April Reading Log

Well, in theory I read 12 books in April. If you count the fact that two books held 6 novellas each, one held twelve, and one held 4, total “things” read is 36. I’m lumping the novellas into one review, as they’re all part of the Love and Decay series.

Love and Decay, Seasons 1, 2, and ¾ of 3 – Rachel Higginson

I found this from a BookBub offer, and unlike most of the books I download, I decided to read it pretty soon after buying, and then buy the rest. It’s kind of Walking Dead for the teenage/college set. Reagan and Haley have spent the last 2 years surviving the zombie apocalypse. It hasn’t been easy, but they’re getting by, one day at a time.

While looting an old department store for new clothes, they get boxed in by zombies, or Feeders, as they’re usually called. Low on ammunition, and stuck without an easy exit, all looks lost for the girls until the Parker brothers open a door and save them. They provide the girls a safe haven to sleep for the night, a chance to bathe, and some food. The girls get to know the Parkers, including their baby sister, Page, and tell them they’re headed south to Peru. The Parkers are headed north, but after an unexpected Zombie attack forces them to evacuate their safe haven, they travel south with the girls, eventually deciding that they’ll all stick together and head to Peru.

Along the way, they encounter outposts of people trying to survive, zombie hordes, supplies and the lack thereof, illness, kidnapping, and a crazy guy, Matthias Allen. Matthias and his “Colony” prove to be problematic to the Parkers, Reagan, and Haley. Along the way plans change, and they go through Mexico on the way to Columbia, which brings about it’s own challenges.

This is a really, really excellent series. The characters are fleshed out, and I like Reagan quite a bit. Most of the episodes are told from her point of view. She was a cheerleader, about to graduate high school, and the zombie apocalypse happened. Her parents were killed, and her boyfriend turned into a zombie, and she had to kill him. But somehow, she turns in Rambo Reagan, Action Woman of The Apocalypse! She’ll kill however many zombies it takes to keep Haley, and later the Parkers and others, safe. In that regard, she’s very relatable.

The series is three “seasons” with a dozen “episodes” in each. It’s like a television show. And, the author structures the series like a tv show. The ultimate goal is to get to Peru, or later on, Columbia, and that’s reached at the end of the third season. Each season though, has an arc, introducing a problem, or a couple of them, that need some kind of solution by the end of the season. And each episode has a dramatic moment (or two), a resolution of it, and progress towards season and series goals. I really enjoyed the format.

The Program – Suzanne Young

I picked this up at Costco a while back, tried starting it, and never got anywhere. While still recovering from surgery, I read the entire book in one night. I won’t say it’s excellent, but it’s okay.

Suicide is an epidemic among teens, and no one knows why. As many as one in three teens will commit suicide, and pretty much every teen knows several people who are gone. And several who have gone to The Program.

Sloane tries to act normal, to pretend her brother’s suicide doesn’t bother her, that her friends being suicidal isn’t a problem, to pretend there’s nothing wrong, so she won’t get sent to The Program. Everyone who comes back from The Program has no memory of who they used to be, and are different people. Ultimately, Sloane is sent to The Program, and struggles to hold on to her previous self.

The idea behind the book is interesting, the whole suicide as an epidemic. In the book, no one knows why it’s happening, and why it’s only affecting teens. The Program is the only treatment with a 100% cure. Later on, you find out why, and it’s creepy. The entire idea is both interesting, and creepy as hell. The way they treat the teens to cure them is really unsettling, and there are a few characters that turn out to be creepy as well. Thinking back on the book, it turns my stomach. Maybe that’s a good thing? It gets a reaction out of me. Or maybe I’ve eaten too many crackers.

Sloane’s pretty wooden for all of the book. Part of it seems to be the whole “I must put on a happy face so no one sends me to the program/no one reports me in the program” but it’s hard to relate to her. She seems pretty emotionless even in her head, where the book mostly takes place. Sure, she’s sad when people she knows die, but other than that, she has no emotions.

Pawn – Aimee Carter

In Kitty’s world, people take a test, and are awarded a ranking based on their abilities. If you get a I, you’re exiled to Elsewhere. A VII is for the family in charge, the Harts. Kitty, scores a III. That relegates her to sanitation duties, in Denver, half the country away from where she currently lives. She runs away, and is offered a deal. She takes it, not knowing she’s going to be “Masked” and turned into a copy of Lila Hart. She’s supposed to be her, and to try and dispel the rebellion that’s beginning among the lower classes of people. With the help of Lila’s fiance and Lila’s mother, she morphs into Lila, and is given a chance: tear the rebellion down, or secretly bolster it up.

