Category Archives: Quirk Books

Review: World of Trouble (Last Policeman #03) by Ben Winters

  • Series: Last Policeman (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (July 15, 2014)
  • ISBN: 978159474685
  • Source: Publisher

*Warning: This is a review for the third book in a trilogy. There will be spoilers in this review, so if you have not read the previous two books please do not continue.*

The clock is ticking away; the asteroid on a path to Earth is getting closer. The end is imminent. Everyone has responded to the devastating reality in a different way: committing crime, stealing in order to get supplies to survive the last few days, and, in many cases, ending their own lives so they didn’t have to face the horrific end. Detective Hank Palace could be doing what everyone else is, settling down to ride out his last few days on Earth. Instead, he continues his search for his sister, Nico. The last he heard, she’d joined a group that apparently had a solution to destroy the asteroid before it struck the planet.

His search takes him to an abandoned police station in Ohio. His sidekicks on this journey are his ever faithful dog, Houdini, and Cortez, a former criminal.  At the police station it seems as if the world has already ceased to function. Officers either fled their posts when they heard news of the asteroid or were killed protecting what modicum of society still existed. There, they find a young woman on the brink of death, her throat slit in a failed attempt at her life. Palace knows his sister is some how tied to this police station. As they wait for the young woman to regain consciousness, they discover evidence that may indicate Nico and her group are buried in a bunker beneath the police station. Time is not their friend. While Palace may not be able to stop the end of life as they know it, but when the end does come he wants to be with Nico.

What Place and Cortez discover, however, is more haunting and chilling than they could have imagined.

It goes without saying that this novel is bleak. The end of the world is imminent, nothing can be done to stop it. Society as we know it has already ceased to exist, people robbing and killing one another to scrape together supplies to ride out to the end.  There is no time for fluff in this storytelling; Winters shells it out to readers without sugar-coating it.  No happy rainbows or butterflies; the world is ending.  Yet rather than being depressing, I found myself to be moved emotionally by Palace’s journey to find his sister.

What makes this novel, and the entire trilogy, stand out as a whole is the superb storytelling. Winters is a genius; mixing dry humor and bits of hope by way of Palace’s character.  Although we know the world is ending, readers will root for him, crossing our fingers in hope that he will track down Nico before the asteroid hits.  As Winters ties together loose ends, wrapping up story lines and answering questions that came about in the previous books, readers are inundated with revelation after revelation, leaving one in a stunned silence until they can fully comprehend what they just read.

As I read, I was wary of how the book was going to end.  I must say, I couldn’t have imagined it any other way. A truly expert piece of storytelling, this trilogy is a must-read.  While I’m sad that it has come to a conclusion, I can’t wait to pick up the first book and start it over again, knowing now what I didn’t know then.  Highly, highly recommended.

 

Check out my reviews of the first two books in the trilogy:

The Last Policeman
Countdown City

#Mx3 Review: Suburban Legends: True Tales of Murder, Mayhem, and Minivans by Sam Stall

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  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (October 1, 2013)
  • Source: Publisher (via Edelweiss)

In this collection of horrifying true stories, Stall proves that living in the suburbs isn’t as quiet or calm as one would tend to believe.   In stories ranging from hauntings to brutal killings and supernatural creatures, Stall terrifies readers with tales destined to be retold around a campfire or at a slumber party.  Stall focuses on well-known stories of murderous individuals we’ve all hear about on the news, but also focuses on local, lesser-known stories. Included, when applicable, are chilling photographic evidence of the haunting, or, even more terrifying, of the killer.  For those more sensitive, Stall does share stories that are more humorous than terrifying, a perfect combination of hilarity and horror.

This collection of 60 stories is broken down into the following categories:

  • Inhumanly Bad Houseguests (hauntings, poltergeists, paranormal activity)
  • The Ghoul Next Door (Do you know what your creepy neighbor does behind closed doors!?)
  • Hellish Commutes (haunted roadways, hotels, etc)
  • Backyard Beasts (unnaturally odd creatures)
  • Really Desperate Housewives (murderous wives/mothers)
  • Lawn of the Dead (Horrifying things found buried in backyards or uncovered during construction)
  • Sundry Cul-de-sacriliges (Miscellaneous hauntings, paranormal activity)

Each story only has a page or two devoted to it, so if you are anything like me, you’ll find yourself wanting to know more. I caught myself hitting Google to find out more, especially when I discovered that one of the stories was based just a few miles down the road (gulp!)

