Book: Bits & Pieces

"Bits & Pieces"

Benny Imura’s journey through the Rot & Ruin is well known, but who were the others navigating the ravaged, zombie-ridden landscape? Jonathan Maberry returns to fill the gaps in what we know about First Night, surviving the plague, and the land of Rot & Ruin.

Comprising brand-new short stories from Nix’s journal as well as previously published short stories, this collection shows a side of the Rot & Ruin series readers have never seen before.

I didn’t know I missed the Rot & Ruin until I cracked this book open. And I’m never getting tired of saying Rot & Ruin is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Ever. Even when the succeeding books didn’t turn out to be as heart-wrenching as the first one, the series continued to tug at the heart strings. As the characters grew up in the Rot & Ruin series, as they lost their innocence, so did we, the readers. Bits & Pieces allowed for the innocence to come back.

And Bits & Pieces broke another piece of my heart… In a good way.

Guided by journal entries from Nix, this collection of short stories present new facets to the events of the Rot & Ruin series. We meet other characters who had their own adventures alongside the ones Benny and his friends were having. And, and this is the best part for me, we get some back stories on some of the characters we met in the series.

The book does a great job at coloring outside the lines of the series without feeling like it’s just reliving the glory days. The stories are new, as are the insights. And the best part? The characters we revisit, in different eras of their lives, never feel off. They help the character grow–and the situations they are placed in add to our understanding of who they came to be.

Jonathan Maberry built a really solid house with the Rot & Ruin saga. Bits & Pieces is just the fixings that adds to the beauty of the house–emphasizing and accentuating, without changing what the house looks like.

My favorite in the collection has to be the story of Rags. Or should I say the stories of Rags? There’s two. One told a a year after the events of First Night, and another one unfolded during the events of the first book. They very different stories with one single message.

Hope doesn’t die.

And I’m now holding on to hope that Jonathan Maberry would continue revisiting the world he created with Rot & Ruin. Because I feel like there are more stories from this universe that still wants to be told.

Filipino Friday: Kids and Books

"Filipino Friday"

This week on Filipino Friday, bloggers talk about kids and books by answering the following questions: “What were your favorite books as a kid? Do you still read children’s books? If you would give a book to your younger self, what would it be?

I don’t remember having one particular favorite book as a kid. I do remember reading. A lot. I remember getting a reprimand for reading while the car was moving, for reading while walking–and then, because it happens, falling down a sewer because I was paying more attention to the book than where I was walking.

Even then I didn’t discriminate with the books I read. I would pick up a volume from the encyclopedia one day, and a Bobbsey Twins novel the next. I remember picking up a romance novel, the one where characters ‘make love,’ and never being told to not read it. I remember my parents bringing me my weekly local komiks every Friday when they come home from work. I remember stealing into my mom’s stash of horror komiks too.

No, I don’t have a favorite book. I still don’t, mulling it over now. I do have books I like to read again from time to time, but are they my favorites? What’s the criteria? I just like them.

There are books that really stand out in my reading history though.

There’s Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor which was the first romance novel I really enjoyed reading. I loved the mix of fantasy, comedy, and romance. I loved the time travel. And I remember loving the premise of time affecting love much more with Jude Deveraux’s Remembrance.

But those aren’t really books for kids.

I remember not liking A Little Princess very much when I first read it as a kid. But fast forward to a couple of decades later, and it’s now one of my go-to books when I just want to feel good. That’s considered a children’s book, right? A Little Princess?

And then there’s Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry. It’s Young Adult, not really a children’s book. But if there’s one book that I’ve read that I would want to give my younger self–that would be it.

There’s also Inkheart. The early years of Harry Potter, although I much preferred the latter years… Artemis Fowl

Again, I don’t really discriminate when it comes to books. I read anything I find intriguing. It doesn’t matter if it’s for kids, for young adults, or for more mature readers. As long as it interests me, you’ll see me pick it up. And then I’ll write about it here. And if I really like it, I’m going to share it with everyone I know. Heck, I’d even share it with people I don’t know–

Which I’m planning to do at the Filipino ReaderCon this coming November 9! So if you have nothing planned that day, hang out with us at Ateneo de Manila University’s Rizal Library. Join us for an afternoon of talk, talk, book sharing, and more talk!

See you there!

Book: Fire & Ash

"Fire & Ash"

Benny Imura and his friends have found the jet and Sanctuary–but neither is what they expected. Instead of a refuge, Sanctuary is a hospice, and the soldiers who flew the plane seem to be little more than bureaucrats who have given up hope for humanity’s future.

With Chong hovering between life and death, clinging to his humanity by a thread, Benny makes a startling discovery: A scientist may have discovered a cure for the zombie plague. Desperate to save Chong, Benny and his friends mount a search-and-rescue mission. But they’re not the only ones on the hunt: The reapers are after the cure too, and they want to use it to wipe mankind off the face of the earth.

