Deadline by Mira Grant

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 581 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Deadline by Mira Grant is the second in the NewsFlesh series; see my review of Feed and be aware that could be spoilers in this review.  Following the presidential campaign of Peter Ryman, the news blog After the End Times has grown exponentially, and Shaun Mason hardly keeps track of the day to day administration of the site or who actually works for the business.  He’s still in mourning, but he knows that he has a team to lead, and he does it as best he can, while being mentally haunted by the dead.  No longer and Irwin who pokes zombies for ratings, Shaun has jumped to lead the Newsies and has no desire to return to the field.  Unfortunately, stumbling upon a larger-than-life conspiracy significantly changes his plans to hide in the background, pushing him and his team out into the field and on the run.

“‘Mahir, my main man! You sound a little harried.  Did I wake you?’
‘No, but I really do wish you’d stop calling so late at night.  You know Nandini gets upset when you do.’
‘There you go again, assuming that I’m not actually trying to piss of your wife.  I’m really a much nicer person inside your head, aren’t I? Do I give money to charity and help old-lady zombies across streets so that they can bite babies?’
Mahir sighed.  ‘My, you are in a mood today, aren’t you?'” (page 25)

Combining zombie infestations, anxiety, and conspiracy theories with humor, Mira Grant has built a world in which bloggers have replaced traditional news mediums and surviving zombie infestations is an everyday battle.  Kellis-Amberlee is the result of two bio-engineered viruses combining into something unexpected, and it it causes amplification in any mammal of 40 lbs or more to transform them into zombies.  Shaun and his team report on infestations, outbreaks, and other newsworthy items, as well as post fiction poems, stories, etc. on zombies and other things in their lives.  Generating ratings is a tough business following a successful president election.  Grant includes enough background in her second novel that it could be picked up without reading the first, but there could have been additional editing, as there was too much backstory included from the previous novel.

Deadline by Mira Grant is a fun romp in zombie infested waters, and will be a delight for those who love novels with government conspiracies.  While there is little that is resolved in this book, as there is a third book in the series, there is enough here to whet readers’ appetites for more.  Grant’s world is a unique post-apocalyptic rendering in which not only is surviving essential, but the world has irrecoverably changed from politics and media to how families cope and communities interact.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Northern California, Mira Grant has made a lifelong study of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. In college, she was voted Most Likely to Summon Something Horrible in the Cornfield, and was a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, where her record for time survived in the Swamp Cannibals scenario remains unchallenged.

Mira lives in a crumbling farmhouse with an assortment of cats, horror movies, comics, and books about horrible diseases. When not writing, she splits her time between travel, auditing college virology courses, and watching more horror movies than is strictly good for you. Favorite vacation spots include Seattle, London, and a large haunted corn maze just outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Mira sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests that you do the same.

Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 144 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton and introduction by Cheryl Strayed, is fantastic for those who are interested in not only body art but personal stories.  Some of the stories behind the tattoos illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton are silly, while others are sad a some are inspiring.  The illustrations are colorful and fantastic, though readers may almost prefer to see photos of the stunning art work of the tattoos.  But that’s a minor complaint given the personal stories behind the tattoos.  It is not just that the tattoos tell a story but that these tattoos contain memories for their bearers.

Isaac Fitzgerald says in the preface, “My tales of driving trucks through small Massachusetts towns, drunk and with no license, made me who I was.  I learned that people define you by your stories.”  And in many ways, it is not just your stories that others use to define you, but it is also how you define yourself.  Tattoos are an expression of those stories and those memories you hold dear and choose to share, and those tattoos and memories also can define you.

From the introduction by Cheryl Strayed, “Each of the stories is like being let in on sixty-three secrets by sixty-three strangers who passed you on the street or sat across from you on the train.  They’re raw and real and funny and sweet.  They speak of lives you’ll never live and experiences you know precisely.  Together, they do the work of great literature — gathering a force so true they ultimately tell a story that includes us all.”

Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton and introduction by Cheryl Strayed, could become a series of books with other tattooed professionals, students, and non-professionals that provide a look into not only the variety of people who get tattoos but the various reasons that people get tattoos.  How these individuals feel about their tattoos now is irrelevant to why they were added to their bodies in the first place — whether a tribute to a loved one or a passion for an unwritten future.