Recently re-released in ebook format, Suburban Legends: True Tales of Murder, Mayhem, and Minivans is a must needed addition to your Halloween reading collection! Highly, highly recommended.

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Review: Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (July 16, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1594746265
  • Source: Publisher

In this second volume of the Last Policeman trilogy, only 77 days remain before a asteroid collides with Earth. The Concord police now report to the U.S. Justice Department leaving Detective Hank Palace without a job. Still, every day he dons his suit and tie, working “cases” to keep himself busy.  Then, out of the blue, he is contacted by his childhood babysitter, Martha, begging for help in finding her missing husband.

Considering the current state of things, people disappear quite regularly, going “bucket list” to accomplish things before the world ends. They abandon their lives, including spouses and families in order to take advantage of their last days on Earth. Or, they simply disappear. If it was anyone else asking for help, Palace would have declined. Yet something about the passion and intensity in this woman’s request gives Palace the initiative to do a bit of investigating. Besides, how else is he going to spend his remaining days on Earth?

Palace’s investigation soon leads him straight to his sister, Nico, involved in an underground group set on putting a stop to the asteroid themselves. Palace was always reluctant to believe anything this group had to say, yet given information he uncovers in his investigation, he is beginning to wonder if they might be on to something. Could the government be involved in the deaths of hundreds of citizens?

Readers of the first book in this series, The Last Policeman, will appreciate the return of some of the original characters, including those Palace worked with on the force.  Solving crimes and locating missing persons has drastically changed as of late, forcing Palace to rely on some pretty unlikely characters to learn more about the fate of Martha’s husband.

Countdown City is a tremendous second novel in this trilogy, devoid of any “sophomore slump,” avoiding issues that many “middle child” books in a trilogy seem to be threatened with. Winters expertly blends a pre-apocalyptic “drama” with a detective story, really honing in on how people respond and react to a crumbling society.  Each chapter has the intensity to keep the attention and anticipation alive, aided by truly compelling characters.  Additionally, readers get a glimpse into a more philosophical side of Hank Palace, adding an entirely new dimension to his character.

Countdown City will appeal to both fans of mystery and science fiction.  I do recommend that you start at the beginning of the series for it is imperative to learn a bit of history about each character in order to understand their motivations.  While Winters does dish out a bit of back story, it is only an abridged version of what transpires in the first novel.

I am anxiously awaiting the final book in the trilogy. Is it horrible that I am counting down to the day the asteroid hits, if only it means that I get to read more from Winters and his incredibly endearing and likeable character in Hank Palace?  Bottom line: if you are looking for a truly outstanding story with rich and dynamic characters, this is the trilogy for you. Highly, highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher, I have a pretty outstanding giveaway lined up!  Three winners will receive the first two books in The Last Policeman trilogy and a poster as well.  To enter, simply answer the question: If you had 77 days left on Earth, what would you do?

Open to U.S. & Canadian residents only.  Please be certain to complete the email address field (it won’t appear publicly) or enter your twitter handle so I can contact you if are a winner!  Winners will be contacted on Friday, July 26th.

Frightful Friday: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E. B. Hudspeth

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E. B. Hudspeth:

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (May 21, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1594746168
  • Source: Publisher

Dr. Spencer Black became relatively comfortable working with cadavers at a young age.  His father, Gregory Black, was a respectful professor of anatomy at the Medical Arts College of Boston in the late 1800s. He performed dissections in a time when medical cadavers were scarce and often had to resort to grave-robbing with the help of his two young sons. So, when he passed away, it was no shock when Spencer followed in his father’s footsteps and went into the medical field.

Spencer had a long fascination and appreciation of death:

When one dies they neither ascend into the heavens nor descend into hell, they instead become cured–freed from an illness and healed from the suffering of mortality.

During his studies, Black became intrigued with mutations of the body, in particular physical abnormalities.  It was difficult for Black to study living people with these conditions as they tended to die relatively early in life or kept themselves secluded from the public.

Like many other doctors, Black would sketch his findings. Unlike other doctors, however, was the extensive detail found in Black’s drawings. Metamorphosis  fascinated Black so he became quite interested in studying insects, in particular the cicada:

They are born once again from the womb of their own body, which is abandoned as an empty shell, and then they live the world…After such a long time in darkness, we can only live for a short while.

 

Still, Black’s interest in birth defects continued. He began a special surgical program at the Academy of Medicine focusing on the research of operable birth defects.  It was his hope that this research could potentially prevent defects in future births. He was granted a separate operating room and laboratory, referred to as Ward C. He had the newest technology making it one of the most advanced research spaces in the world.  His work in Ward C gained Black world-wide attention.