Before we go any further, I need you to understand one thing: I cannot say anything bad about this series. No, I’m not biased. I really just can’t say anything bad about Rot & Ruin nor its succeeding sequels.

The bad thing about this is that my hopes were impossibly high when Fire & Ash was announced. I tried to keep the expectations down, because we all know how hard it is to conclude anything. But it was impossible. I had impossibly high hopes for Fire & Ash. Impossibly high.

And the book met my expectations. I don’t know about exceeding expectations, but meeting my really high hopes was enough for me.

Right. We’re taking a break from Filipino Fridays this week because I really need to get this out. Fire & Ash, and the Rot & Ruin series, is now officially my choice for definitive zombie fiction. Tied with World War Z. It has the right amount of horror, of suspense, of action, of comedy, of romance, and most importantly of drama. Because, let’s be honest, while you can have a good book without drama, it won’t be great unless you feel for the characters. It won’t be definitive unless the character’s plight become real for you.

When your characters are in a fictional future dealing with zombies, and you can still feel the plight? Hello, you impressive author. Here I am with the highest award I can give to anyone: my undying devotion to anything you will publish. While I’m still a big Christopher Golden fan, I think Jonathan Maberry is my master of horror now.

Now, before I go on and write about my reaction to the book, I just want to say one more thing first. I love how the Rot & Ruin series never wastes a single book on filler. (Yes, Michael Grant’s Gone series, I am throwing shade at you right now.) We can say that Dust & Decay, the third book, would be a good candidate for being the filler in this series, but it’s not. If it is, then it’s the best filler book out there. Because while nothing much advances in terms of plot, the book completely makes up for it in how the characters develop.

But this post is not about Dust & Decay. It’s about Fire & Ash. The last book. The finale.

This is where the world, as we’ve come to know it, burns.

Right from the first page, answers are given. What happened to Chong after the last book ended? What is Sanctuary? What is done inside Sanctuary? Well, that one is answered more subtly, but once you get to the point where it’s explain more explicitly, you realize that the answer was already given very early on.

The biggest question though, of what is going on in the reclamation of the world from the dead? That one is explored more carefully. And without forgetting that villains have been introduced in the last book. Villains that need to be taken care of.

If there’s suspension of disbelief that’s to be made, it’s in how teenagers are able to disarm and beat grown men who are just as trained as they are in the arts of war. But after four books, are we really going to start questioning this now?

Fire & Ash is plotted well. Never did I question where the book was going, and never did I become frustrated at how long it was taking certain characters to go where they need to go. Characters were talking. Actions were being taken.

There were no obvious over-drawing of events just so the series could be extended. There were no repetitions. And characters, all of them flawed, acted in tune to the characteristics they were introduced with. They grew, yes. But they did not become different people. They didn’t suddenly develop amorality or bipolar disorders.

And although the book introduced a new point-of-view, it didn’t detract from the overall experience. In fact, it added suspense and amped up the fear you felt for characters we were already introduced to.

Let’s just say that all the characters we’ve come to know were all serviced well. And that there was a reason for everything.

And I can’t believe I’ve missed the nod to The Walking Dead until now. That was some quick-draw.

I’m all out of words now, so let’s see what other people have already said about the finale book of the Rot & Ruin series:
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Doubleshot Reviews

Now, while you read those, I’m going to see if I can find some free time in my schedule to reread the whole series again.

Book: Dust & Decay

"Dust & Decay" by Jonathan MaberryBenny Imura and Nix Riley can’t forget the jet they saw fly over the zombie-infested mountains of the Rot and Ruin.

The Jet meant leaving, something that Nix and Benny were going to do. Now—after months of rigorous training with Tom, Benny’s zombie-hunter brother—Benny, Nix, Lilah the Lost Girl, and Chong are ready to leave their home forever and search for a better future.

But from the start, everything goes wrong. They are pursued by the living dead, wild animals, and insane murderers, and are faced with the horrors of a rebuilt Gameland, where teenagers are forced to fight for their lives in the zombie pits. Worst of all . . . could the evil Charlie Pink-eye still be alive?

If you enjoyed Rot & Ruin, you’re definitely going to like Dust & Decay. It has all the elements that made the first book a game changer for zombie fiction, and it propels the story to where it was supposed to go–if not where the readers want it to go. And the second book takes it up a notch by putting a time constraint for our heroes. Rot & Ruin introduced us to what evils human beings are capable of in the zombie-apocalypse. Dust & Decay multiplies the threat–and makes it more personal than it was in the first book.

Now, I’ve made it no secret that I love the first book. And I am happy to say that the second book did not disappoint–even though it didn’t go where I was expecting it to go.

