review: dying to live: life sentence

Dying to Live: Life Sentence
Kim Paffenroth
Permuted Press, October 2008
212pp, paperback, $14.95US

Twelve years after the end of the world, the survivors have come to a certain peace within their compound. They found other scattered groups of survivors who had barricaded themselves in various defensible places. These became part of their community. They’ve claimed some of the houses, the school, and a few other buildings. They’ve created farms for growing their own food. With no real form of government, they did have few rules and created certain rituals and such to help guide them through their changed lives. They even have created unique ways of dealing with the undead. And above all else, they live their lives with as much ‘normalcy’ as they know how.

Life Sentence is written as journal entries from two very different points of view which with certain inevitable eventuality collide together. One is Zoey, twelve years old on the threshold of her adulthood; her piece is written as the adult Zoey looking back at that time in her life. The other is one of the zombie ‘survivors’ who’s able to read and write and through the course of the story learns who he was and who falls in love!
Paffenroth’s writing is intelligent, poignant, and in more than one instance brought tears to my eyes (but I won’t give any spoilers!). The parallels drawn between the survivors and the zombies is chilling and makes one think. A few scenes are a bit graphic but necessary to drive the plot forward; even so, these scenes are well written and well carried. It is a pleasure–and a fright–to see the world after the Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead apocalypse, to see it through the eyes of the survivors, to learn how they’ve molded and adapted to their new world, to witness the horrors they experience in order to endure.

Kim Paffenroth maintains a blog at Permuted Press is on the web at

review: ellen datlow’s ‘inferno’

Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural
Ellen Datlow, editor
Tor, December 2007
ISBN 978-0-7653-1558-8
384pp, hardcover, $24.95US

Inferno is a non-themed anthology containing twenty original short horror tales by the editor’s favorite writers. Each writer approached his task in his own unique way giving a vibrant collection creating a rare anthology with well-rounded solidly written stories containing strong themes, none of which contain any of the usual, worn horror clichés. The stories all engage the reader, keeping him engrossed from the first word to the last punctuation mark.

Opening up the pages of any book to familiar names is always fun and intriguing, but being able to explore those unfamiliar is and can be just as exciting – or in the case of Inferno, thrilling on the side of terrifying. One thing the reader notices right away about this collection is the lack of gratuitous sex, gore, and violence. The horror in Inferno is largely psychological, appealing to the emotions and often times the subconscious; the reader doesn’t realize he is afraid until he looks up at one point through his reading to find he’s somehow, at some time turned on every light in the house.

This anthology was chosen by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the best science fiction / fantasy books of the year. Multiple World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Award winning editor, 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award winner Ellen Datlow maintains a website at

purchase hardcover edition

:cuppa: :cuppa: :cuppa: :cuppa:*

*for purpose of reviews here at MMG, I will be using coffee cups instead of stars

review: me2, m. christian

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you wake up and you’re not quite sure yourself or that you’re in your own home with your own personal things? M. Christian’s Me2 is a lot like that. The reader is introduced up front to a superficial main character who has a superficial outlook on everything around him — including his job, his friends, and the other people he encounters. Obsessed by how others perceive him, he goes through his days doing the same thing repetitively, almost mechanically. But then an odd man talks to him about Doppelgangers.

It’s been said that every person has a twin somewhere on this Earth. Christian sets this idea on its ear and then some in his own personal style. Of course the narrator has a Doppelganger, the signs are obvious, and he is faced with the unimaginable horror of searching out his own uniqueness.

The story is engaging, although in places confusing — and out of order. But I believe Christian has layered and sequenced his story this way for the purpose of keeping the reader unsettled, so he can’t figure things out on his own or guess ahead.

M. Christian is the author of the novel Running Dry, and the critically acclaimed and best selling collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, and Filthy. He is the editor of The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, the Best S/M Erotica series, The Mammoth Book of Future Cops and the Mammoth Book of Tales of the Road (with Maxim Jakubowski), Trans Figures: Transgender Erotica, and Love Under Foot and several other anthologies. His short fiction has appeared in over 200 books including Best American Erotica and Best Gay Erotica. He lives in San Francisco and maintains a blog at

upcoming reviews

Some of you know that I recently took a position doing book reviews for Sci-Fi Dimensions. I’ll be reviewing books and comics. I’ve never reviewed comics before, so this is going to be interesting ground!

In the past, I’ve also done book reviews for Apex Online – which unfortunately we’ve scaled back. However, I’ve also recently started posting reviews to my blog, as well. What I’m going to do is instead of posting them the way I did before, I’m going to start using my previous Apex template – a professional review as opposed to an “ordinary blog review”.

Here’s what’s up and coming in order of release:

SciFi Dimensions

Death’s Head: Maximum Offense – David Gunn
The Next Fix – Matt Wallace
Mind the Gap – Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon

My Blog (or for the author / or both)

Inferno – Ellen Datlow
Keepers of the Dead – Bob Freeman*
Generation Dead – Dan Waters
Meat – Joseph D’Lacy
CodeSpell – Kelly McCullough
Vampire Apocalypse – Derek Gunn [book two]**
Life Sentence – Kim Paffenroth**
The Forgotten Disturbed – TL Trevaskis


MythOS – Kelly McCullough

*waiting on word from Bob/Black Death Books for this one. waiting on pins and needles!!
** fall release. no date given yet.

