Category Archives: Monthly Book Reviews

Book Review:”The Death Doll” by Brian P White

Summary

As the zombie apocalypse descends upon the United States, a truck appears with scavengers rescuing survivors while dispatching the undead. But when these survivors arrive at their new home, nothing is quite as it seems. With the end times near, how will a group of survivors so different from one another in ideologies, backgrounds, and desires band together to make a new way? Or will pride, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, sloth and wrath be the downfall of any chance at a new society?

The standard apocalypse and Book of Revelations tropes get upgraded with zombies, more diversity, three dimensional characters, the beauty of redemption, and the impacts of American racism and social prejudices in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Want to throw America under a magnifying glass? “The Death Doll” is not a zombie novel to miss.

Overall Response (Caution: accidental mild spoilers)

I mentioned on Twitter that this is my favorite zombie book of all time. I’m saying this as a former resident of Pittsburgh that relished in Halloween every year because it meant celebrating Pittsburgh’s history as one of the cities where zombie mania began. This meant that I saw “Night Of The Living Dead! The Musical!” and did zombie themed weekend adventures around the city. I loved World War Z and I’ve loved every unique spin on zombies out there. Nothing compares to this book, and it has nothing to do with the zombies.

In “The Death Doll”, Brian P. White takes a hard look at various subgroups within the United States and places the reader inside representative characters’ heads. As described in a thoughtful disclaimer at the beginning of the book, this does include the use of bigoted language to demonstrate bigoted characters. If you would prefer to not read a book with swearing and bigoted language for demonstrative purposes, then this is not a book for you. The author does a great job of giving the reader warning ahead of time at the front of the book.

Head hopping is hard. In this book it felt natural. I never had to guess the character currently holding the point of view, and the writing style adapts to each character’s personality traits. Head hopping can only work when it is done well, and in my opinion “The Death Doll” nailed it.

I mentioned that racism and social prejudices are put on full display. Let me be blunt: no character is left flawless and racism is sometimes the base layer expectation. Every character reveals their true nature and grows when given the opportunity to incorporate new information into their world views. The characters that don’t? These are the antagonists because during a zombie apocalypse the zombies aren’t your biggest problem: other humans are. Even with conflict resolutions, the story is written without the white savior trope playing out. In fact, the book turns that trope on its head and gives it the finger in a way that does not feel forced, rather, as a reader, it seems the most competent characters are recognized for their merit.

I love that the characters make choices in actions that have consequences they must live (or die) with. Small choices around the placement of objects are brought back to have huge consequences with constantly logical chains of events (there’s a pun there you’ll only catch if you read the book).

While I do not identify as Christian, that doesn’t mean I don’t love when the Bible is used as a story telling aid for readers with high attention to detail. This book is full of biblical references that add to the symbolism and foreshadowing already present. These references are extensive enough that I would recommend “The Death Doll” for Christian book clubs that really want to delve deep into the teachings brought up and don’t mind the other details previously mentioned. I have to admit, some references are too good, bringing on laughter or groans at the incredible puns that turn into legitimate literary devices. Remember that high school friend of mine that’s a church leader? This book 100% got recommended to him.

Saving the best for last, my absolute favorite aspect of this story may be the story arc of the Death Doll herself, but, to avoid spoilers, readers will have to read the book to find out why.

LGBTQA

While there is no overt representation of the LGBTQA community, this does not impact my rating of this book because there’s an overwhelming message of love and inclusiveness.

Grammar+

Any errors fell within the 1/10,000 words industry standard.

Twilight Zone Moment

There were 2 Twilight Zone Moments:

  1. How do cell phones work in a post-zombie apocalypse world? This is nit picking and is unlikely to bother the average reader. My brain went into a lot of unnecessary technical details.
  2. CPR/AED scene – There is one CPR/AED scene that I struggled with as a healthcare worker, but this could be fixed by characters reminding each other of modifications to the CPR procedure to reduce infection risk.

More About The Author

You can buy the book here and other online book retailers such as Barnes & Noble and BookBub. To learn more about the author, you can follow Brian P. White on Twitter and through his website here.

