Pale Rider: Zombies versus Dinosaurs by James Livingood

LivingoodPaleRiderWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Michael C. Gwynne

Publisher: Paperbackward (2015)

Length: 57 minutes

Author’s Page

The zombie virus was initially misdiagnosed. Of course it would be. Eventually, it spread and society as we know it collapsed. A new method of transport was needed, one that did not depend on petroleum products and was immune to the virus. Some scientists got together and gengineered large reptilian birds to transport humans and to be used as heavy equipment in farming and clearing land. Us humans couldn’t help but refer to them as dinosaurs.

I read the description to this novelette and smiled. How could I not give it a listen? The story starts off with a short lead in that sets the stage clearly for the reader. I liked how the zombies (also called ‘blues’ in this story) have a nervous system disorder caused by a virus. Then I thoroughly enjoyed how the dinosaurs came into being. If you have ever owned chickens, then you know they are not far removed from T-rexes. So it was not hard for me to imagine some gengineered featherless birds crossed with reptiles being raised to take out tree stumps.

Then we get into the story. Farming is pretty dangerous today, without zombies and with modern equipment. Imagine trying to clear a bit of farming land while watching out for and possibly fighting zombies. Yeah, pretty damn exciting. The story is told through a single point of view (a man, known as Pale Rider, who travels around the area clearing farm land) in a near nitty gritty way. I liked his skeptical attitude.

There are only 2 women mentioned in this book and neither have speaking roles. They are both wives and we only see one on stage, just once, to plant a sultry kiss. Obviously, I would have liked to see a real female character or two, with actions and dialogue pertinent to the plot. However, that’s my only complaint about this tale.

The mix of action and dinos and zombies had me alternating between a black humor chuckle and nibbling on my nails wondering if our hero had met his end. James Livingood is an author to keep an eye on and I really hope he continues to explore this world he has created.

The Narration: Michael Gwynne was a good fit for Pale Rider, giving him a hard-boiled feel. He had a range of voices for the few other characters we encounter.  

What I Liked: Modified beasties!; interesting main character; zombies versus dinos!; the cover art; satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: Women are relegated to the background.

Ravaged by Jason Brant

BrantRavagedWhere I Got It: Review copy via the narrator & Audiobook Monthly (thanks!)

Narrator: Wayne June

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 3 minutes

Series: Book 3 The Hunger

Author’s Page

Book 3 picks up roughly 1 month after Book 2 ends. Our heroes are still at the compound they wrested away from the maniacal Ralph. Other survivors continue to join them and the camp’s resources are starting to strain. Add to that, the infected monsters seem to be getting smarter and are targeting the camp. Even with the arrival of a new ally, they might not survive.

Our main foursome continue to face the odds. Each one of them has a demon or three to face in this installment of The Hunger series. Lance York, the man who started the apocalypse in nothing but a hospital gown, has gone from being a sad couch potato to a man of action. He’s at that point where he can look at himself and see the changes – both physically and psychologically. The world has gone to crap and he has risen from it, becoming a man he can respect. I have really enjoyed his story arc because he is just such a normal guy. Perhaps we would all benefit from an apocalypse.

Cass continues to grow as a character too. She was use to fending for herself before the infected covered the Earth. However, her time spent with Lance has shown her the benefits to being a little soft around a few select humans. She’s still a bad ass with a war axe and has her own dress code, but now she has opened a bit to Lance and even Emmett and Meghan.

Speaking of Emmett and Meghan, they play more central roles in this book as well. The group as a whole face some difficult decisions, but both Meghan and Emmett, who have trained and served in their own ways to protect and preserve life, must face the decision to take life. They were fine sidekicks in Book 2; in this book, they are integral and I would miss them if they weren’t there.

The plot line keeps us moving along. There’s still plenty of action and savagery from the infected, but those are punctuated with moments of reflection or humor. One of the things I really like about this series is that the dangers change with each book. We have the human dangers – humans like to be jerks to each other and that probably won’t change. Also, the infected – those savage monsters – have started to show more than bestial reactions to stimuli. They are already incredibly deadly, but now imagine them able to reason and problem solve! It makes for a very exciting plot!

With new foes and dangers, I was concerned for more than one of our foursome throughout the book. The ending was very satisfying and I can only hope that the author continues on with these characters. I am not ready to let them go.

