Tagged: ari

After the End by Bonnie Dee

After the End by Bonnie Dee(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The end of the world is only the beginning.

Zombies are on the loose and the world comes unraveled. A group of strangers on a Manhattan subway are brought together in the name of survival following the lead of Ari Brenner, a young man who represents authority because of his army uniform. Even though Ari doesn’t feel worthy of their trust, he steps up during the crisis as he’s been trained to do.

College student Lila Teske finds her non-violent beliefs tested in the crucible of a zombie attack as she takes her place fighting by Ari’s side. There are other members of the diverse group, but the focus of the story is on Lila and Ari, young people who learn about sacrifice, inner strength and even love during their ordeal.

With infrastructure down and communication with the outside world broken, the survivors head toward the nearest marina to escape New York. When they meet a lab tech who may know the key to defeating the virus, he must be protected at all costs. But the reanimated dead aren’t the only danger that impedes them on their perilous journey.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

It’s actually kind of funny that I found this book on NetGalley because 3-4 years ago I read an excerpt from the original version.  The voice of the author was so unique that even though I didn’t have money to buy it at the time, it’s been on my list for a while.  So when I saw a chance to read the whole book (a new revised edition, mind you), I leaped at the chance.

First off, Bonnie Dee’s zombies are not your typical zombies.  They’re a little smarter and are surprisingly strong, but what really stood out for me was how you kill them.  Just disabling their brain doesn’t work; you have to go for their spinal column to get to their so-called ‘primitive’ or reptilian brain that drives them.  So having a bunch of guns and some sharpshooters isn’t necessarily going to save your butt this time like in so many zombie books.  They’re also a little smarter and some of them are quite strong, so you’ve got the makings of a perfectly terrifying apocalyptic scenario.

So while the zombies and general world-building was good, my relationship with the characters was so-so at best.  Ari and Lila were both very good, solid characters with lots of development.  Ari has to fit into his unasked for leadership role as the only man with military training around and Lila has to reconcile the new everyday violence with her pacifist tendencies.  If they don’t succeed in changing, they’re all going to die.  There’s a definite romantic element to the plot as Ari and Lila become close, but it’s not always the main focus.  The main focus is survival.

That was the really good part of the characterization.  The bad part is that for her secondary characters, Bonnie Dee tends to use stereotypes.  The pampered model, the cute and helpless kid, the scientist with the cure, the disgruntled teenager, etc.  I would have liked her to flesh out her secondary characters a whole lot more, but she never really did.  There was so much potential with many of these characters that was never lived up to, so in a way the characterization was rather disappointing when you compare it to that of the two main characters.

However, the plot is incredibly fast-paced.  Bonnie Dee grabs you into her story and doesn’t let you go until you’re done reading.  There’s a constant undercurrent of tension from the very real threat of the zombies as well as the many interpersonal conflicts that crop up in a diverse group of survivors.  She has an excellent writing style that describes things in detail without ever really letting go of the fast pace.  Thankfully, there was no middle sag in this book either as Ari’s group got their footing.  It’s fast-paced pretty much all the time, which is what you really want in a post-apocalyptic novel.

So overall, I was pretty happy with how After the End turned out.  The main characters were good, the zombies were terrifying and new and the plot was insanely fast-paced.  The only real letdown was the secondary characters, which could have had so much more depth and added so much more to the story.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Stolen Skye by Nina Loard

Stolen Skye by Nina Loard(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

It’s been years since the car accident, but with every disappointment Evelyn finds herself wondering about her forgotten days in London. After being dismissed from her job, she unknowingly wanders past an old friend who reintroduces himself by breaking into her home. Armed with a photograph and a handful of gems, he convinces her that after dropping out of her study abroad program, she befriended a group of accomplished thieves. Drawn to the handsome stranger in her living room and seduced by the idea of finally knowing the truth, Evelyn travels to London to face her past and understand what could’ve caused her to make such uncharacteristic life choices.

As conflicting memories surface, Evelyn fights her attraction to the Irish rogue, Finn, while sparring with the intimidating group leader, Ari. There’s the added problem of forgetting where she’s stashed a small fortune. Realizing too late that darker forces are closing in on her, Evelyn fights to save herself and the lives of those she’s grown to care for.

I hate to admit it, but the only reason I even considered reading this book is that it was free on Amazon at the time.  Normally something like this would scare me off because I’d think “Oh, just another action movie wannabe”.  You could say that I’m a little judgmental with these things, but I still did go into Stolen Skye with an open mind.  You never know, right?  It might actually be good.

The truth is, it’s better than good.  It’s great!

I know it sounds like Evelyn has Hollywood Amnesia and she sort of does, but at least Nina Loard justifies it as the rare fugue amnesia (where victims can get their past memories back and don’t lose the memory of how to do basic things like tie their shoes).  The main reason why I didn’t throw this book at the wall despite the amnesia cliche is that it wasn’t actually a cliche in this book.  Evelyn is significantly hindered by her lack of past memories and she knows it.  Sometimes memories come back to her if she’s in a setting from that memory, but it’s not a great big rush just when the plot finds it convenient.

Evelyn was a great character, to be honest.  She’s smart and determined when she has a goal, but at the same time she’s still a little unsure of herself.  I know I would be too if I was in the place where I lost my memories with these people who knew my former self.  The whole art theft ring wouldn’t help either.  Ari and Finn are two very different men and no, it’s not a typical love triangle in this case.  Evelyn naturally grows attracted to Finn, but then something happens to sort of spoil their relationship.  I can’t say anything without giving away a major spoiler, but let’s just say that it both did and didn’t surprise me.

For a character-driven novel, Stolen Skye is quite fast-paced.  Of course there’s Evelyn rediscovering her past, but then a lot of the plot consists of her re-training as a thief and helping to plan a theft at one of the most famous museums in the world.  (This particular theft not being illegal as they were hired for a publicity stunt.)  We also see Evelyn try to learn what led to her accident and subsequent amnesia.  Trust me when I say that where there’s lots of money involved, there’s a lot of criminal activity and the people with said money become targets.

What really stood out for me in Nina Loard’s book were her vivid descriptions of the locations.  I’ve never been to London (something I plan to remedy in the future) but through her writing I felt like I was right there along with Evelyn.  Her descriptive style appeals to me and although it’s not typically what you’d see in an action thriller, it somehow works because she has a good sense of timing.  Few authors can both describe the characters’ surroundings adequately and still have lots of action going on.  It’s an important skill and Nina Loard certainly has it.

This was definitely one of the best books I’ve stumbled across, paid or free.  I’m so glad that I gave it a chance and went into it with an open mind because I’ve found a great new series that I’m dying to read the next book of.  So check out the Skye Trilogy, people!  It’s hard not to love it!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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