#NewRelease: See Me, by @SusanHatler

You’ve all seen my reviews of Susan Hatler’s romance series Better Date Than Never, with books like Love at First Date and Save the Date. But she doesn’t only write adult romance. Sometimes Hatler likes to change things up a bit like she did with Shaken, the first book in her Mind Reader series. Today, is another time she turns the tables on readers with the release of See Me. Want to see what I mean? Read on to find out more on this book, the first in Hatler’s Zombie Love series.

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See Me

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Amy Love, a high school junior, plays a Ouija board with friends one night and unintentionally connects with someone whose, well, not visible to the naked eye. When her body’s taken over and her soul is stuck watching helplessly—she’s terrified. When the zombie guzzles bologna that she will have to work off at the gym—she’s angry. And, when her zombied body pulls up a news article on her laptop about a boy named Jonathan Miller who was recently in a car crash—she’s . . . intrigued.

When the zombie chooses another host, Amy learns that the zombie is actually teen Jonathan Miller, son of the famous Maisy’s Meow comic creator Jacob Miller. Jonathan tells Amy he doesn’t know whether he’s dead or alive, only that when he’s not in a body, she is the only one who seems to know he exists.

Amy decides to help Jonathan discover what happened to him and, when they can’t find his body, they try to find a substitute—preferably one that isn’t occupied. On the journey, Jonathan leads Amy into all kinds of danger. To her surprise, he also leads her heart to somewhere unexpected. She’s always heard of love at first sight, not love at first fright, but how can Amy be falling for a boy she’s never even seen?

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You can grab a copy of See Me from:

Amazon | Kobo | B&N | iBooks

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About the Author:

Susan HatlerSUSAN HATLER is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, who writes humorous and emotional contemporary romance and young adult novels. Many of Susan’s books have been translated into German, Spanish, and Italian. A natural optimist, she believes life is amazing, people are fascinating, and imagination is endless. She loves spending time with her characters and hopes you do, too.

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A Storied Week – Week 2

A Storied Week

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It’s the second week of the A Storied Week series, and it seems like I’m still enjoying this. I may be holding off reading stories until the later half of the week, but as long as I keep reading at least 5 stories, the challenge is still alive and well.

This week, while reading, I came up with some ideas for future weeks in this challenge. Instead of just picking random stories to read each week, I think I’ll be doing some weeks that focus on a genre or topic. For example, for week three, I want to focus on fantasy short stories. The shorter they are the better.

Why short fantasy? I want to explore various authors’ ability to create a great fantasy story in a small amount of space. Normally fantasy novels are fairly thick, and even the shorter ones are somewhat dense in order to create the world and build up a great story. Some authors attempt this in short stories. I’ve read a few, some are good, and some are lacking. Week three will be my time to see how well fantasy works in the short story. Week four might be another genre or a subject, but we’ll just have to see what happens.

This week, I read a variety of stories with no one thing in mind. Here are my reflections on what I read…

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Middle Woman, by Orson Scott Card


I’ve read about half of Card’s most notable book, Ender’s Game, but this was my first fantasy story by the author. I picked it from the other stories compiled in Monkey Sonatas because it was only a few pages long. This time, it wasn’t due to laziness. I’m curious to see what authors can do with fantasy in limited word counts. I’ve been disappointed by some stories in the past, but this one didn’t leave me feeling that it was lacking.

The subtitle on the cover of the book is “Fables and Fantasies.” This story falls under fable, more than it does fantasy, though it does have strong fantasy elements. It’s a classic story of a person being granted three wishes. This time it’s by a dragon, not a genie. As usual, there’s a catch to each wish, but I found Ah -Cheu’s (the main character) way to get one over on the dragon great. The lesson taught by this fable is illustrated in the actions of Ah-Cheu and how even when facing tragedy, she refused to use her last wish, to instead overcome the obstacle on her own. Her life was a great one and she proved the dragon wrong by not giving in at any time.

So in conclusion, Card was able to bring a great message and story to his readers in a few pages. I’m hoping to explore these shorter fantasy stories more next week, as part of the challenge, and make it more genre oriented.

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Homicide John, by C.E. Paul

(review originally posted here)

I didn’t know much about this story going into it. Upon starting to read, it turns out that the blurb is the first paragraph of the story. Being that that’s out there, I don’t feel it’s much of a spoiler to say that this is a zombie story.

It was interesting enough, for the most part. I liked following along with a newly resurrected zombie, and seeing how he coped with his new “life.” There’s a good, if predictable, ending as well. What I’m still left wondering, though, is how he’s a zombie in a world that seems normal. He just wakes up and enters into civilization. I can’t figure out what caused him to become a zombie, out of nowhere. There’s a clue to how he died, but it’s still not the answer to why he’s “alive” again.