Narration:  Wayne June once again was THE voice for Lance York. I like his average guy in a crappy situation voice. It really suits Lance’s humor. As usual, Wayne had a good array of male and female voices for all the other characters. He even pulled off a Pittsburgh-specific accent for one side character that I thought was very well done.

What I Liked:  The cover art; Cass’s attitude; I was worried about some of characters making it out alive!; the monsters aren’t as stupid as we all thought; trust issues; the ending was satisfying.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – I really enjoyed this book!

What Others Think:

Michael Loring

Fun With Books

Indie Addict

Consumed by Jason Brant

BrantConsumedWhere I Got It: Review copy via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!)

Narrator: Wayne June

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 6 hours 55 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Hunger

Author’s Page

Book 2 picks up about 1 week after Book 1 ended. Our heroes, Lance York and Cass of the War Axe, are on a boat in the Allegheny River outside of Pittsburgh. Dr. Emmett Brown and soldier Meghan Iverson are still with the duo, providing cover fire and medical treatment as needed. The world continues to devolve in to mutated monsters that roam night and day and militant, power-hungry humans. Yet, the river seems the safest….at least until they lose their boat.

If you read my review of Devoured, Book 1, then you know I really enjoyed the start to this series. Book 2 does not disappoint in continuing the tale. In fact, I will say it is even better because Lance worked through a lot of his issues with his e-wife in Book 1 and we don’t have that slowing down the story line of Book 2. Our main characters are a unit, swiftly reacting to each other. Our plot is moving forward at a good clip. The scenery continues to devolve, creating more traps for our heroes. All the elements are present for a great zombie story, which this is. I enjoyed this book all in one day, coming up with additional chores to keep me in the kitchen or folding laundry, just so I would have a bit more listening time.

Cass continues to be my hero. I want to grow up to be her and do shots with her. She’s very practical in how she tackles this new world, taking axe to monsters and human threats as needed. Plus, I like the way she dresses, even if many of the side characters think it strange. I expect as the world continues to circle the toilet, we’ll see more and more folks dressing as they like instead of according to supposed societal norms.

As Lance spends more time with her, he comes to realize that he isn’t nearly as adept at dispatching foes as Cass is, and this bothers him a little bit. I loved that he was aware of his feelings of inadequacy, and how silly that was with the world as we know it ending and all, and yet he struggled with it. It created some humor and made Lance very human.

Brown and Iverson become more prominent in the story and we get some back story to each of them. Of course, the Back to the Future jokes continue with Dr. Brown’s name, but they are sprinkled throughout the tale and don’t become annoying. Also, we learn the source of the Xavier Virus name – which I won’t spoil here. It is a little joke for geeks and nerds. It made me chuckle.

All in all, this was an excellent continuation of the The Hunger series. Book 2 closed off a few smaller story arcs while opening a larger one. I am very much looking forward to Book 3!

Narration:  Wayne June is a great voice for Lance, who is a pretty average guy. Wayne brings Lance to life with his emotions and his humor. I can’t imagine another narrator portraying Lance. Wayne also has a variety of voices for the ladies and other men. He does a great gruff old geezer and a crazy radio codger.

What I Liked:  The cover art; Cass’s war axe; Lance and his struggle with playing second fiddle to Cass in the zombie killing department; very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – I really enjoyed this book!

What Others Think:

Michael Loring

Fun With Books

Lotion by Jason Brant

BrantLotionWhere I Got It: Own an ecopy.

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 28 pages

Series: Book 1.5 The Hunger

Author’s Page

The world has been hit hard by illness, an illness that leaves raving Day Walkers wandering around who eventually devolve into these light intolerant, mutated, super strong, and super aggressive beasts. Adam watched as his beloved city fell apart, and then he smartly found a bank vault he lock himself into. Yet eventually he must wander out for food and sustenance, which is when he meets Greg, a man truly not in touch with the reality of the situation.

Folks, The Hunger is my current favorite series! So I had to check out this short story, which initially appeared in the anthology Apocalypse edited by Cynthia Shepp. Now you can buy the ebook version of this short story as a stand alone. If you haven’t read The Hunger series, this work does stand on it’s own. Here you meet two characters that show up in Book 2, but there aren’t any particular spoilers for Book 2.

