping those pages so quickly, so worried about what would happen to Alex and Tom and Ellie. I needed to know, and I needed to know now! Unfortunately, I still couldn’t feel the same attachment to Chris and Peter and Wolf and the other characters, and so while their chapters were interesting and were essential to the story to show what was happening elsewhere and to tie up all the ends, a lot of the time I couldn’t wait to get to the end in the hope that the next chapter would be Alex or Tom or Ellie. So many times they were so close to one another and I just wished they would all be reunited. Always a sucker for a happy ending.

Speaking of endings – this one was interesting. I’m still intrigued. I want to know what happened next! Where they went, what they did. I didn’t realise until I got there that I wasn’t ready for this to end yet. But a story like this doesn’t really end. There was so much left, so much to rebuild. And what would be waiting for them at Houghton? It feels like a cliffhanger to a TV show, knowing that there won’t be any more because it’s been axed. Frustrating! I want to hang on to Alex and Tom and Ellie a little more. I want to know more about what caused the EMP in the first place, what happened to the rest of the world? On the other hand, for Alex it doesn’t really matter at the moment. All they’re thinking of is how to get through each day. They’ve defeated enemies before, but there will be more. There will always be more in a crazed apocalyptic world. After everything they’ve gone through, though, I think they can handle it. Possibly one of the strongest teams in YA lit. There is everything to love about this series.

Find my review of Book 1 of this series, Ashes, here.
Find my review of Book 2 of this series,
Shadows, here.

Shadows

Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Series: Ashes Trilogy, Book 2
Publisher: Quercus
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: November 1st to 5th, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
Wow I hate the exam period. I just want to hide away somewhere with these books and not be disturbed by anyone until I make it to the end, as breathless as if I’d been running a marathon. That’s how I feel now, at the end of Shadows and I can just imagine what Monsters will be like, as it stares up at me from the top of my TBR pile next to my bed.

A warning, though, if you’re thinking of reading these books: They are not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of bloody, gory descriptions and characters that you don’t expect to die, will probably die. Out of nowhere. And really you know you should expect it, but you don’t. Shadows is very graphic, even more so than Ashes, its predecessor. Personally, as horrible as it may be (lucky I don’t nightmare easy), I think it really adds to the drama and the realness of the book. It’s like a movie, watching it all unfold in my mind. And it may be horrible, but I guess that’s just life in an apocalypse.

The only problem I had with this book, is that unlike Ashes, which was all from Alex’s point of view, we now have multiple POVs. And while I am so glad that Tom is back in the story again (!!), it’s hard to follow Chris and Peter’s individual POVs and keep a handle on everything that’s going on. Believe me, there’s a lot going on here! I am enjoying the increasing complexities of the story (and I have so many questions keeping me reading!) but I just wish that the various character storylines were handled better. I will be really getting into one and then all of a sudden it changes, then I get sucked into the next one and forget what the others are doing. However, the insight into the other characters and the other events going on is good. It doesn’t make you feel as blinded as to what else is happening out there, outside of where Alex is, and I think that’s the point.

Monsters, the next book, is a big read by the look of it and I can’t wait to get it into it and have some (all!) of my questions answered (hopefully!)

Find my review of Book 1 of this series, Ashes, here.
Find my review of Book 3 of this series, Monsters, here.

Ashes

Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Series: Ashes Trilogy, Book 1
Publisher: Quercus
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: October 31st to November 1st, 2013
Read Count: 2
Review:
This is my second read of Ashes, which I decided to do after finding out the third one was out. I hadn’t yet read the second, to be honest I kind of just read Ashes, moved onto other books and forgot about it, giving it three stars. Maybe it was the zombie thing.

But after watching three and a bit seasons of The Walking Dead and loving it, I figured I’d give the Ashes trilogy another go. So I bought the others and went back to book one. I really enjoyed this until, of course, the introduction of the inevitable love triangle (why oh why?).

I thought this book was set up really well. Alex is a seventeen-year-old whose had a run of bad luck. Her parents have died in an accident and then she finds out she has a tumour in her brain. She’s decided to stop treatment and do things her way. So she cuts school and heads up into the wilderness where she used to camp with her parents, to scatter their ashes, say goodbye and work out what to do next. While she’s up there, an electromagnetic pulse destroys almost everything. Of those who are left behind, the young have transformed into, for lack of a better word, zombies – but they aren’t the typical mindless creatures you imagine when you hear that word.

The premise works well – I found that just enough was explained, or worked out, by the characters for me to be satisfied. A lot of the time, I find that dystopian books are set in the future where the world changing events have already happened. In Ashes we are experiencing it at the same time as the characters, not all who are willing to accept their plight. Alex, who was lackluster about life beforehand, has found a new fight in herself and a will to survive. I still have plenty of questions, but I’m hoping they will be answered as our characters find out more about what happened to the world they thought they knew.

Along the way, Alex is stuck with eight-year-old Ellie, whose grandfather drops dead when the pulse is emitted, and Tom, a young army guy on leave. Their trio is fighting together and for each other, and they bond quickly. But then they are ripped apart and Alex is on her own again, ending up in the only standing civilisation she has encountered so far, a barricaded town called Rule, where there is a semblance of normalcy (in case your wondering this is where we encounter the love triangle). But Alex has learnt to question everything that is going on around her and her biggest problem is finding who she can trust – because everyone seems to have an agenda. And of course, how will she find Tom and Ellie?

*The next paragraph contains minor spoilers. Read at own risk!*

A note on the love triangle: Love triangles are perhaps my most hated plot device in YA literature. And even though I despise them, I think I can see how this could almost work. I personally like Tom. Chris is a funny character and I don’t trust him. There’s too much secret business going on in Rule and he is a part of it. Alex should be wary. But then, what if Tom is gone for good? Why shouldn’t she move on and find some happiness? But you can tell its eating at her, she has to know if he’s out there or not. And I think that fact is enough to say that maybe she felt more for Tom than even she knew. But when you’re 17 and you’re experiencing what just may be the apocalypse, how do you make those sorts of decisions? Just a few rambling thoughts on that note. Will be interesting to see where the author takes it from here.

Find my review of Book 2 of this series, Shadows, here.
Find my review of Book 3 of this series,
Monsters, here.

World After

Author: Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & The End of Days, Book 2
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: January 23rd
Read Count: 1
Review:
The best part about reading Angelfall so long after everyone else seemed to have read it was that I didn’t have as long to wait for book 2, World After. The problem with reading World After so soon after release is the agonizing wait for book 3…

But I’m very glad that there will be a book 3. And a book 4 and a book 5. I am in love with the characters: smart, strong Penryn; the angel Raffe and brave Paige, once wheelchair bound and now some sort of machine. They have been crafted and developed flawlessly, poised to save the world from further destruction by the angel invasion. Infused with humour and a dash of forbidden romance (how is it going to work?!), this is the type of angel fiction I have been waiting for. As well as a cast of very interesting supporting characters – namely Penryn and Paige’s crazy mother and the twins, Dee and Dum – it all makes for an appealing series. I never have any idea where the story is about to go. I knew that Raffe would show up again sooner or later, but other than that I am being taken on a ride where I can’t see around the corner. And I’m loving it.

The wait is on. Come on, book 3!

Find my review of Book 1 of this series, Angelfall, here.