Author Archives: Anastasia Beaverhausen

Zombies, Zombies, Everywhere, and Not a Machete in Sight

world-war-z-bookApparently, even though I am terrified of them, I’m in a mood for zombie stories. I’m still working on the sequels to Feed, and I recently finished World War Z. Soon I’m gonna be watching The Walking Dead and will never sleep again.

So, World War Z – one of the definitive zombie novels. I was attracted to read this book because it’s written as a documentary, a series of reports from folks remembering what they went through during the Uprising, when the dead rose and started walking/running around. I thought that it might be not as scary to read something written at a bit of a distance and it did seem to help.

Max Brooks was very smart in the stories he chose to tell, with politicians, soldiers, and regular folks all getting to tell their side of events. You get a pretty complete picture of what it was like to live through something so bizarre and terrible. The distance you get from someone telling your their story instead of living it with them should have made some of the more horrific aspects of the story easier to read, but it’s hard to read about cannibalism no matter how the story is being told (see The City of Thieves from our book club a couple months ago).

So while this book wasn’t terrifying, it also wasn’t very comfortable to read. One of the main points Brooks seemed to be trying to make was how humans will do anything to survive. Some of the acts they describe in this book can feel far-fetched, but a quick look at history will reveal the truth about the horrors humanity inflicts upon each other (again, see the historical facts David Benioff used in City of Thieves).

This all isn’t too say that I didn’t enjoy World War Z or think it was a really great read, because I did. It has a lot of fantastic action sequences and the different voices of the characters are really developed. It’s definitely worth a read, though be prepared for some pretty heavy topics – this isn’t all RUN, SHOOT ‘EM IN THE HEAD! You might actually end up thinking about global politics and sociology.

I didn’t see the Brad Pitt movie based on this book, but from what I saw in the trailer, I don’t think they followed the book except in the broadest story sense. While this makes me a bit sad (but not surprised), it would be difficult to adapt this as a faux documentary. Folks seem to like the gory stuff better with their zombies.

(Giant writhing piles of super-fast zombies? Yeah, I don’t think I’m gonna be seeing this one.)

Speaking of which, I’m continuing with my rising from the dead reading with the YA zombie novel “Warm Bodies”. I’m a bit stalled on it, zombies not being much in the holiday spirit, but expect a post on it coming up when I am back in the mood to read Romeo and Juliet as interpreted through the living dead. Happy Holidays!


Persuasion, Or a Lovely Retelling

Gentle reader, I have a confession to make, a shameful one for a Jane Austen lover: I have never read Persuasion. I know, I know, it’s shocking. I can’t explain it; somehow in the depths of my classical education, I fell for Elizabeth and Darcy, Elinor and Edward, etc., but never got around to Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth.

This is one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen in a while.

Therefore, I didn’t have any advanced hints for the plot of For Darkness Shows the Stars, the new YA, postaplocalyptic retelling of Persuasion by Rampant Reads favorite Diana Peterfreund. I think this actually gave me an advantage over more learned readers. I love a good reworking of Austen (no one can deny the brilliance of Clueless) and this one had a ton of hooks for me: awesome author, fantastic title, intriguing concept, and an Austen base. Diana had me at hello.

Let’s start with the world of the story: on what is presumably a future Earth, geneticists made a terrible error in trying to improve humanity. Instead, they created Reduction – the majority of humanity losing a huge part of their brain power, unable to speak, barely able to think. The only people who escaped are now known as the Luddites, a religious community who rejected technology and hid in underground caves on one island nation while humanity crumbled. Now, the Luddites are the ruling class, with the Reduced acting as their servants under the guise of the Luddites protection.

But things are changing. The Reduced are giving birth to generations of children who are unaffected by the Reduction and are challenging their lower status, calling themselves Posts. More importantly, the Posts are rejecting the Luddites outlawing of technology, threatening the social structure that has been in place and presumably, kept humanity safe. And some Posts have some very frightening secrets.

At the heart of the story lies Elliot North, a Luddite young woman doing her best to keep her family’s farm estate intact while burdened with a father who only cares about his comfort (and doesn’t mind spending all their money to get what he wants), and a sister who only wants to have nice gowns and socialize with the neighbors. Even more difficult, Elliot is also dealing with heartbreak: four years before, her best friend, a Post stablehand named Kai had asked her to run away with him. Elliot chose her home and duty over love, and has been heartbroken ever since. When a group of Post explorers asks if they can use her grandfather’s boatwright estate to work on some new ships, who is with them but Kai, grown into a wealthy hero but with all the anger still over Elliot’s refusal and with something very different all the Posts seem to be trying to hide. But Elliot has a secret of her own, one that could threaten everything she holds dear.

