Monthly Archives: April 2021

Book Review: Dread Nation (Dread Nation #1) by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation ( Dread Nation #1)   

Authors: Justina Ireland

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

American release date: December 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Young Adult Zombie Fiction/464 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Jane McKeene is her mama’s dirty little secret. Born to a white plantation owner, Jane is undoubtedly of African-American descent. Even so, she knows her mother loves her, and does the best that she can to raise her right. The course of Jane’s life is changed forever when the dead begin to rise on the battlefields of Gettysburg. Jefferson Davis’ Confederacy capitulates to the North due to the necessity of having to fight the growing numbers of undead, which they cannot do on their own. Even so, the battle is an arduous one, and some Southern States have been given up as long causes, simply referred to as the Lost States.

Under the auspices of the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, certain children are sent to schools to learn to combat the dead. Jane is one of these, having been sent to Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore. Jane is really good at what she does, and she can surely swing a mean scythe, but she misses her mama, and writes her often. But she hasn’t heard from her in a while, and Jane is concerned.

Jane is a very independent soul, and very strong-minded. Despite the fact that slavery is now illegal, blacks are still treated with a great degree of condescension. Definitely second-class citizens. The best Jane can hope for is to become an Attendant to some fine white lady (read paid but still a slave in all but name). She dreams of the time when she can leave the school and return to her home in Rose Hill, in Kentucky. Jane has friends at the school, but Katherine is not one of them. Katherine is so fair, she could easily pass, and she is beautiful, and she knows it. She and Jane are like oil and water.

Jane has a past relationship with a young man named Jackson. Their relationship didn’t exactly end well, and yet they maintain a tenuous sort of friendship, somewhat out of necessity. Jackson is easy on the eyes, and he operates outside of the law, and you know how women like their bad boys.  Jackson gets Jane and Katherine embroiled in a scenario which ends up with all of them being sent West to a place called Summerland. Supposedly this is a haven for people to be safe against the growing hordes of dead.

But Jane quickly discovers she has just been sent to a place that is more Hell than Heaven.

I found this book riveting from beginning to end. Jane McKeene is an amazingly awesome heroine, strong and gutsy and just plain likeable. The story is told in a compelling First Person present tense narrative that will pull you in. This alternate Civil Way history with zombies is imaginative and fascinating. I thought it very sad that although slavery was illegal, the entitled white people still found a way to keep the blacks down. I found it hard not to draw parallels between then and present day America, and maybe that was the point.

The relationship between Jane and Katherine is priceless, going from enemies to friends. And in Summerland, I think Jane may have found a potential lover. Only time will tell. There are some great characters, some you’ll love, and some you will equally loathe.

The really good news is there is a sequel, and I can’t wait to read it.  Although marked as High School, I think this is an enjoyable series for all ages.. Can’t wait to read the next book.

 

Wednesday Briefs: April 7, 2021

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Phases of Moon: Part 86 by J. Alan Veerkamp

Sawyer didn’t remember which local craft fair Maddie had acquired the handmade calendar. Engraved designs of forest and wolves topped the hardwood plaque filled with rows of changeable tiles marking the months and days. Frivolous and purely decorative, he’d all but ignored it during his teen years.

Now with his new knowledge, it took on so much more meaning.

The twenty-fifth had been replaced. Between the twenty-four and twenty-six sat a stylized pine tree topped with a star. Sawyer always used to look forward to December and the Christmas season. They were never a religious family, but the spirit of giving gifts and Peace on Earth was a worthwhile endeavor.

Click here to read the entire Brief:

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Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 7: The Truth by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 7: The Truth     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: Feb 16, 2010

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Otcho and Kakuta struggle to escape from the island prison of Umihotaru. Kakuta is determined to become a famous manga artist, while Otcho’s desire is to get revenge for a friend. Once they reach the water, Kakuta is sure he can’t possibly swim the distance required to get to freedom, but Otcho tells him the story of his friend who beat him in a swimming competition, and the friend couldn’t even swim! Meanwhile, the warden has learned of the escapes and while he is not concerned with the manga artist, he is upset about Prisoner #3, and wants him back as soon as possible, or else…

Back in 1970, Kenji and his friends are planning to see the Exposition in Osaka. Since time will be at a premium, and lines long, they have to carefully arrange their time to see as much as they can. Donkey confesses to Kenji that his parents can’t afford for him to take the bullet train to Osaka, and asks to borrow Kenji’s bike, to which he agrees. When Otcho and Kakuta reach the mainland,  years later, they find, to Otcho’s amazement, a recreation of that very Expo, with one important exception.

In 2014, a class in a Tokyo high school is given an assignment to write an essay on the Japanese history topic of their choice. Koizumi, caught trying to sneak out of class, chooses to write about Hitler, but her teacher won’t allow that, so she picks up a book at random and points to her “choice” for her subject, which turns out to be Endo Kenji, leader of the Kenji terrorist group that unleashed Bloody New Years Eve in 2000. The teacher objects, but Koizumi insists, claims she always found the official story of that night suspicious, including the iconic photograph of the group who was supposedly controlling the giant monster threatening to destroy Japan. Koizumi isn’t doing well in class because she constantly skips school in order to follow bands that she loves. A classmate of Koizumi’s tells her about another student who went berserk during a discussion of Bloody New Year’s Eve. Her name was Endo Kanna! Koizumi has some research to do!