About the Author:

Isaac Fitzgerald has been a firefighter, worked on a boat, and been given a sword by a king, thereby accomplishing three out of five of his childhood goals. He is co-founder of Pen & Ink, co-owner of The Rumpus, and the editor at BuzzFeed Books.

About the Illustrator:

Wendy MacNaughton is an illustrator and a graphic journalist based in San Francisco. Her documentary series Meanwhile tells the stories of communities through drawings and the subject’s own words, and is being published as an anthology by Chronicle Books in 2014. She’s illustrated two other forthcoming books: Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, by Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton (Bloomsbury, 2013) and The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Wine, by Richard Betts (Houghton Mifflin, 2013).

She has degrees in fine art/advertising and social work from Art Center College of Design and Columbia University. When they let her, she likes to talk with students at Art Center College of Design, and she is an artist in residence at Intersection for the Arts.

About the Introduction Writer:

Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild, will be published by Knopf in March 2012. It will also be published in Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Her novel, Torch (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) was a finalist for the Great Lakes Book Award and was selected by The Oregonian as one of the top ten books of the year by writers from the Pacific Northwest. Strayed’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Allure, Self, The Missouri Review, Brain, Child, The Rumpus, The Sun and elsewhere. The winner of a Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, her essays and stories have been published in The Best American Essays, The Best New American Voices, and other anthologies. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She’s a founding member of VIDA: Women In Literary Arts, and serves on their board of directors. Raised in Minnesota, Strayed now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, the filmmaker Brian Lindstrom, and their two children.

74th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 11+ hours
On Amazon and on Kobo

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, narrated by Orlagh Cassidy, chronicles the disjointed life of a woman who has lost her memory in an accident.  Each night, while she is sleeping, she loses all her memories of her present and past.  She remembers her life up until about her 20s, but only the journal she keeps helps her remain grounded in the life and the husband she no longer recognizes.  This is a fast-paced debut novel that examines the role that memory plays in how we identify ourselves and our own happiness.  Christine Lucas is a writer who is struggling each day to remember her life before an accident wiped out her memories, an accident she doesn’t even remember.  As she begins keeping a secret journal and meeting with Dr. Nash to try some treatments to regain her memory, dark secrets about her life, her past, and her current situation bubble to the surface.

Watson has carefully crafted a character adrift in her own life, and while some of the details are needlessly repeated as she wakes from sleep each morning and struggles to remember her life, readers are swept up in this mystery.  As the book is told from Christine’s point of view, the reader has only her knowledge to draw conclusions from, and this can be frustrating.  While the cues are there to unravel the mystery beforehand, readers will likely enjoy this crazy journey as well as become frustrated with the main character’s stupid decisions from time to time.  There are times when reading the journal should have taken much more time than it seems to, which would have left her little time to do much else in a day, especially for someone who wakes up with a blank slate every morning.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, which was out October book club selection, was an interesting debut, and it did mirror the feel of the movie Memento, but the ending was disappointing and some parts in the middle dragged a bit.  While this is fast-paced toward the end when everything starts to fall in place, there could have been further editing in the middle that would have tightened this up more and made it even more thrilling.

A note about the narrator, her voice really grated on my for some reason and she seemed to lose the tone when speaking as a male character, slipping back into Christine’s voice, which made it hard for me to follow along at certain points.

About the Author:

S J Watson was born in the UK, lives in London and worked in the NHS for a number of years.  In 2011 Watson’s debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, was released to critical acclaim. It has now been published in over 40 languages, and has become an international bestseller, winning numerous awards.   The movie of Before I Go To Sleep, starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong, is due for worldwide release in Autumn 2014. Watson’s second book is out in Spring 2015.

What Book Club Thought (Beware of spoilers):

Most of the book club felt that this was a quick and entertaining read, even though many of us didn’t think the mystery was much of one.  The writing was well done for the most part, and with it being made into a movie a few people expressed interest in seeing it, either on video or on Netflix, etc. I personally thought a better twist would have been to have Dr. Nash be her son. While one person couldn’t even get into the book at all.  There was quite a bit of repetition, which may have grated on people early on, but when a main character has no ability to make new memories, they tend to repeat things.

73rd book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

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