Adam is a practical man and a bit clever. He saw the world was going barbaric and primal and he gathered some essential supplies and found a bank vault. A week or so later, he needs to resupply so he heads for his old nearby apartment (as he is like 90% sure he will find what he needs there) and comes across his idiot neighbor Greg. Much danger for Adam ensues….and much humor for the reader. Greg is so oblivious to the danger he is in that he provides plenty of comedic relief to a very serious situation.

The ending veers a little from the version of their introduction to the main series in Book 2, but not so much as to be jarring. The ending lets the reader decide if they made it out or not. This short story is an excellent addition to the series. I really enjoyed it not only for Greg’s antics but also for another person’s views on the nocturnal monsters that now rule the city.

What I Liked: Fun addition to the series; Adam is so practical; Greg is so oblivious; the monsters are ever so deadly.

What I Disliked: Nothing – very fun short story!

What Others Think: 

2 Book Lovers Reviews

Devoured by Jason Brant

BrantDevouredWhere I Got It: Review copy via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!)

Narrator: Wayne June

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 3 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Hunger

Author’s Page

The world is about to go down the drain, and Lance York is barely aware of it. His own life, riddled with failures, seems to be in the toilet already. He bumps into an old coworker, Ron, who calls him ‘buddy’ but seems to be snickering at him half the time during their brief conversation. And then an apparently sick woman walks past them on the street and Lance attempts to keep her from walking into traffic, only to be hit by a vehicle himself. His wife Liz, who he is estranged from, meets him at the hospital. That is where all hell breaks out; not only is the sick woman from earlier there, but also other infected and they are getting more violent and hungry by the minute. Even with military reassurances that all will be well within the quarantined hospital, Lance, Liz, & Ron break out and flee. That is when the true adventure begins and Lance finally starts living his life.

This was another take on the current zombie craze, but an entertaining one. The start is admittedly a little slow, with Lance sniffling about his loser life and inwardly raging about his hateful wife. But once they part ways, things get really interesting for Lance and I really started enjoying his character. On the cover art, you see Cassandra (Cas) who actually doesn’t come into the story until about half way through. She is the most interesting character of the book and her arrival kicked the story up a notch. She carries a badass axe for dispatching the ravening infected. She dresses how she likes and has a practical haircut for the end of the world. I want to do shots with her.

So lets talk about the monsters. In this book they are some cross between zombies, vampires, and demons. In essence, they are all infected humans, but the infection has different stages. At first this isn’t apparent, but as the book moves forward you get to see the later stages of the disease and what the humans turn into. Also, our heroes speculate that the infected retain some of their intelligence, which makes them different from the common mindless zombies we see in nearly every zombie flick/book/tv. I really liked this aspect to the story and it added a new dangerous tone to the monsters.

Lance spent quite a bit of time early int eh book thinking angry thoughts about his wife. Justified or not, it started to feel like the author was using this scenario to exorcise some of his personal hate for a failed relationship. It was turning me off to the book because it was repetitive and Liz’s hoity-toity-ness was over played. If it had been toned down a bit, i would have gotten the idea quite well without getting bogged down in it.

The pacing of the story was good once we got past the initial moping by Lance. There were plenty of monsters that needed killing and plenty of humans simply taking advantage of the chaos. Action was interspersed with meaningful conversations or introspection. Over all, I am very glad I gave this book a try. I listened to it in 2 large sittings as I definitely wanted to see how ordinary Lance was going to keep himself alive. After all, he did start off in the chaos wearing nothing more than a hospital gown! Looking forward to book 2.

Narration:  Wayne June did a good job with distinct voices as well as feminine voices. He put in plenty of emotion where it was called for. The terror of the monsters and wonder of a new found friend came through clearly.

What I Liked:  The cover art; Cas & her axe; Lance is pretty ordinary & it was great to see how he managed everything; the monsters are more than your average zombies; I want to listen to Book 2!

What I Disliked:  Liz (Lance’s wife) is a bit over done, like the author was trying to exorcise some personal demon – it became repetitive.

What Others Think:

Aubrea Summer

Michael Loring

Fun with Books

Undiscovered Tomes

The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse by Lauren Wilson & Kristian Bauthus

Ancient Stout being used as a bookstand.

