Backlist Bonus: The Dark and Hollow Places

8535273by Carrie Ryan
YA Dystopian
2 of 5 stars

This is much better than the previous book but Gabry’s sister Annah still has a bit of an issue taking charge of her own life. The twins were separated in the Forest of Hands and Teeth and now that the Dark City has largely fallen to the Horde, Annah is alone waiting for Elias to come back for her.

Annah considers herself the ugly twin because of the barbed wire scars across her face, and much of her story is spent lamenting her appearance and how it will prevent anyone from having feelings for her. A bit much to worry about in a world of the undead where it’s difficult to survive, but priorities. But before Elias returns, Annah meets someone new: Catcher, tied to everyone and everything she wants to forget about the past but who sees more than her scars or “Gabry’s sister” when he looks at her.

This is much darker and bleaker than the previous books and really draws you into the depression humanity feels, knowing it’s on the brink of obliteration. We see more of the shattered infrastructure of America, and the group feels more and more desperation to escape—despite the fact that a safe place to escape to might not exist. Aside from a haphazard scheme at the end (which completely departs from reality) this one is better paced and written than its predecessor. Just wasn’t exactly fun to read.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Dark and Hollow Places is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – The only zombie book I enjoyed, probably because there’s more wry humor than dark introspection about Earth’s fate. “R” lost most of his memories when he became undead, but Julie stirs something in him he thought was lost forever.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Not exactly zombies, but Maren’s ability to consume anyone who loves her—bones and all—has all the gore and chills you’d expect. When her mother abandons her, Maren seeks out her estranged father, trying to find out why she is a monster. See my review here.
  • Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan – A departure from dystopian but a story of revenge by the same author that had me turning the pages until the end. Francis survived a cruise ship disaster that took her best friend’s life, but she has a plan to dispense justice for those responsible. See my review here.

Backlist Bonus: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

zobieby Carrie Ryan
YA Dystopian
3 of 5 stars
Debut novel: March 10, 2009

I came across this book in an unusual way several years ago: I found my mother’s TBR list lying around the house and this book of all things was on there (along with the usual crime novels, travel books, and sisterhood/friendship stories). My mom was *not* a YA consumer, aside from Harry Potter (my influence). 🙂 Why on earth was she going to read a YA story about zombies? I had to know!

The premise grabbed me within the first few pages. Of course, it’s pretty clear the Sisterhood is hiding something and there are lot of details about the world we don’t know. But I really enjoyed the fact that zombies already destroyed the country, and the characters are dealing with the aftermath, with not knowing any other reality. So many apocalypse stories focus on the event itself, and somehow humanity overcomes the aliens/predators/zombies and that’s the end. This book followed what would happen if we failed, and that was much more interesting to me.

Mary is betrothed to a boy she doesn’t love, and longs to see the world outside of her fenced village. She wants to know if things like the ocean are real. If there are places where the Unconsecrated (the undead) haven’t taken over. The Sisterhood says their village is the last human stronghold left, but Mary isn’t so sure. When a girl comes to her village from outside the fence—wrecking everything Mary’s village knows about the world—Mary is determined to find out the truth for herself.

It’s not the most original plot and the characters felt a bit flat, but it was a quick read and I did want to know what would happen next. The atmosphere is vivid enough to make up for some of the writing’s deficiencies, though for a debut novel it’s pretty good. Plus I have a weird obsession with the cover art for the paperback—I don’t know, I just felt it captured the feel of the book and Mary’s character perfectly.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – Another account of a post-zombie apocalypse America, this time from a zombie’s point of view. “R” doesn’t remember his life or much of anything else, but when he sees Julie he has a sudden urge to protect her from the horrors of his hunting group. Weird, right? Don’t worry, it gets weirder. The film is good too.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren is an average teenage girl looking for her biological father because her mother abandoned her on her sixteenth birthday. Why is she alone? Because Maren has this habit of eating everyone who loves her, bones and all. See my review here.
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Pullman – Instead of flesh-eating monsters, Thom and Hester contend with cities that devour one another for resources in the wastelands of the post-apocalyptic world.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Although Katniss and Peeta aren’t faced with eating their opponents, they are in an arena where only one of the 24 competitors will come out alive. See my review here.
  • Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard – Eleanor is a penniless society girl who must marry well to save her family. She’s more concerned with finding her missing brother, and the Dead that are sweeping through Philadelphia. See my review here.