The book is one of the better YA novels I’ve read in a while. Kitty is dealt a rough hand, and it shows. She’s raised in a group home, dyslexic, unable to read, and mad at the world. She takes risks and does things that should get her killed because she doesn’t care. I like her.

And then she turned into Lila, and got less interesting. Her learning to be Lila wasn’t very interesting, and once she had it down, there was a lull for a while until the rebellion becomes an issue. The rebellion part, along with a bit of mistaken identity, is interesting, and carries the second half of the book. The secondary characters start out kind of stuffy, and get more interesting as the book goes on. This is another book I want to read the sequel to, but I’m not in a huge hurry.

Assassin’s Code – Jonathan Maberry

The fourth Joe Ledger book is a weird one. It takes place mostly in Iran, which is out of character for the series. Usually the books at least start with Joe on US soil, but this one has Echo Team breaking out three US Hikers who were imprisoned for being spies. Well, it technically starts after that, and backtracks. And for this one, Joe and Echo Team spend most of their time in Iran and other portions of the Middle East, trying to sort out why vampires have nukes. No, I’m not kidding. They’re called Upierczi, but it’s essentially the same thing. There’s science behind it too.

So yes, Vampires with Nukes. Joe is having a rough time, and most of the book is simply him trying to find a safe place away from everyone who wants to kill him and poor Ghost. Ghost gets shot at, stabbed at, tasered, doused in garlic powder, and netted. That dog is having a rough week. For everything Ghost goes through, Joe goes through twice as much, as well as a moment of moral event horizon, where his need to kill someone wars with his conscience.

Despite a lot of the book being Joe trying to find somewhere safe, the story is woven together really well, and incorporates some previous characters from The King of Plagues. Also interspersed is the history of the Red Order, the fictional group Joe’s fighting that has it roots all the way back to The Crusades. It’s interesting stuff, and a great book.

Extinction Machine – Jonathan Maberry

This is a really complex novel that fascinating, and much like The Dragon Factory, has an element I really don’t like. In this book, Echo Team contends with Aliens. Yes, aliens. No, we don’t see them. However, there’s history between us and them. They’ve been coming here for years, and their spaceships, called T craft by us, are crashing. Enterprising humans have been collecting the debris for years, and many countries and private groups are trying to build working T craft to use in the earthly arms race. The engines, called Truman Engines, are pretty finicky though, and most countries and groups don’t understand a crucial element to make them go. So instead, they blow up, and cause a lot of damage. You know the Mt. St. Helens eruption? That was an exploding Truman Engine way underground. Terrible earthquakes in China? That was exploding Truman Engines as well.

Joe and Echo Team, along with most of the DMS, get spread pretty thin to try and handle a bunch of problems that occur around the same time: the abduction of the president, UFO sightings, a blown up prototype fighter jet, hacking and intrusion into a bunch of flight and military tech groups computers. They’re stretched thin, the acting President of the United States wants the DMS shut down, and someone else is out to kill as many of the DMS as possible.

The book is interesting, in that I’d never considered aliens something the DMS would have to handle. Joe is a skeptic at first, and eventually meets Junie Flynn, who manages to explain enough of the science behind everything for him to accept T craft are real, and people are willing to kill to keep it a secret. The science sounds more or less believable, and the sorts of events that happen are keeping in line with the other books, which I really liked.

However, there’s one major plot point in the book I didn’t like. The bad guys strike a huge blow to the DMS. Like, if this was a lesser organization, they wouldn’t recover. The DMS does in the next book, but I don’t like how it played out. It’s a brilliant way of doing it, but the person who carried out the mission seemed one dimensional and well, not a very interesting or compelling character. I know, bad guys don’t need to be compelling, but Maberry’s usually are. This one just didn’t feel that way.

Code Zero – Jonathan Maberry

Book six of the Joe Ledger novels is probably my favorite one yet. It’s an excellent combination of pitting an ex DMS agent against the DMS, using all the tech and knowledge gained from the previous five books. So, it’s kind of a “last time, on Joe Ledger…” and helped me to refresh my memory about a lot of the previous stuff that went down. I’ve only been listening a few months, so maybe that’s why I liked this book so much.

A woman called Mother Night is hacking computers all over the world, telling her minions to unleash havoc. She hides behind the idea of anarchy, but it’s a front for her to sell bio weapons to the highest bidder. The Saif al Din pathogen from the first book? Starting bid, 50 million Euro. Want your own army of Berserkers? They’re up for auction too.

The book switches between Joe in current times, Mother Night in current times, and Mother Night when she was a DMS agent. Watching her slide from a meek woman into megalomania is fascinating, and the havoc she brought was an excellent counterpoint to Echo Team and all they can accomplish.

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