Ancient Stout being used as a bookstand.

Where I Got It: Review copy via the publisher & Netgalley (thanks!).

Publisher: BenBella Books (2014)

Length: 339 pages

Author’s Page & Illustrator’s Page

This book is one of the funnest and most informative cookbooks I have laid my hands on in some time. And it is way more than recipes for the those with a short list of items to pick from during the apocalypse. It is also full of info on how to build small ovens, fire pits, where to scavenge for food, and thinking outside the box (insects rolled in kelp and smoked over an open fire?). There’s also a list of tools for various projects (like setting up traps for game), how to clean your game before cooking, and even some basics on edible wild plants. And then it goes a step further and provides info on what to do after the initial apocalypse stage, once things settle down and you can too. This info includes such things as setting up a compost pile, shellfish gardening, and more. And there are recipes! Lots of very interesting and tasty (yep, I tried a few myself) recipes.

The book is full of illustrations, both comical (vacant eyed zombies wandering around) and useful (animal track identification). There’s plenty of illustrations of the recipes too, so you have an idea of how your food should look just before consuming it. I especially liked the Zpoc Food Pyramid! The illustrations really made this book a fully visual experience.

The accompanying text has a touch of snark to it (which I loved), plenty of humor, and heaps of practical advice. Let me point out that I live on a farm, so many of the things in this books were not new ideas to me. And yet this book had more than the basics; it had some innovative ideas on ovens (that I hadn’t seen before) and some food ideas that had not occurred to me (such as the kelp and seaweed as a major source of nutrients). I live in a land-locked state, so I hope you will forgive my ignorance on such things. But if the zombie apocalypse ever comes to pass, I will be sure to toss this book into my backpack to provide me guidance as I navigate my way through the turmoil.

The Z-Poc food pyramid, with Pico  Heldig.

The Z-Poc food pyramid, with Pico Heldig.

OK, now that I have gushed about this book, let me tell you about how I got my copy of the book. Initially, I was cruising around on NetGalley and saw this book. It was the cover that caught my eye and then the description. Zombies, cooking, survivalist theme – how could I not request it? Well, I was turned down by some sort of autofilter. But I pulled my courage together and sent a polite email to the publishers asking why I was rejected. They immediately unblocked me and I downloaded a copy. Alas, this NetGalley copy was pretty scant, a mere preview of the full-fledged awesome book I was expecting. And there was some serious formatting issues. So, I contemplated and then decided to contact the publisher again. I thought perhaps they would email over a full ebook version for me to review. But they went above and beyond that folks, they sent a physical copy! And it is a beauty of a book! I am so glad I had the chance to read and review the full version instead of the meager NetGalley version. Just an FYI (since I was unaware as well) – NetGalley has upload size limits on books and due to the numerous (and awesome) illustrations in this book, the publisher was forced to go with a much reduced, preview version of the book for NetGalley.

So, there you have it. This book is perfect for your zombie enthusiast, your adventurous cook, and your organized survivalist. Rarely have I seen such a useful book filled with so much humor!

What I Liked:  The cover; the illustrations; the sheer usefulness; the light snark and pervasive humor; the accommodating publisher!

What I Disliked: Nothing to complain about – excellent book!

What Others Think:

Not Starving Yet

Wall-to-Wall Books

Sarcastic Cooking

Rhi Reading

Apocalypta by Robin Matchett

MatchettApocalyptaWhy I Read It: Cool tech, aliens, and a world recovered from an apocalypse – what’s not to like?

Where I Got It: Review copy via the book tour (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For fans of aliens & interesting tech.

Publisher: James Piercemoore Books (2014)

Length: 613 pages

Author’s Page

Cephren Path, our main character, is the leader of Sunsetwind, a place that values nature and peace among nations (or city-states in some cases in this future 25th century world). The Earth suffered a pummeling by an asteroid (that was broken into smaller chunks by missiles) sometime in the 22nd or 23rd century. It was enough to nearly wipe out humanity. The people we meet in the beginning of this novel are the products (many generations later) of those who survived the initial emergency and the subsequent violent climate changes. Sunsetwind’s nearest neighbors are the Chicagos and the Mississippis, along with the roving bands of Foragers. What technology the governments have was built upon earlier scavenging of 20th and 21st century tech. This includes several curious chips, a few of which seem to have hidden or locked down information. Cephren, his friends, and at least one competitive power all believe that this hidden info points to alien contact with humans during the 20th or 21st century and may prove relevant in their modern time.

