May 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part Two [Books]

May 2020 2

JanuaryFebruary / March Part 1 / March Part 2/ April Part 1 / April Part 2 / May Part 1

Black Dogs, Black Tales – Edited by Tabitha Wood & Cassie Hart

black dogs

Review Coming Soon on Dead Head Reviews

This is an anthology you should definitely pick up. 17 authors to represent the 17% of people in New Zealand with mental health problems, and with profits going towards a New Zealand Mental Health Charity. Even without that awesomeness, the stories here are brilliant, powerful, moving, and creepy. And best of all, the dogs all survive.

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

american gods

My Review

I read this book years ago, but revisited it via Audible. The version I listened to was full cast, and was really good. Turns out there were some parts I remembered really cleary, and others I didn’t, but it was still great to slip back into this world.

From Twisted Roots – S.H. Cooper

from twisted roots

Review coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

I will never stop talking about good Cooper is. Her work is fantastic. Her short stories are really unique in their style and range, with a lot falling into that strange sub-genre of wholesome horror. From Twisted Roots takes a lot at families, at relationships, some with supernatural horror elements, and some where the horror comes from the humans themselves. Definitely worth checking out.

Devolution – Max Brooks

devolution

My Review

Although I didn’t like this as much as World War Z, I still really enjoyed it. It’s a fantastic book, using that ‘found text’ style, and where WWZ read like a history textbook (in a good, OMG this feels like it happened kind of way), Devolution takes a more singular, personal approach, and presenting it as a journal works really well.

Spider-Man/Deadpool Volume 1: Isn’t It Bromantic

spiderman deadpool

My Review

I love a good graphic novel and this one did not disappoint. Teaming up the wise-cracking Spider-Man with the Merc with the Mouth results in some funny, some heartwarming, and some damn scary moments. The way they riff off each other just feels natural and I’m keeping hope we eventually get to see these two in a film together.

Breakfast at Bronzefield – Sophie Campbell

breakfast at bronzefields

My Review

A woman’s experiences in two British women’s prisons, this is a book I would strongly urge others to pick up. Campbell explains the treatment she received in prison, as well as providing facts and statistics where they are related. It’s eye-opening, and makes the argument for reform really well.

Zombieville – C.V. Hunt

zombieville

Review Coming Soon on Dead Head Reviews

This was one where I listened to the Audiobook version. It’s an intriguing story with two interesting point of view characters – Chris, who is a zombie, and Raven, a young woman who has just moved to town, and has no idea what she’s really getting into. The only let down in this was the narrator really, but I go into that more in the actual review.

Writing the Other – Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward

writing the other

My Review

Another book I honestly think everyone should read. Everyone with an interest in writing, anyway. This book doesn’t talk down to the reader, explains that yes, when writing outside your experience you will make mistakes, but if you do what you can to mitigate that, it’s better than not trying. I really would urge writers to pick this one up – it’s one of the strongest craft books I’ve read recently.

So there we have it. The second half of my May wrap up. I read 16 books in May, and my current total on Goodreads (at time of writing on 12/06) is 66/75 books read for 2020. I originally set my goal at 50 with the plan being to revisit it this month, but I upped it previously as I’d exceeded 50. If I managed to hit 75 this month, I’ll be amending my goal to 100. Let’s see how that goes.

How did your May go? Did you read everything you wanted to? Anything unexpected you really enjoyed?

Devolution – Max Brooks [Books]

devolutionFirstly, thank you to Cornerstone for providing me a copy of this book via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

After Mount Rainier erupts,  the assumption is the secluded community Greenloop will, like similar places, be self-sufficient enough to survive. But when rescuers do reach it, they discover the site of a massacre, and Kate Holland’s journal provides the clues as to what actually happened.

The journal also provides a first hand account of what the residents of Greenloop fought against in their final days, and could be the key to unlocking the biggest find of the century. Max Brooks uses his talent to provide Kate’s account, alongside interviews with her brother, and a ranger, one of the first people on site, with extracts containing more relevant information about the characters and mysterious half-ape half-men creatures they encountered.

Max Brooks gives us this first hand account of life in a ‘smart’ community, where groceries are delivered by drone and smart-van, and everything is controlled by an app on your phone. Through Katie’s account, we see how quick technology can let us down where we really need it. This could have been a horror tale without the Bigfoot creatures terrorising Greenloop, an isolated community cut off from the rest of the world by natural disaster, but the addition of the creatures really adds that extra punch.

Throughout the story, it’s not just the external horrors explored. Kate and her husband, Dan, are looking to reconcile their rocky relationship. Around them are an interesting cast of characters, some likable (Mostar was a particular favourite), some not so much, and even though the impressions we get are purely through Kate’s eyes, there’s enough room for the reader to really make up their own minds on the characters.

Brooks also touches upon mental health, particularly through Kate and Dan who both seem to be dealing with their own forms of depression, and are unable to help one another. It’s sad, really, because they clearly care deeply for each other, but there’s a gulf between them at the start, which they both make that little bit bigger.

Through the other characters, Brooks also explores trauma, focused especially on Mostar, who Kate doesn’t know what to think of at first. But it’s obvious to the reader there is more to her than Kate sees, and she becomes one of the most interesting characters in the novel.

Devolution shows what can happen when people become too reliant on technology for everything, when people venture into nature without actually respecting nature, and that’s without the introduction of the creatures. And the creatures really do leave a lasting impression, as Kate catches glimpses of them here and there before they are fully revealed.

I read World War Z a long time ago, and one thing that struck me was how much it read like a history book, how real and vivid it felt, as if the events portrayed had actually happened. I didn’t enjoy Devolution  as much as World War Z (due to personal preference for zombies, to be honest) but it had a similar feel, the complete and utter immersion in this world and the sense that these events are very much real.

The way this book unfolded was fascinating, with the human characters becoming that little bit more ‘feral’ as time went on, with the idea of civilisation shown to be frail, and reflecting how the people who seem the most put together might melt in a crisis, while those who seem most ‘frail’ can really shine. It’s a really solid book, completely engaging with characters you just don’t want to leave behind. Without a doubt, I highly recommend checking this out.