Unfortunately, the success of Ward C was short lived.  An operation on a young girl with a parasitic twin ended with her death, Black never really getting over the grief and guilt. This led him to stray away from his typical studies and instead move on to theories of evolution and natural selection. This way of thinking was completely different than that of others in his field.

His career and life would be forever altered after Black visited a local carnival. There, he witnessed several examples of human defects.  He was drawn to a fawn child, a deceased boy whose knees bent the wrong way and hair covered the entire surface of his skin. He resembled a fawn.  Black was certain that this specimen was integral to his research and so he purchased it for a small fortune. This specimen was the first of many secret dissections he would perform in his attic.

Black began to publish his findings.  Soon after, all of his funding was terminated. He was no longer focusing on studies that would enhance the medical community; instead he focused on his own obsessions. This obsession only grew over time; eventually he began to create his own unnatural creations, creatures that he believed were the ancestors of humankind.

Black’s obsessions destroyed his family and marriage; his wife was severally injured after she attempted to set his “lab” on fire. Still, he continued. He hoped to publish his manifesto, The Codex Extinct Animalia. only six copies were completed before Black withdrew the project and disappeared.

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black details an elaborate fictional history of Black’s work; just a small sampling is summarized above. The second half of this volume shows the illustrations of these elaborate mythical beasts Dr. Black believed existed, as ancestors of modern humans.  The illustrations are elaborate and intricately detailed:

resurrectionist

This volume is an incredibly unique mash-up of the beauty of anatomical form with the dark and sinister. A truly beautiful piece of art, this book would be a unique addition to grace the library, or even coffee table, of medical students or those interested in mythical creatures.

Frightful Friday: Lovecraft Middle School-Professor Gargoyle & The Slither Sisters by Charles Gilman

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week, I’m pleased to welcome my oldest son, John-John, for a special review of the first two books in the Lovecraft Middle School series, Professor Gargoyle and The Slither Sisters:

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Okay, when I started middle school I knew things were going to be a little weird. My experience couldn’t compare to seventh-grader Robert Arthur’s experience at Lovecraft Middle School.

In the first book, Professor Gargoyle, Robert finds himself assigned to Lovecraft Middle School in the south part of town While all his friends were assigned to attend another middle school. His mom raved about the school, talking about all the great technology and the fact that it was built using all recycled material. What makes it worse is that when he walks into school on the first day, Robert runs into Glenn Torkells, the bully who tormented him in middle school. Could it get any worse? Definitely.

On the first day, students find rats running down the halls and in the classroom. His science teacher, Professor Gargoyle, is a bit odd. Robert gets lost (literally lost, not just losing track of time or getting lost in a book) in the school library. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Within the first few days of school Robert discovers his mother was right; Lovecraft Middle School isn’t your average middle school. The story (and secrets!) behind the school are far darker and deadlier than can possibly be imagined.

In the second book, The Slither Sisters, after barely escaping the creatures that lie waiting in Lovecraft Middle School, Robert discovers that two of his classmates, twins Sarah and Sylvia Price, are actually horrible and hideous monsters in disguise. If that isn’t bad enough, one of them is running for Student Council President, determined to take control of the school.  Once again Robert and his “unique” best friends, the strange group of heroes must put an end to their campaign and prevent the monsters from taking control of his middle school.

Ok, so let’s start out with the covers. I admit, a cover of a book can persuade me to read a book. These books are holograms! At first, the faces on the covers look like normal people but when you walk past the book or tilt it at an angle, you see the true image of these horrid monsters! Awesome, right?

It doesn’t stop there, though. I’m a middle-schooler and I found myself relating to Robert’s character. Although he’s in middle school, he hasn’t gone through a growth spurt or his voice hasn’t changed like the other kids. He pretty much looks the same as he did in elementary school. This is the second selling point for me: I can relate to the main character.

Thirdly: Man, is this book spooky!  I don’t typically like spooky or scary stories like my mom and younger brother do. But something about these stories allowed me to overlook these feelings. I think it has something to do with the things I list above: the epic covers and a character I understand. Without telling you too much, the middle school Robert attends is built using the materials of a mansion that burned to the ground years ago. A mansion that was home to a pretty evil guy who performed some pretty crazy experiments. Using the materials of this supposedly haunted house allows the creatures that once roamed the mansion to now walk the halls of Lovecraft Middle School. And I thought some of my teachers were monsters!! But what I like about these books most of all is that Robert, a pretty uninteresting, normal kid winds up being the hero. Who doesn’t love a story like that!?