First, I really enjoyed all the very interesting names of the characters in this book: Chromolox, Cephren, Cleopatra, Jimmy Pigeon, Trinny Burnamthorpe, etc.  Also, many of these characters come from a mixed heritage, which I also liked. A humanity so torn apart and decimated would most likely have to come together to rebuild, and that means mixed cultures/heritages. So it was fun to see what the author came up with. While the characters themselves are interesting, once established most of them remain the same throughout the book. But since the plot was pretty interesting, I didn’t mind the lack of character growth.

There’s lots of cool tech for those of you who salivate over such things (I being one of those). And the author provides a quick explanation within the narrative of the story on each tech without belaboring the point. Much of the tech is useful stuff (transportation, weather control, chip reading, etc.) and not just for show.

Threading its way throughout the plot is what I will call an alien conspiracy/coverup, for lack of a better term. In the context of this science fiction plot, Area 51 and 20th century contact with aliens are treated as facts and become integral to the plotline. And that all works well. However, I got the feeling from time to time that the author had a personal message wrapped up in this story and my personal preference on personal messages is that they be so well hidden that only the author’s closest companions can tease it out. Still, many folks don’t mind an underlying message.

I do have 2 criticisms, but they are not show stoppers. One, I would have loved to have had a map of the 25th century North America where the story starts out. That could just be the nerd in me. It wasn’t necessary to enjoy the story. Second, there was some repetition and occasionally I felt that one character or another (Cephren, I’m looking at you) rambled on and on. At 613 pages, it could have used one more editing out of words to give that final polish, that neat trim. With all that said, it was a fun and entertaining story.

What I Liked: Cool tech; neat culture/heritage mix; there is still human conflict in the 25th century; interesting alien-human contact thread throughout plot.

What I Disliked: I wanted a map (but I won’t hold that against the book); could use another edit to cut out the remaining repetition and some of the ramblings.

A little more about Robin Matchett

Rob (Robin) Matchett was born in Paris, France, in 1956 of Canadian parents, and moved to Canada at four years old. Apparently on the way, he spent hours in a porthole watching the sea, pondering existence. Now his life continues through a porthole – a regret being he didn’t remain in France a few more years. Though, embracing Canada he went native, steeped in the elements from where land-locked on the crest of a giant windblown hill, he commands from the bridge of a ship, foundered on springs, fields and forests. Still unreleased from the yoke of his servitude, he dabbles in the stars, unlocking secrets from history and the future. Many transfigurations have occurred, of which he has faithfully transcribed into various literary forms, including novels, poems and film scripts, and continues to do so. Among other eclectic interests, he is known to be well-read; enjoy wholesome kitchen garden culinary pursuits; calvados; has musical inclinations, and often known to be wired into the Grateful Dead. He is of a retiring nature, addicted to movies and documentaries, considered a professional obligation rather than lesser appraisals.

MatchettApocalyptaAbout the book Apocalypta

Apocalypta is a novel about a post-apocalyptic world at the cusp of the 25th century. With the discovery of a synaptic memory chip holding the memories of individuals in the past, there is an attempt to avert a return to the terrible conflagrations of the past. This chip – ‘the eyes of god’ – holds salvation through the truth. The main character, implanted with the chip, bids the reader to follow history back to our present time in order to understand the future. Moreover, humanity has a chance to become members of a galactic confederation, which through various species have been instrumental in our emergence from earliest times. Many unusual characters color this story, which is ultimately about the struggle for humanity to rise to a higher place in its long quest for survival.

Where to Find Robin Matchett

Webpage:           http://robinmatchett.com/
Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rob-Matchett/308245449351237
Twitter:                @RobMatchettAuth

The Giveaway!
1st Prize:  $50 Amazon.com gift certificate and autographed copy of Apocalypta
2nd Prize:  $25 Amazon.com gift certificate and autographed copy of Apocalypta
3rd Prize:  Autographed copy of Apocalypta

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