Ok, hooked yet? In this book, Diana sets up a society that echoes Regency England beautifully. The Luddites are the English gentry, with their sprawling manors and estates full of servants. The Posts are the servant class and in particular, members of the British armed forces, where even low-born men could earn glory and riches from fighting in the Napoleonic wars. The Austen base is evident all through the novel, especially in the way Diana writes – there is an elegance, a way she uses description, and the characters’ dialog that all feels very familiar to Austen fans. Familiar, but not mimicking, though – this is very much Diana’s work.

There are a lot of things I loved about this book. The world she creates is fascinating, especially how it ties in to our world today. People born in the last 20 years, especially teens, take for granted how much genetic experimentation we live with every day; super crops, experimental medications, even altering our DNA. Diana takes that reality and shows both the advantages and the dangers that most people probably don’t even think about. I also love seeing a society in transition, how the status quo reacts to new and possibly threatening classes of people rising up to challenge and take their due. There is so much to this book that I can’t say for fear of spoilers, but trust me, GOOD STUFF here.

I’m a sucker for Regency details, like house parties, the antics of the ton, dances at Almack’s (I read a lot of Regency romances. Check out the Bridgerton books by Julia Quinn, they are DELIGHTFUL). We get a bunch of this world’s equivalent events in this story. I especially love a particular picnic scene with Elliot, the Posts, and her neighbors, one of which is a lovely young woman who appears to have captured Kai’s attention – cue jealousy! and heartfelt confessions from the girl to Elliot who has to pretend to be sympathetic! Pure Austen/Regency deliciousness. (Also a MAJOR plot development happens there – it is seriously nail-biting.)

One of Diana’s major strengths as a writer is her characters, especially her women and girls, and this book is full of beautifully rendered people. Elliot is strong and determined, knowing she made the choice she had to in order to protect the people who depend on her. Her other best friend, a Reduced girl named Ro, is a heart-breaking example of what the Reduction did to people. And Kai, stubborn and proud and defiant, reminds me of the best and worst of Mr. Darcy. There are so many great characters that it would take way too long to describe them all.

My one nit-pick is that the book could have used a bit of tightening up. The story takes some time to get going (though once it does, it really hums along), and there is a lot of time spent on Elliot worrying about her wheat. It’s a pretty major plot point from almost the first page, but as a reader you pick up on that pretty quickly, so you don’t really need Elliot voicing it for you over and over.

I am so glad I read this book and I’m so glad Diana wrote it. Even though it’s a retelling of a classic, the story’s themes fit right in to her previous works. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Bloggess Preview

If you follow our Twitter, you’ll know that all the Rampant Ladies are obsessed with Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, one of the funniest writers alive with one of the best blogs. She did a reading and signing in Atlanta last night and all of the Rampant Ladies (except for our darling Rhymenocerous, who is now in Australia petting wallabees or whatever Australians do all day) attended with great excitement.

We’ll be covering the event and doing a review of Jenny’s book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, later this week, but here’s a sneak peek: the Rampant ladies with our Beyonce the Giant Metal Chicken puppets waiting in our reserve seats (yup, we got special seating, we are obviously Jenny’s new BFFs).

JENNY WE LOVE YOU(Someone didn’t get the message about peeping over the puppet. That would be me.)

Rampant blog-o-versary winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered our blog-o-versary bookplate contest. Folks had some awesome ideas for bookplates that I’m totally not stealing (cough). And again, thank you all for reading our nonsense and being as passionate about books as we are. I’m raising a cracked pink cup of milk to you all!

The winner of the bookplates is…

Jayla P!! We’ll be sending you an email, so keep an eye out.

Thanks again, everyone!

Rampant Reads visits the Garden of Intrigue

Last night, Sword Mistress, Captain Awesome, Princess Consuela, and I braved the wretchedness of I-85 north at rush hour to see the fabulous Lauren Willig at Georgia Gwinnett College. If you aren’t familiar with her work, Willig writes an addictive series of novels about spies in Regency England and France, all named after flowers. “Intrigue. Espionage. Romance. Swordplay. Comedy.” is how her website describes her work, which sums them up nicely.

I can’t remember which Rampant lady first discovered these books (i think it was Princess Consuela), but we’ve all become addicted – some of us more than others – so when we heard she’d be heading to Georgia for a visit, we marked our calendars accordingly.

Willig was promoting her latest book, the 9th in the Pink Carnation series, and we were lucky enough to be the first stop on her tour. The Garden of Intrigue comes out today (happy book birthday!), but happily her publisher agreed to let copies be sold last night, so we all got our greedy paws on one.

Willig was adorable – she obviously enjoys the hell out of writing these books and gets a kick out of the scrapes and love entanglements she gets her characters into. She read two passages from the new book, both of which had us giggling. She then answered questions about her writing process, what’s her plan for characters from past books, and the headache of choosing titles and covers for her novels. She answered every question with a smile and seemed excited to share the inside scoop on the inner life of her characters.