Best of all is that there are more books in this series that focus on some of the other creatures of Lovecraft Middle School! I have the third one, Teacher’s Pest, already even though it doesn’t come out until May. Mom says I need to wait a little longer before I review it but trust me, you are going to want to read all three books in one sitting.

Ok, Mom says I should also mention that although this series is set in a middle school, kids younger than that age can read and enjoy these books as well. Like my brother, Justin, for example. When these books arrived we had to wrestle to see who got to read them first! I won’t say who won….

So, I hope I made you want to read these books. I plan on donating my copies to my middle school so that other students can read them. THANKS!

Frightful Friday: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

 

This week’s featured book is The Last Policeman by Ben Winters:

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (July 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1594745765
  • Source: Publisher

If the world was going to end in a matter of months, what is the point of having a police force? Of investigating a murder?

Concord, New Hampshire. On April 9th, a 6.5-kilometer-diameter asteroid known as Maia is predicted to crash into the Earth, causing devastation across the entire planet. Scientists have yet to know exactly where Maia will hit Earth but bets have already begun to come in, countries speaking up as to how they expect to respond. Society has changed in the meanwhile, people have quit their jobs to spend the rest of their short life on the beach or some other scenic location. Chain restaurants like McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts no longer exist. OPEC shut down the production of oil so gasoline is no longer being produced. Not surprising, the number of suicides have increased dramatically.

Known as “hangers” due to their method of suicide, these cases are picking up steadily as the date approaches. Detective Hank Palace is one of the few policeman remaining on the job, many have retired, not seeing the point in protecting a society doomed to end. One morning, he is investigating another potential hanging. He sees a dozen suicides in a week yet this one, the victim a 38-year-old insurance agent by the name of Peter Zell, feels different. His coworkers (and pretty much everyone around him) thinks Peter is wasting his time. The medical examiner has already ruled it a suicide yet Palace can’t get over this feeling in the back of his mind. Yet another question keeps popping up in his mind as well: what is the point of investigating a murder if everyone is going to die in a few months?

The first book in a new trilogy, The Last Policeman is a unique marriage of pre-apocalyptic fiction and police procedural. Winters excels at not only producing a compelling murder case that must be solved, but in doing so also examines the way society has responded to this catastrophic inevitability.

Hank Palace is one of the few individuals who still have a sense of hope, a need to keep the norm up and running, despite the fate that has been dealt to them. The world Winters conveys is a completely realistic (thereby terrifying) glimpse at how our country would run in the face of chaos.

A sub-plot flowing through the novel involves Palace’s sister, Nico, and her involvement in a underground group of rebels that seem to think the government knows more about the destination of the asteroid than it is leading on.  This story-line doesn’t come to a nice and tidy finish at the end of the novel, insinuating it will continue in the subsequent books in this trilogy.

Bottom line: this unique mash-up is certain to grab the attention of readers of all varieties. I, myself, am impatiently awaiting the next book in this series.  Highly recommended. Check back tomorrow for a special giveaway!

Zombie Mondays: The Zombie Tarot: An Oracle of the Undead by Stacey Graham

 

  • Cards: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books; Crds edition (June 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1594745692
  • Source: Publisher

We’ve all seen tarot cards, whether in person or on screen. Imagine those tarot cards…zombiefied. This 78-card deck, along with a 96 page instruction manual, provides the user with tips on surviving the zombie apocalypse.

The instructions on the side of the box read:

In the event of a zombie attack: Get to a secure location, open this box, and consult the Zombie Tarot. This fully-functional 78-card deck offers valuable advice on life, love, family, friendship, automatic firearms, premature burials, cannibalistic children, and more.

The cards have a bit of a vintage look, making them appear as if they are relics from the past:


The illustrations, done by Paul Kepple are richly detailed without being too graphic.

The cards don’t guarantee to predict the future, but instead offer suggestions on how to survive a particular situation.  The accompanying instruction manual provides detailed explanations of each of the cards and the course of action one must take. For example, the Six of Cups card represents nostalgia, memories, old flames. The advice: “Someone from your past may come for a visit. Just don’t mistake a friendly kiss on the cheek for a zombie gnawing off your face.”

Bottom line: The Zombie Tarot Cards are a must-have addition to any zombie-apocalypse preparedness kit. Highly recommended!