March 2020: "Ambrosia" by Madison Wheatley

Summary (Caution Mild Spoilers):

Crystal lived through hell and emotionally, she’s still there. She views herself as overweight, worthless, and unloved. She blames herself for everything that happened in her past. She fantasizes about an exercise addiction to take her mind off of everything she wants to forget and she’s been trying to do that with her inexpensive gym membership.

On the anniversary of one of the worst things that happened, she loses it with a customer. On a forced one-week vacation, she gets the opportunity to try the hottest new gym in Little Rock, Arkansas: Mount Olympus.

Mount Olympus isn’t the same as other gyms. The members never leave. Is this the addiction that Crystal wants to forget her problems, or will she discover that there’s a more healing path than selling her soul to a gym membership?

Overall Response:

“Ambrosia” is the best Modern Southern Gothic novel I’ve read this year. It took me a long time to decide if I would call “Ambrosia” Modern Southern Gothic because I recognize the level of controversy associated with that genre. By Study.com’s definitionSouthern Gothic literature is a genre of Southern writing. The stories often focus on grotesque themes. While it may include supernatural elements, it mainly focuses on damaged, even delusional, characters.” Based on this definition, and my own understanding of the genre, “Ambrosia” qualifies in the most flattering ways possible.

If you like elements of Gillian Flynn’s stories or if you enjoy the writing style of “Bonfire” by Krysten Ritter, you will like this book. Wheatley brings a little more dark humor thrown at gym culture and if you need the catharsis of a good reason to not be at the gym during a global pandemic, then you need to buy this book now.

Crystal’s story is captivating for anyone that has had a gym membership and blends dark humor with serious topics such as drug addiction, trauma, miscarriage, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and family disownment. Easy to connect with, the reader resides inside of Crystal’s head seeing her epiphanies and delusions as they happen.

The pacing of the book is fantastic as well. While being a fulfilling read, it is paced very well to be finished in a single evening or two. This is perfect for those looking for a great read without lengthy commitment.

There are elements of the story that are culturally relevant beyond the locker room and emotional gym baggage. The author references drug abuse that was happening in the fitness culture of the United States. I give a lot of praise to the author for putting enough research into her story to make sure everything checked out before the supernatural elements are introduced.

As a fun aside, there is a passage that has been quoted saying that the author predicted the current pandemic. I’ll leave that as a fun Easter Egg for y’all to find (seasonally appropriate, right?).

LGBTQA:

This book does not contain overtly LGBTQA+ characters, but I think this book is valuable to the LGBTQA+ community (and every other community) because of the content discussed.

Grammar+:

This book is extremely close to meeting the 1 error per 10,000-word editorial standard. The few errors I found did not interrupt the reading experience.

Learn More About The Author:

Madison Wheatley is a poet and fiction author. You can visit her Twitter here or her author website here. This book was published through Authors 4 Authors Publishing and based on this book I would encourage others to look into their services. To purchase a copy of this book, you can do so via Amazon here.

Upcoming Reviews: April 2020

April 2020’s Books

I am so far behind. Between the death of a family member, chronic migraine issues, pneumonia, trying to plan a move right before a global pandemic, all rolled up heading down hill…

This page is going to be a placeholder for now. They are there. I will be reading them. I will update this page when I get closer.

April 2020’s Books

“The Secret In The Breeze” by Sean Haughton (Live Tweet Review Coming Soon; Full Review Coming Soon)

“Once Upon A Lane” by Duncan Wilson (Live Tweet Review Coming Soon; Full Review Coming Soon)

“How To Make Sure Your Life Doesn’t Suck” by Dr. Maggie Gilewicz (Live Tweet Review Coming Soon; Full Review Coming Soon)

“The Frost Eater” by Carol Beth Anderson (Live Tweet Review Coming Soon; Full Review Coming Soon)

Thank you for reading! Without you these are shouts into the void.