Her true sweetness and affection for her fans came through when she signed. Not only did the four of us approach her in a pack and proceeded to linger and chat all together with her as she signed each of our books, but Princess and Captain had brought their entire collections of her books. This didn’t phase her in the least and she happily signed them all and didn’t freak out at our loud and extremely chatty selves.

A cool bonus awaited us at the signing table. Willig’s first book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, when it was re-released had a bunch of illustrations, graphic-novel style. The illustrator is a Georgia lady, so she was there with the illustrations! They looked amazing, the illustrations managing to be both beautiful and capturing the humor and playfulness of Wiilig’s book.

Thank you, Lauren Willig for coming and thanks to the Gwinnett Library system and Georgia Gwinnett College’s library for hosting a great event!

2012 – A Lot to Be Excited About

Let's hope the Mayans were wrong.

It’s the time of year for lists. Many many lists. Magazines, newspapers, blogs, toilet paper companies, all of ’em are doing their Best of 2011 lists. While I would love to know what the 5 Softest Toilet Papers of 2011 were, we thought it would be more interesting to look ahead to 2012 and talk about the books to be published that we are excited about reading. So, barring that end of the world thing that the Mayans predicted, here are a few books that each Rampant Reads lady can’t wait to get her greedy mitts on.

(NOTE: Rhymenocerous just had to go off to Russia while we wrote this post, so her picks aren’t in this list. Let’s all just be jealous and have a vodka shot in her honor.)

Anatasia Beaverhausen:

The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Jan. 10)

I don’t have to wait long for this one and THANK GOODNESS. They released the first 2 chapters online (you can read them online here) and I am already hooked. The premise sounds a bit grim – girl with terminal cancer finds love – but John’s writing and superb characters will change your expectations and make this not to miss. Plus, he signed EVERY SINGLE PRE-ORDERED COPY, god bless him.

Black Heart by Holly Black (Apr. 3)

Holly is one of my favorite YA authors, as evidenced by my treasured signed copy of Tithe in my intro post. This is the 3rd book in her superb “Curse Workers” series and I can’t wait to see where she takes it.

The Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicles Day 3) by Patrick Rothfuss (Date ?)

Rothbuss exploded onto the fantasy scene with the first book in this series, The Name of the Wind, in 2009, and his brilliant writing and playing with fantasy tropes made it an instant hit with fantasy fans. I think even folks who aren’t fantasy people would eat this series up. Each book takes place over one day and I am DYING to finish this up. GIVE ME A RELEASE DATE!!
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Happy Halloween! Here’s a review of a book about zombies.

So I said in my post about what reading rules you would break that I was reading a book about zombies. Well, I finished it and literally 5 minutes later, I bought and was engrossed in the second in the series, so it’s safe to say that I liked it.

Feed, by Mira Grant (Orbit 2010), is actually more of a political thriller than a post-apocalyptic story – think “All the King’s Men” meets “Dawn of the Dead”. It’s been 25 years since a virus that cures the common cold was released into the populous before it was fully tested. When it met another virus that was intended to cure cancer, they combined to form Kellis-Amberlee, an infection that brings the dead back to life and the living into zombies. And since it was built on the cold virus, everyone has the dormant phase. On the plus side, no more colds or cancer. On the negative, we now have a world where folks mostly hide in their homes and have to take blood tests everywhere they go to make sure they aren’t infected.

In this future world, bloggers have a lot more respect and power. When the infection first started effecting people, the governments and medical professionals hid the truth. It was a doctor at the CDC who used his 8 year old’s blog to spread the word. Bloggers picked up the story and blasted the story to the world, including the realization that George Romero’s films actually had it correct (he is an international hero). There are Stewarts – newsies who try to find the truth in new stories (named for Jon Stewart), Irwins – bloggers who like to go poke zombies with sticks and film the results (named for Steve Irwin), and Fictionals – poets and authors who post about the world they live in.

The store revolves around a group of 3 b-level bloggers – Georgia, Shaun and Buffy, who chose her name because “I live in a world filled with zombies – what else should I call myself?”. They are picked to follow the presidential campaign of a very popular senator, though things quickly become complicated when someone tries to assassinate the senator. What follows is an intense, exciting thriller with some heart-breaking moments and true seat-of-your-pants action. Grant’s writing is so sharp and her story so compelling, I finished the book in just a few hours.

The best thing about these books is the huge amount of thought that Grant has put into this fictional future. Every aspect of the world, including in-depth science behind the virus that causes zombies, is fleshed out and makes this future seem terrifyingly real. Here’s an example: the virus can amplify in any mammal over 40lbs. Which means that zombie cows, deer and dogs are a reality, so no more red meat and no more man’s best friend in the house.

This book is not for the faint of heart – I’ve been having zombie-tinged dreams for a week now – and Grant isn’t afraid to kill off characters. She Jossed me several times in the books and I’m not gonna lie, there may have been tears. But the writing and story are so sharp, it was worth the pain.

Hey, it didn’t hurt as bad as a zombie bite. Shoot ’em in the head!