RA for All...The Road Show!

I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview with Mira Grant

Here is a great interview by Jeff VanderMeer with Mira Grant the author of Feed (which I read here) and now Deadline (which I am reading right now).

Just passing it on...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What I'm Reading: Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies: A NovelRecently I finished the post-apocalyptic zombie novel, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.  Wait right there.  I know what you are thinking, "another post-apocalyptic zombie novel."  But this one is different.

Warm Bodies is Marion's first novel, and it is remarkable for what it is not.  It is not a story of how people are surviving after zombies rise up and destroy life as we know it.  Rather it is the story of a zombie, R, who cannot remember his life before he was a zombie, but with the help of Julie, his human friend, he is beginning to heal.

That's right, I said heal.  The zombie virus appears to be mutating.  And R and Julie, and their human-zombie friendship is leading toward a new future for life on earth by book's end.

I don't want to give much more away about the plot, rather, I want to talk about the appeal-- the "why" you would want to read this novel.

The main appeal to this story are the two main characters and their evolving relationship:  R (the zombie) and Julie (the young adult human). The entire book is from R's point of view.  He is an evolving zombie.  He is healing from the virus that made him a man-eating monster.  Through his relationship with Julie, he is learning to become human again.  As the two grow closer, Jule shares her personal thoughts about how humanity is choosing to live now. I was enthralled by R, how he evolves, and how together with Julie they tried to "change the world."

Since this novel is character centered over action centered, the pace is not super fast, but it is also not slow either.  It would call it "steadily building."  The pace is appropriate to the thought-provoking nature of the story.  As readers, we need a breather from the tense scenes so that we can sit back and process what just happened.  This is a novel of ideas, big ideas, about human civilization and life.  We experience it all through R and Julie, but we readers need time to think about things for ourselves too.

This novel is also appealing because it is so unexpected.  Yes, there have been zombie novels from the zombie's perspective before, but never have I read one that looks at the possibility of the zombies healing and rejoining the world, albeit a totally new world from the one we actually live in.  It is not just the overall theme and plot that are unexpected though.  R and Julie are interesting and original characters.  For someone who reads a lot of zombie books, it was nice to read one that surprised me.

I also want to comment on the setting, which I found extraordinary.  Interestingly, in Marion's imagination of a post-apocalyptic world, humans have turned their huge sports stadiums into new cities.  The scenes when R goes into the human settlement and describes what he sees were riveting.  It was a completely original way to look at how we would organize our lives after everything has collapsed.  Despite the overwhelming mass of fiction which has looked at this issue in the past, Marion managed to add something new to the pile.  I would suggest this book to readers just for these few chapters alone.

So it must now be asked, is Warm Bodies horror?  In the new book, I define horror as, "a story in which the author manipulates the readers' emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonists and provoke terror in the reader."

I think the answer to this question may depend on the reader.  The main goal of this novel is to explore the zombie apocalypse and posit a solution, a chance for the virus to be cured, and for civilization to go on again.  However, the unease is huge here.  Since we are in the head of a zombie (who does eat people during the book), we, the readers, are never fully at ease.  Even as our sympathy for R grows, we never fully trust him.  The book does not work if Marion does not play with our emotions and keep us unsteady, engrossed, and ultimately scared of what is coming next.

I would say that Warm Bodies is part of the "new" type of horror as begun by Joe Hill in Horns.  Click here to see where I discuss this issue in detail.  So be prepared to be frightened, but in an unexpected way.

Three Words That Describe This Book: thought-provoking, character-centered, unexpected

Where This Book Took Me (summer reading feature): post-apocalyptic America; into the brain of a zombie.

Readalikes:  The new book has a great chapter on zombie books.  If you haven't been able to tell by now, zombie books are my personal favorite horror stories.  So I have a ton of suggestions for sure bet zombie reads listed in there.  But specifically here, readers who liked the more thought-provoking style with a character centered (not action oriented) focus should try the following books featuring zombies:
The annotations for these suggestions will all appear in Chapter 7-- Zombies: Following the Walking Dead of the new book.

I did also see one Amazon reviewer liken R to Edward Scissorhands. I totally agree. So if you like that movie, try Warm Bodies.

Of course there is also an entire cottage industry in nonfiction zombie survival guides.  It all started with The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks.  But click through and see what else customers bought and you will find nonfiction options like this, this, and this.  

And don't forget the book you should suggest to R to read for himself (now that he is beginning to regain that skill): So Now You're a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stoker Awards Announced Last Night

Congrats to all of the winners...

HWA Announces 2010 Bram Stoker Award Winners

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL
A DARK MATTER by Peter Straub

Superior Achievement in a First Novel (tie)
BLACK AND ORANGE by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES by Lisa Morton

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
INVISIBLE FENCES by Norman Prentiss

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction
THE FOLDING MAN by Joe R. Lansdale

Superior Achievement in an Anthology
HAUNTED LEGENDS edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas

Superior Achievement in a Collection
FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King

Superior Achievement in Nonfiction
TO EACH THEIR DARKNESS by Gary A. Braunbeck

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
DARK MATTERS by Bruce Boston

HWA 2010 SPECIALTY PRESS AWARD GOES TO DARK REGIONS PRESS

ANGEL LEIGH McCOY AWARDED 2010 SILVER HAMMER AWARD

MICHAEL COLANGELO AWARDED 2010 RICHARD LAYMON AWARD

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Horror Audiobook Reviews

One of the arguments I make in Chapter 13 of the new book (available for pre-order now) is that horror works really well in audio.  In my book, I discuss this issue further and also provide a list of 10 sure bet audiobook for horror fans that are easily available at the public library.

However, this list is only a starting point. I am always on the lookout for more horror audiobook review sites. Recently I came across Audiobook Heaven, an audiobook review blog. They not only do a good job reviewing audiobooks, but also, they label each review well.  Any and all possible genres that the title could even remotely be classified as are included here.  In this time of blurring genre lines, their comprehensive labeling is much appreciated.

Use the following links to search Audiobook Heaven for yourself to find some audio tales of terror.  Happy Listening!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Watch the Stoker Awards LIVE this Saturday Night!


The Horror Writers Association has asked its members to spread the word that they are offering a live feed of the Stoker broadcast beginning at 9:30 this Saturday, June 18th.

Please use this link: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/horror-writer-awards to join the party. 

Here is the official website for Stoker Weekend 2011.

And as a reminder here are all of the nominees.  I am glad I wasn't eligible to vote.  How to choose between Joe Hill and Jonathan Maberry?