Daughter of Deep Silence

23281652by Carrie Ryan
YA Fiction/Suspense
3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed The Forest of Hands and Teeth (if not the sequels) so when I heard about this book it was a no-brainer to add it to my list. This is a standalone story of one girl’s quest for revenge–with the twist being she has taken on the identity of her rich best friend who did not survive the yacht’s sinking. Libby’s father suggests this as a way to protect Frances (the only survivor aside from a wealthy senator and his son–who lied about how the ship sank). So she assumes Libby’s identity, wealth, and life for four years, biding her time as she tries to uncover the truth to take the senator down. So far, so good.

The hangup for me was the romance. Frances and Grey (the senator’s son) experienced some insta-love on the cruise ship before the attack, and in the interim Frances comes to hate him because he goes along with hiding the truth. But when she returns to the estate (neighboring the senator’s of course) and begins to put her plans in motion to find out what the senator is hiding and get her revenge on his family, part of that plan involves forming a relationship with Grey. Of course it does, he’s a sensible tool for her revenge plot. However–she finds she still has feelings for him, four years later, based on a week of cruise ship 14-year-old insta-love? And these feelings proceed to alter and wreck her carefully laid plans? NO.

This was a fun, fast read until the last 50 pages or so. I was prepared to give it 4 stars. The suspense was spot-on, and even dealing with her growing attachment to Grey wasn’t so bad. But ultimately this book felt like a bit of a letdown. The revenge payoff wasn’t there for me–I’m not sure what I was expecting–but the build-up implied there would be so much more behind the attack and its motivations. I hate to fault it for being too realistic, but it didn’t match the tone of the rest of the story. Frances’ character arc was odd to me as well, because she wasn’t a total battle-hardened revenge badass (except in her own mind…) but this also wasn’t the tale of redemption we find in something like The Count of Monte Cristo.

I do recommend this book for a quick summer read–it has a fantastic blend of dark details and it’s a page-turner–but you decide what you think about the ending.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Daughter of Deep Silence is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – Weird things are happening around Chloe’s sister Ruby, and she isn’t sure she wants to find out why. This is a suspenseful, semi-paranormal story about two sisters in a small town. See my review here.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – The first in a detective series following Cormoran Strike, this has all the things to love about dramatic noir movies wrapped up in a suspenseful mystery novel. A good introduction to that genre if you haven’t tried it before.
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Told from two unreliable points of view, this thriller takes the revenge plot to a new level. Nearly impossible to put down!
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren just wants to be a normal teenage girl – if only she could stop eating every person she becomes close to. Her story of trying to find her father is dark but captivating. See my review here.
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes – This story is along the same lines. It having a more polished feel, but other than that check out the reviews on Goodreads and be prepared to add it to your list. See my review here.
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – This takes a similar feeling of suspense and mystery and adds a touch of paranormal to it, if you want to cross over into another genre. See my review here.

Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales

17310066Edited by: Melissa Marr & Tim Pratt
4 of 5 stars

Featuring: Saladin Ahmed, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Kami Garcia, Melissa Marr, Garth Nix, Tim Pratt, Carrie Ryan, Margaret Stohl, Gene Wolfe, Rick Yancey

These twelve short stories are a collection of famous works re-imagined by an excellent group of writers who grew up on them. Some of them, such as The Castle of Otranto, Sleeping Beauty, and The Awakening, I was familiar with, but for the most part this was a fun introduction to new and old tales for me.

Although not all of the original stories were in the fantasy genre, this collection adds a sense of magic and mystery to each one, and it struck the perfect balance of thematic connections between vastly different worlds. There’s something refreshing about reading an entire story in one sitting. These are perfect for a lunch break or those in-between moments in your day. The characters grapple with what it means to be human as they traverse Earth thousands of years in the future, fantasy kingdoms with evil witches, and dystopian futures ruled by cold machines and colder crime lords. Each character has such powerful goals and feelings, and despite only spending an hour or less in their company, you care about them so much. I can honestly say I enjoyed them all!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Rags & Bones is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  •  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Of course, he’s one of the author’s in this collection. This book is a novella, so you can read it quickly and it has the same fast bonding with characters in a strange setting. See my review here.
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – Her semi-parody of The Castle of Otranto is light-hearted and dramatic (Otranto was sort of the Twilight of her time). This is the quickest read and most accessible of her novels, in my opinion, because it’s just as much about a teenage girl exploring a mysterious mansion as it is about romance or Austen’s social commentary.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving – One of the best-known Americana ghost stories, and a fun read.

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