February 2020: "Wanting Peace: Book 2 of the Reclaiming Life Series" by Alaine Greyson

Summary:

“Wanting Peace” welcomes readers back to Bracken Point with a new romance novel! This sequel in the “Reclaiming Life” series by Alaine Greyson returns us to this small community set in a small-ish town near the Chesapeake Bay. Cassie Roberts and her sister Bex must first deal with the loss of their mother to cancer. Cassie has her own inner demons she must face, but the problems of those around her provide ample distraction. Even better, she’s an accomplished professional finishing the requirements necessary for independent practice in the local rehabilitation clinic, so who better qualified to be giving said life advice?

But when her mother’s dying wish was for Cassie and her sister to reconnect with their estranged father, what is someone in her position to do? Can they confront and heal from that abandonment? Bex begins acting out as she is unable to regulate her own emotions. All this while Cassie and Michael realize that there’s something more than friendship between them. But can Cassie keep herself from meddling and prying into everyone’s secrets?

Overlapping with the end of “Chasing Peace,” this book brings whole new light to the unique characters of Bracken Point.

Overall Response:

First off – this is the sequel to the book that inspired me to start writing reviews. Bracken Point is a fictional place that feels like home to me because it’s along the Chesapeake Bay. The premise of these books captured my attention with book one. These books are so much more than romance novels. I again want to commend the author for the incredible job she does writing these books in a compassionate and understanding way that does not judge characters. She chooses instead to focus on the complexities of mental health, recovery, and the role of the family in recovery. These books push for healthy relationships through communication, boundaries, and conflict resolution. Sometimes it’s cheesy, sometimes it’s steamy – “Wanting Peace” is everything I hoped for.

Book 2 is more graphic than the first book in the best possible ways. Greyson does not dance around the details of drug use, providing more imagery for the reader. As an example, “A waft of ammonia, smoke, and cat urine filled the air. Michael pinched his nose, wondering why he had never noticed the putrescent smell before tonight.” That snippet is one of many contained within the book that demonstrates an understanding critical for reaching an audience that needs the hope offered in this book. I recently purchased both books 1 and 2 of the series for a couple I love to read and review because they’re involved as leaders in the addiction recovery community. 

I have one discussion point that remains from the previous reviewWhat are the roles of a psychiatrist versus a therapist (aka psychologist) in drug rehabilitation, and what is the difference in their level of education? Can someone be both? (discussion relevant to the US only)

First off, I am not a mental health professional, but I do work in the health professions. This doesn’t make me an expert on something that isn’t my field. Psychiatrists and psychologists work together. People can be both. I had not done enough research in that first book review. I recommend checking out RehabCenter.net’s answer. Having never been in a rehab center and spending more time researching this question, I have learned that there are psychiatrists that specialize in dual-diagnosis. Additionally, I learned about the holistic treatment of addiction in specialized centers like the one discussed in Bracken Point. These psychiatrists call themselves “addictionologists,” according to Clearview Treatment Programs. And they are trained as therapists. Thank you to the very tolerant patient care coordinator that chatted with me. I appreciate your help explaining all of this, knowing I was reviewing a book and not seeking treatment.

LGBTQA+:

There is a recurring character in this book that is a member of the LGBTQA community. There is a scene I personally appreciated where the author presents a situation regarding disclosure and invasion of privacy. It was well done.

Grammar +:

This book is very close to meeting the 1/10,000 error standard. They did not interrupt the reading experience at all and mostly consisted of missing words.

Twilight Zone Moment:

This is a different kind of twilight zone. This is a twilight zone RESOLUTION. Remember how I got a little scared because I had no idea who lit the candles in book one? It all adds up now. I’m not freaked out any more.

About The Author And The Series:

Alaine Greyson is the author of many short stories, the Reclaiming Life series (Buy Chasing Peace here, Wanting Peace here, Preorder Finding Peace here), and will be soon releasing the Trapped Soul Series – preorder the first book here. Her publisher is Creative James Media.

Thank you to everyone that reads these. Without you I’m shouting into a void. I hope they help the indie writing community in some way.