Still, it was an interesting story to spend a few minutes with. And I do like the author’s style. He moved the story along and kept me reading.

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Down at the Dinghy, by J.D. Salinger

I haven’t read Salinger before. I know, shocking. But that’s changed now, at least with one short story, so far. I enjoyed it, even though I’m not sure why exactly.

I found the little boy, Lionel, and interesting character. There’s an obvious issue there because he’s always running away from home. And he’s only four years old, but he seems older than that judging from his behavior and attitude in the scene with his mother, Boo Boo. I think there’s something here that I may have missed, especially after reading the analysis Wikipedia gives. Their reasoning only loosely explains this one episode, in my opinion, but not the entire issue with Lionel.

Having just watched the documentary Salinger, I know the Glass family is a big part of the author’s works. This story makes me want to read more about them, due to how complex this story was, alone. I can see it getting very in depth as I explore more of the Glass’ stories.

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The father, by Raymond Carver

Again, I’ve found a story that’s exceptionally short, but packs a punch. In print, it barely goes over one and a third pages.

I read this story two ways. Both of my interpretations lead me to question identity. I’d like to be brief, though, and not spoil this story. I found it to be great and wish for those who want to read it to look at it without prior influence. I could probably say a lot about the story, though. It seems to be the case  with the few Carver stories I’ve read in the past, as well. I’m beginning to feel I’m a Carver fan.

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Black Death, by Zora Neal Hurston

I think the oddest thing about the story was the dialogue. the story takes place early in the 20th century, in Florida, and the character’s dialogue is written in the “broken” way of the region/time period (for lack of a real term for it. I’m not a linguist and I’m drawing a blank right now for a real word for it). the story also has strong racial themes, as well as a bit of gender commentary with a “don’t mess with a woman or her reputation” message.

While I said the dialogue was “odd” for me, it’s only because I’m not used to reading it. I found that it did aid the atmosphere of the story. It really helped set the scene. I also liked the magical elements of the hoodoo doctor and his “accomplishments.” It was interesting to read a story that had an emphasis on this magic being real and how white people wouldn’t understand even with evidence in front of them.

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Have you read any short stories this week? Do you know of any short stories to suggest to me or my readers? Feel free to share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments on this post or more privately through the contact page, if you want you’d like to type something longer up.

#Review: Homicide John, by C.E. Paul

Title: Homicide John
Author: C.E. Paul
Rating: 3/5 stars

“John Zero-Zero-Two had been dead for some time now, although he didn’t realize it right away. In fact, even when he did realize it, he was in complete and utter denial. Never mind his lack of pulse, his lack of circulation, his lack of breath…he remained animated, despite his horrific appearance when he caught sight of himself in a window reflection. His muddled eyes sat in deep, recessed shadows, and there was some sort of odd, dark liquid dribbling from his desiccated mouth….” (description Goodreads)

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I didn’t know much about this story going into it. Upon starting to read, it turns out that the blurb is the first paragraph of the story. Being that that’s out there, I don’t feel it’s much of a spoiler to say that this is a zombie story.

It was interesting enough, for the most part. I liked following along with a newly resurrected zombie, and seeing how he coped with his new “life.” There’s a good, if predictable, ending as well. What I’m still left wondering, though, is how he’s a zombie in a world that seems normal. He just wakes up and enters into civilization. I can’t figure out what caused him to become a zombie, out of nowhere. There’s a clue to how he died, but it’s still not the answer to why he’s “alive” again.

Still, it was an interesting story to spend a few minutes with. And I do like the author’s style. He moved the story along and kept me reading.

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You can grab a copy of this story from:

Amazon

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For more on the author:

#Review: The Last Zombie, by R.J. Spears

Title: The Last ZombieThe Last Zombie
Author: R.J. Spears
Rating: 4/5 stars

Five decades ago, a deadly virus spread across the earth, causing the dead to rise and attack the living. Humanity fought back and won, but at great cost. Public sentiment called for the eradication of the undead and they were exterminated. 

All but one. Scientist secretly called for that last specimen to be protected for research, but one person doesn’t want that specimen around any longer.” (description from Goodreads)

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This was a nice short story about a different part of a zombie apocalypse; the aftermath.

As the description mentions, it’s decades after humanity got a hold on the virus and is back on its feet. But the threat is still in the world, hidden away for experimentation. Knowing that we still have deadly viruses locked up for study in the real world, this feels like a “realistic” situation were there to be a zombie virus one day. In a way, this story can be viewed as a commentary on the dangers of not eliminating all deadly diseases no matter how small a stockpile we keep for studying. What would happen if it got loose again? Could it be stopped again? I won’t get into more of the specifics since it’s hard to not spoil such a short story, but I hope I gave something to think about when reading.