Sure, after reading the book, I felt a little bit cheated. I mean, the end of Rot & Ruin promised a journey. The start of Dust & Decay promised the same thing. But the journey that the story undertakes is not, as I’ve mentioned twice now, what I was expecting. But, having sat on the book long enough before writing this, I now understand that the story we get in this second novel is the follow-up (and closure) that we, the readers, and the characters needed, before we could actually start on the journey promised at the end of Rot & Ruin.

Jonathan Maberry’s series, for me, is a study of the human psyche–in a post-apocalyptic world infested with zombies. Rot & Ruin gave us a different perspective on zombies, reminded us that they are human beings still. And in Dust & Decay, the idea that the living is a lot scarier than the dead gets further addressed.

Yes, I know. That’s not exactly an original idea. But I really do like how the author handles this, through the eyes of the traumatized Nix, and the slowly-changing point-of-view of Benny.

That’s another thing I liked about Dust & Decay. The characters are allowed to grow and develop. I don’t know how popular the first book was, but the author definitely did not stick to a formula with his characters. In the first book, Benny was a little bit cynical and a lot jaded. In the same book, he saw that his world view was askew–if not entirely correct. In Dust & Decay, he starts to entertain the thought that it really isn’t easy to just do the right thing. We see in Benny the struggle to not take the easy way out.

And that struggle is what make Benny Imura a great protagonist. As a reader, I was able to connect to his dilemma of whether or not to do what is needed of him. We human beings get scared. And to see it in a fictional character is great–because not everyone gets born without a fear gene. And while there are stupid people in the world (sadly), not all of them will willingly throw their arms around danger. While some readers are okay with that–I’m not. And Benny, while not a genius and a bit impulsive, have enough smarts that I actually do want him to survive.

I have to say, Dust & Decay was worth the almost one year wait I had to endure. And I can’t wait for the next book in Jonathan Maberry’s series.

Check out what other people have to say about the book:
Dead, Buried, and Back!
Karin’s Book Nook
Primary Ignition

book: z

"z" by michael thomas fordam i reading too many zombie books?

that’s the question i had in my head when i started reading Z. though when i read my last zombie book, which was ROT & RUIN, i thought it was exceptional. so why am i feeling zombie fatigue from reading Z?

Z tells the story of a zombie-torcher named josh. not content with killing zombies through his video games, he lets himself get swept away by the thrilling underground world of real-life role-playing. suddenly, he finds himself killing zombies for real–or as real as it can be when you’re killing cybernetic zombies.

but what if these so-called robots are the real thing? josh begins to suspect that something is amiss with his new team of gamers. but it’s not until a close friend is put into danger that josh begins to investigate the real story behind the hush-hush world of zombie-hunting.

after the amazing ROT & RUIN, i have to admit that i’m a little disappointed with Z. they’re not by the same author; and while they are both zombie books, neither one focuses on the same thing. so why am i comparing the two to each other? because ROT & RUIN changed the zombie genre for me. and i was hoping Z would be able to do the same.

Z is an enjoyable-enough read, sure. but at the end of the book, you don’t find yourself praising the book’s ingenuity. you’re just happy that you finished the book. maybe not all that happy with the open ending, but happy that you’ve had an ending.

with ROT & RUIN, we were introduced to the idea of romanticizing zombies. sure, no one’s going to fall in love with a zombie anytime soon (though megan berry, of the undead series, might beg to differ), but jonathan maberry brought forward the idea that these zombies were people too.

we get a similar thing in Z. early on in the book, josh’s mother tells the story of his aunt who got turned into a zombie. and you begin to see josh working out a new perspective on zombie-killing. that is, until he gets invited to the exclusive real-life zombie-hunting underworld. and then, suddenly, his character development gets thrown out the window.

he gets back to the same realization by the time the book ends, but you can’t help but wonder where the author could have taken the story had he: (a) taken out the realization at the beginning of the book; or (b) made the second realization bigger, seeing as the second realization was brought about by a life-or-death situation.

i have to admit, the zombie-game turned me off. i don’t know why, since i enjoyed playing PLANTS VS ZOMBIES, and i remember enjoying BIO HAZARD when it first came out. but for some reason, when josh was playing the game after his mother had told him the story about his aunt, i found it really hard to like josh as a character. and the game he was playing. especially more so when he started his undergound activities.

though i did like the gradual change in his attitude near the end of the book. when he started realizing that things were not as he thought they were. i wonder though if it would’ve worked better had he found out about his love interest’s game plan first before finding out about his best friend’s disappearance.

i’m still trying to decide whether i like the book or not. right now, i’m leaning on the side of the “not.” i feel as if there’s so much wasted potential in the book. but that’s just my opinion. check out some of the others i found online:
torch those z’s
book review: z by michael thomas ford
review: z by michael thomas ford