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Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (Series, #1)

Girl looking between tree branches.Summary:
Mary’s world is tightly controlled by the Sisters and the Guardians.  The Sisters show the village how to find favor with God via the yearly and daily rituals.  The Guardians check and maintain the fence that keeps the Unconsecrated out.  The Sisters says the Unconsecrated came with the Return as a punishment to the people.  This is why they must maintain God’s favor.  But Mary dreams of the tales of the ocean and tall buildings her mother told her about, and her mother’s mother for generations back.  She will need those dreams when her world is turned upside down with a breach of the fence.  They’ve happened before, but never like this.

Review:
This is an interesting take on the traditional zombie tale.  In lieu of starting with the outbreak or just after the outbreak, Ryan envisions what life would be like for the descendants of the few who’ve managed to survive.  Of course the sheer number of zombies in the world means it’s impossible for the few survivors left to kill them all, so they must live with constant vigilance.  In the case of Mary’s village, they’ve turned to religion to maintain the level of control required to keep them all safe.  This is the strongest portion of the book as it leads to interesting questions.  The threat outside the fence is indeed real.  Mary’s questions are making it difficult for the Sisters to maintain the control needed and prevent panic in the village.  On the other hand, the Sisters aren’t exactly being honest with the population or giving them a happy life.  They’re just giving them a life.

Where the action supposedly picks up with the breach of the fence is where the book sort of left me behind.  The fact of the matter is, I wound up caring more about the village than Mary, and I don’t think I was supposed to.  Where I was supposed to be rooting for Mary, I found myself rooting for the community, the group of survivors.  Mary’s individualism rings as starkly selfish to me in light of the very real threat around them.  This is odd because generally I’m in favor of people being themselves and not necessarily following the group, but that’s different when a crisis is being faced.  I found myself wishing it had read more like Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic Cranford, which is a study of a town and not an individual.

Of course, that’s not the type of book Ryan set out to write.  She set out to write a book about a girl in a future where zombies are a fact of life.  She writes beautifully, with exquisite sentences that read more like an 18th century novel than a 21st century one.  I also am certain that the teenage audience this YA book is aimed at will be rooting for Mary in her quest to find herself and her dreams.

If you are a teen or a teen at heart looking for an adventure tale with a touch of romance, you will enjoy this book.  If traditional zombies are what you are after, however, you should look elsewhere.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Imminent Arrivals and TBR

Since I didn’t quite manage to finish my current read on the bus this morning (I literally had to stop in the middle of the climax.  I HATE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS), I thought I’d do something a little bit different today.  As you all know, I use PaperBackSwap for acquiring a lot of my books.  It lets you sort your wishlist by estimated time to fulfillment, so I thought I’d share with you guys the books that are estimated to be mine shortly.

Woman in the woods.First up, I’ve been waiting for this book forever: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  All I really know about it is it’s a post-apocalyptic zombie story with a girl/woman/female-okay! at the center of the plot.  I love all things zombie.  Love.  They’re grotesque and fabulous and really fit my dark sense of humor to a T.  This is one of those books that will jump to the top of the TBR pile when it arrives.

Black and white image of women.Next is The Groupby Mary McCarthy.  This got added to my wishlist after reading Nymeth‘s review of it.  It’s about eight female Vassar graduates in the 1930s and the struggles they faced as women at that time.  I’m a sucker for stories about the struggles women face due simply to the fact that we’re women, and the early 1900s are a favorite time period of historical fiction for me.

Giant moon over snowy earth.Third is yet another post-apocalyptic book: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  I can only explain my post-apocalypse obsession by pointing at my fundamentalist Christian upbringing.  Or maybe I just enjoyed the apocalypse sermons because I secretly love tales of suffering.  Take your pick.  Anywho, this one is in journal form, a format I came to love through those Dear America books back when I was in middle school.  This particular apocalypse takes the form of an asteroid hitting the moon, moving it closer to the Earth and giving us some fun Arctic weather.  I’ve heard good titterings from my fellow librarians on this one.

Ok, so I also have books in my TBR pile, so I’m going to show you guys 3 random books from there.  If there’s one you sorely want reviewed soon, tell me now!

Person in a tree.I stumbled upon The Integral Trees by Larry Niven on PaperBackSwap’s customized homepage (it shows me recently added scifi, horror, and memoirs).  The cover caught my attention, so I checked out the description.  It’s supposed to be about a planet where humans evolved to live without gravity and live among the trees.  All other life forms also live among the trees, including the fish.  Honestly, it reminded me a lot of Wii Mario Galaxy, so there you have it.

Torn page in a notebook.A pretty recent arrival, I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells features an untrustworthy narrator with sociopathic tendencies who spends the book trying to convince us and himself that he’s not a serial killer.  Kind of reminds me of Dexter-lite.  I was really stoked for this the whole time it was on my wishlist, but I haven’t touched it since it arrived.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe I’d enjoy it more if it was called, Yeah, I’m a Serial Killer, Deal With It, Bitch.  As is, it just seems like the author was afraid to take it to the edge that Dexter is at.  Prove me wrong, people!

Cartoon of a woman sitting on a tombstone.Finally, there’s Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson.  Yes, it’s yet another paranormal romance series, and I have yet to finish the two that I’m on (Demon Slayer and Sookie), but well this one seems a lot more like Shopaholic, plus it’s not in the south, which is a huge plus.  I mean, really, why must all tongue-in-cheek paranormal romance take place in the south, whereas the dull I’m-a-huge-bitch-because-I-was-wounded-as-a-child-LOOK-AT-MY-TATTOOS paranormal romance take place in the north?  Sooo dull.  So, yeah, I have high hopes for this series.

That’s it!  Please tell me what you think, my lovely readers!