Not only did I like the concept behind the story, I also liked the style used in telling it. Spears combined a normal narrative with fragments of various official  (in the world of the story) documents of the events that took place. Even though there wasn’t much to this story in length, the author was able to use each word effectively and tell a lot through this combination.

The only issue was a few spots that needed a quick proofread. A word missing here and there. Also the formatting was a little awkward in that the entire story has a wide left margin. Being that I read in a “larger” font, this made the column of words narrow and often only three words to a line. It wasn’t a huge turn off, but it still isn’t something I overlook when reading.

If this little story if any indication of what Spears has to offer in his other work, I have a feeling I’ll be adding some to my reading pile soon.

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You can purchase a copy of this book from:
Amazon

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About the Author:

R.J. Spears splits his writing time between mystery/crime and horror. His stories have appeared on A Twist of Noir, Shotgun Honey, Flashes in the Dark, and the Horror Zine along with other sites. His zombie books Forget the Alamo, Sanctuary from the Dead, and Forget Texas can be found on Amazon. His first Dan Daulton mystery will be released later this year by J. Ellington Ashton Press.

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#Review: Dead Man Walking, by Marty Shaw

Title: Dead Man Walking (Voodoo Zombie #1)dead man walking
Author: Marty Shaw
Rating: 4/5 stars

“It was just another routine execution… until the condemned killer came back as an undead, unstoppable, killing machine.

Now, a handful of correctional officers and inmates are trapped within the walls of the prison as a legion of the walking dead stalks them for food.

The ammo is limited, the zombie army is growing, and one correctional officer is pushed to his limits as he realizes that death is no longer the end.

Dead Man Walking, a novelette with approximately 10,970 words, is the first story in the exciting Voodoo Zombie trilogy.” (description from Goodreads)

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I grabbed a copy after a friend had tweeted about it, the other day. It’s at times like those when I have the chance of finding a gem. In this case, I did find a gem of a story by grabbing a copy of Dead Man Walking.

While this story might have been a little short for my liking, it wasn’t obnoxiously short. It was a fast paced read that didn’t waste time in getting the story out. It’s because of the pace, that I feel it could have been lengthened just a little bit to expand on a few areas. Though, it in no way killed the story.

One of the great things about this zombie story it leans toward a different type of virus “origin.” It’s not spoiler to mention that voodoo is afoot, though the full explanation isn’t revealed. I’m hoping for a reveal of that factor in the coming stories. The main character, Griffin, had no time to really piece things together due to him trying to stay alive.

If you’re looking for a fast read, full of action and the undead, check out Dead Man Walking. It was an exciting story and I have hopes for the next story in the series, Zombie Queen.

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You can grab a copy of Dead Man Walking from:

Amazon | Smashwords | B&N | Kobo

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About the Author:

I came crawling from the primordial ooze when the light of the first full moon fell upon me.

Okay, not really, but that sounds totally awesome, doesn’t it?

Actually, I’m the author of the Voodoo Zombie series, currently consisting of Dead Man Walking and Zombie Queen, the urban fantasy adventure, Dreadful Beginnings, and a horror-paranormal-erotica story, Little Demons.

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#Review: Red Hill, by @JamieMcGuire

Title: Red Hill
Author: Jamie McGuire
Rating: 4/5 stars

“When the world ends, can love survive?

For Scarlet, raising her two daughters alone makes fighting for tomorrow an everyday battle. Nathan has a wife, but can’t remember what it’s like to be in love; only his young daughter Zoe makes coming home worthwhile. Miranda’s biggest concern is whether her new VW Bug is big enough to carry her sister and their boyfriends on a weekend escape from college finals.

When reports of a widespread, deadly “outbreak” begin to surface, these ordinary people face extraordinary circumstances and suddenly their fates are intertwined. Recognizing they can’t outrun the danger, Scarlet, Nathan, and Miranda desperately seek shelter at the same secluded ranch, Red Hill. Emotions run high while old and new relationships are tested in the face of a terrifying enemy—an enemy who no longer remembers what it’s like to be human.

Set against the backdrop of a brilliantly realized apocalyptic world, love somehow finds a way to survive. But what happens when the one you’d die for becomes the one who could destroy you?

Red Hill grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go until its stunning conclusion. This is #1 New York Times bestselling author Jamie McGuire at her unforgettable best.” (description from Goodreads)

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I’m torn about my feelings for this book. It’s one of the few times (maybe even the first) when I’ve read a book that was a definite 5 star read, one that would be a contender for top book of the year, but then the ending changes that reaction drastically.

For me, Red Hill is a great book. The characters that McGuire writes are very well written and complex. There’s no lack of detail in the setting either. There’s a lot of action when there needs to be and some slower scenes to build up suspense. As I said, about 95% of the book was one of the best I’ve read in awhile, especially in the zombie genre.