When Koizumi runs into Kamisama and learns he knew Kenji, she has to learn more!  Back in 2000, Kenji and his friends prepare to save the world from the Friends. They need to find the remote that controls the monster that is destroying Japan!

On top of worrying about Kenji and what has happened to him and the others, we have to deal with Otcho and Kakuta and their ordeal in the current situation, still not knowing exactly what happened in the past. Plus we have a new character, Koizumi, who I feel is going to play a part in revealing the truth about the so-called Kenji terrorist group. I have to hope and believe that Kenji and the others survived whatever put Otcho in prison, and that they will yet emerge to save the day and defeat the evil Friends. Also, Kenji and Yukiji will finally get together!

Another great volume, can’t wait to read the next one!

Saturday is Horror Day #5 – Unearthed, Thirst, Hereditary (x-posted at Full Moon Dreaming)

Reviewed by: Julie Lynn Hayes

There’s nothing quite like a good horror film, am I right? Sadly, the first film on this list is not a good horror film. I didn’t even finish watching it. I’m only including it on this list as a warning to those who might be interested in watching it to watch at your own risk.

Unearthed (2007) – This movie takes place in the desert, where something is attacking cattle. Let me think, what else? The lady sheriff likes her liquor.. And something strange is going on. I can’t really tell you much beyond that because it bored me so much, I turned it off within half an hour. Bad acting, bad writing, and nothing to hold my interest. The only name I recognized in the cast list is M.C. Gainey, who played Bo Crowder in Justified. Nuff said here.

 

 

 

Thirst (2009)

Father Sang-hyum (Kang-ho Song of Parasite) volunteers to be part of a medical experiment, in order to

help people, despite the fact that most of the volunteers before him have died. Although he lives, he requires a blood transfusion which transforms him into a vampire. Returning home, he is looked upon as something of a miracle, and people look to him to help them, unaware of his true nature. They only know he suffered for them.

Going to the hospital to perform his priestly duties, he encounters a childhood friend, Kang-wood (Shin Ha-kyun) and the friend’s mother, as well as the adopted girl who grew up to marry the friend, Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin). On leaving the hospital, the priest becomes a part of their lives once again, finding himself drawn to the girl he knew so long ago. Tae-ju is less than happy with her dumb husband and his controlling mother, and it isn’t long before these two begin an affair. Once Sang-hyun reveals to Tae-ju what he really is, she is shocked at first, and more than a little disturbed, but it isn’t long before she embraces her lover’s vampiric nature and revels in the potential power they can wield. 

Too bad she has such a dumb husband and a controlling mother-in-law.

Thirst was directed by Park Chan-wook, the same director who brought us The Handmaiden, The Vengeance Trilogy, and Stoker. It is a very well-made and erotic film, an unusual take on vampires, and is not without its humorous moments.

 Although they are both vampires, the priest and the wife are different in temperament. Sang-hyun 

attempts to keep his appetites under control, only taking from those who have already expressed a desire for death in the confessional. One person he feeds from is a kindly man in a coma, whom he says would gladly agree to feeding the priest if he were able to do so. Tae-ju, though, is the opposite. Her new conditions seems to have brought out the cruelty in her nature, and she is more than happy to do away with her husband. Although, ironically, he becomes like a third wheel in their relationship, even after death

This film was well done and very interesting. I enjoyed it and would give it a solid 4 stars.

 

Hereditary (2018)

Annie (Toni Collette) is an artist who designs and builds miniature rooms, taken directly for her life. She is currently in the middle of working on pieces for her next showing when her mother dies. The death of Annie’s mother is a tragic event for her entire family, especially for Annie’s daughter Charlie, who was close to her grandmother. Charlie is a bit different, not given to being very communicative. Like her mother, she is an artist, both mother and daughter being compulsive in that regard.

 

 

The family attempt to pull together and move on with their lives, but tragedy seems to follow them. Annie tries to secretly deal with her grief by going to a survivor’s group meeting, but she isn’t sure that is helping. And her son, Peter, feels the weight of what has happened.

 

But the worst is yet to come.

 

This film was definitely more than I expected, to be honest. Not your run of the mill horror movie by any means. Gabriel Byrne plays Annie’s husband Steve, trying to hold his family together in the midst of so much tragedy. Annie herself is conflicted about her role as a wife and mother. At the beginning we get a glimpse of the controlling nature of her mother, who practically considered Annie’s daughter Charlie as her own.

Annie’s actions seem rather psychotic at times, and one has to wonder if she’s got mental issues going on, or if there is something seriously strange happening to this family. When Annie is approached by a member of the group, Joan, she latches onto her as though she is a lifeline for the drowning mother.  Joan has known grief too, having lost her husband and son.

Peter is suffering his own guilt and torment over what has happened to Charlie, and his mother’s actions

are not happening, as the tension grows among them, until he begins to see and experience odd things as well.

I will admit to having some wtf moments where my jaw dropped. Director Ari Aster did a great job with this film, the cast was wonderful, and the story is far from average. I won’t give any spoilers, but pay attention, particularly to the opening.

I think by the end of the film, you’ll be ready to scream too. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. Well worth the watch.