It wasn’t until the end that I had a change of attitude. I don’t like picking at a book for a small part of it, but the ending of Red Hill just doesn’t sit right with me. For one thing, it was predictable, especially given the genre, but that can be overlooked if not for a few other factors. Another thing is that it basically turned many of the main characters into secondary characters. It’s not that they were forgotten, instead they were pushed aside to make way for (even though I considered these characters the underlying main attraction) a few to become the major players. Overall, it felt too rushed. The book was very well written and thought out, and then there was a rush to end the book, almost.

Lastly, and I’ll keep this brief, I felt the epilogue didn’t even belong in this book. I can see it as a way to set up an avenue for a sequel…though I feel it’ll be a very different book than this one and much less believable (if we allow room for some “realism” in the zombie genre). It added an interesting concept, but it was out of place for what I’d just read.

Despite the fact that the ending left me not so comfortable calling this one of my favorite books, a majority of it was great. Spectacular even. I can understand why there’s a great buzz around Red Hill. Just be ready for a possible change of heart come the ending, or not, depends on the reader, I guess.

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You can purchase a copy of Red Hill from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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About the Author:

Jamie McGuire was born in Tulsa, OK. She attended the Northern Oklahoma College, the University of Central Oklahoma, and Autry Technology Center where she graduated with a degree in Radiography.

Her most recent novel, Walking Disaster debuted at #1 on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. She has also written bestselling contemporary romance Beautiful Disaster, and the Providence series.

Jamie now lives in Enid, OK with her three children and husband Jeff, who is a real, live cowboy. They share their 30 acres with six horses, three dogs, and Rooster the cat.

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#Review: Hollowland, by @Amanda_Hocking

Title: Hollowland (The Hollows #1)Hollowland
Author: Amanda Hocking
Rating: 5/5 stars

“Hollowland – the first book in the young adult dystopian series The Hollows..

“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

Nineteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way – not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.

This is a young adult title with some language, violence, and mild sexual situations recommended for ages sixteen and up.” (description from Goodreads)

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I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Over a year ago, I read Hocking’s Switched, which I enjoyed, but Hollowland was a step beyond on the enjoyment level. Hocking’s Hollowland was simply a great novel for its zombies, characters, and the world built inside it’s pages.

One thing I really liked about this book was that the author didn’t spare the reader from any of the gore or unpleasantness that occurs in a world where zombies and the destruction of civilization as we know it is the “norm.” In the scenes where zombies are attacking the main characters, there’s much description of how much blood, limbs, etc are flying around and breaking, and dying. Hocking makes sure the reader knows just what it’s like to encounter these creatures, like any good zombie book should. Some of the description of how the zombies’ bodies hold up to attacks are slightly repetitive, but it also drives the point across that these once human bodies have changed drastically because of the virus.

Remy, the narrator and main character, is one of the better characters I’ve read this year. She’s strong, determined, and rarely shows a sign of weakness, even if a love interest in introduced. She’s living in a world where survival is top priority and she doesn’t let anything get in her way of that. I found this to be a great part of the book. All of the characters were really well-written, actually. They were all developed over the course of the book and even a few that I didn’t like in the beginning, grew on me. Oh and Ripley, I want that to be a surprise, but she might be my favorite character in the book.

Upon finishing this book, I knew I’d want book 2. It’s not a common occurrence for me, either. It ended nicely and was set up for what I’m sure will be an exciting continuation. I can only hope that there’s more excitement, blood and gore, and danger in my reading future.

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You can grab a copy of Hollowland from:

Amazon | Smashwords | KoboB&N

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About the Author:

I live in Minnesota, and I write young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly. The My Blood Approves series is about vampires in Minneapolis, and its available now. I also wrote the Trylle Trilogy, which is a paranormal romance without vampires, shifters, mermaids, fae, angels, dragons, ghosts, or ninjas.

My latest book is Hollowland – a zombie urban fantasy set in the dystopian near future. It’s a bit more violent and grittier than my other books, but there is still romance. Mostly though, Remy kicks a lot of butt.

I also enjoy Red Bull, Jim Henson, Batman, Jane Austen, Star Wars legos, and I absolutely hate long walks on the beach out of my intense fear/hatred of wet sand

My favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Alan Moore, and J. D. Salinger, but I don’t write anything like them. I have an obsession with River Phoenix, and I’ve seen Silence of the Lambs more than any other movie, even The Dark Knight. If I were trapped on a deserted island, the one thing I’d take with me would be a boat capable for taking me home.

I’m also the guitarist in a band called the Fraggin Aardvarks, and even though its even twice as cool as it sounds, we haven’t had a practice in like two years, so I’m not sure that technically we are still a band. But we never broke up, and it’s an awesome thing to tell people, so I’m sticking with it. (We even had a synthesizer!)

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