Am also almost finished with Regina Lynn’s Sexier Sex and am very much considering a review of that for a number of reasons. 😉

vampire apocalypse – descent into chaos by derek gunn

Vampire Apocalypse; Descent into Chaos, is the second novel in the series and continues the plight of Harris, Sandra Harrington, Steele and the remaining survivors from the battle with Nero’s vampire army. The first battle is now over and Nero is dead. As the human survivors pull themselves from the ruins of their base they find that the world is a very different place indeed outside Nero’s territory. Nationally, the vampires have organised themselves into cabals but the scramble for power, raw materials and humans for their food have led to an uneasy peace. Below the surface each state plots against the other and only the far-reaching power of the Vampire Council holds all-out war at bay.

Continue reading “vampire apocalypse – descent into chaos by derek gunn”

review: fires rising

When I reviewed The Demonologist for Apex Digest, I said then that Michael Laimo reminded me of good 1970s/1980s religious horror. 666, The Omen, The Amityville Horror, and everything good and similar. His February 2008 Leisure Fiction release, Fires Rising, is no exception.

This book has everything. Strong religious themes, vagrants, evil construction crews, fire, mayhem, and enough tension implied through vivid imagery to stand one’s hair on end (if you’ll pardon the cliché). Fires Rising isn’t for the weak of stomach or the easily repulsed — not with its sewage demon, raw gore, violence, and copious blood. Without these things, though, the story would have a much blander flavor and not as much religious fervor.

Laimo researched this book to the bone — this is readily apparent. His use of vivid sensory imagery is near overwhelming in places, causing the reader to, instead of putting the book down for a break, keep turning the pages.

“Well done” seems inadequate. Even so, I can’t wait to see what Michael Laimo brings us next.

review: m. christian’s ‘me2’

M. Christian has a delightful, marvelously twisted way with words which cause his narratives to crawl beneath your skin and fester there, making you go back for more. He writes with a strong, unique voice which is not only entertaining but also makes you think, makes you ponder the improbable. You’ll think you’ve read this delicious, fast-paced story, but did you? Or was it you?
– Mari Adkins contributing editor, Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest

[blurb I wrote for this very fascinating, twisted book]

review: i will rise

I started reading Michael Louise Calvillo’s I Will Rise earlier today – I’ve not had a chance to get more than 20 pages in, though, for various reasons (damn it!).

But there it was on the bottom of the third page:

I’m not nice. I hate life. I hate you, and most likely, you hate me. I’m ugly, pot-bellied, acne-scarred and media-twisted. I’m real and I’m fundamentally fucked up. I’m real and I really need.

I literally jumped out of my chair and yelled, “Fuck yeah!” :banana:

review: the shell seekers

Every Spring, I re-read Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers. I’m late reading it this year, and have spent the last week with it. I first read this book in 1993, when I found it in a used bookstore in Richmond. I let a friend borrow it and never saw it again. Then, I found another copy several years later in what we called “The Junk Store” down in Bob’s Creek (Harlan County). Now, I have a hardback copy and a paperback copy. I’ve given several paperback copies to friends and relatives.

Ros is from Scotland and writes about places she knows. When you read what she’s written about Cornwall, you want to sheild your eyes from the blazing sun, you can smell the sea in the air, you can hear the birds. The people she writes about, you feel like you could meet them on the street and be invited home for tea – especially, and particularly, if it was Penelope.

On page 478 of the first edition hardback:

In the world where Penelope had lived, existed, breathed, listened, remembered, it had been possible to believe that nothing too dreadful could ever go wrong. Or if it did…and to Penelope it had…then there were ways of coping, of accepting, of refusing to admit defeat. […] Existence without that source of constant delight, that rocklike security was unthinkable.

That’s pure Penelope in a nutshell.

This whole book is like that, all 530 pages. And every time I read it, the same certain passages always bring tears to my eyes or make me laugh out loud, and the same certain passages make me have to close the book while I sit and weep – not cry, not bawl, weep. Reading this book a box of facial tissue handy is a requirement. But yeah, when I get to certain parts, I just lose it; when I start sniffing, if he’s around, Preston rolls his eyes and passes the tissue box.

He asked me once, why, if this book makes me fall apart like this, I read it, why I have to read it. It’s beautiful. The story is beautiful, heart-warming. The characters are like real people, like someone you should know and wish you did know. But he’s right. If it tears me up so much, why pull it off the shelf, why give it to people, telling them, “You must read this!” That’s harder to explain. The parts that tear me in two, they’re so real, they touch some deep part of me that very few things and people ever have. Too, after it’s all over, after book is back on the “Pilcher Shelf”, I feel like I’ve been cleansed. (I don’t know how anybody could weep so deeply like that over the course of a week and not be cleansed!)

He’ll come home, see what’s in my hands, and fake turning around and leaving. With much rolling of eyes, he’ll say, “Oh good god, it’s that book again.”

I’ll say, “Yes, and I hate it. I don’t know why I do this to myself.”

And he’ll nod and say, “I’ll go get you another box of Kleenex.”

“Thank you.”

But it’s not so much the plot (but it is; a book’s nothing without a solid plot) as it is the characters driving the plot. Like I said before, Ros breathes real life into her characters. You get to know them as well as you know yourself, or at least as well as you know your best friend. Her characterizations, her descriptions, everything, it draws you in, and next thing you know, you’re emotionally invested in what you’re reading.

I have all of Ros’ books, with the exception of a very few older ones that I’ve not been able to find. Her son, Robin, writes, as well, and I have his first two books in paperback; I’m waiting for his third to be released in paperback. He’s good and similar in style to his mother, but he’ll never replace her in my heart. Ros is special, and it shines through in her writing, I think.

Her books very well could be classified as “romantic fiction”, but you won’t find them in the fiction aisle – they’re on the shelves with the “straight fiction”. I say that I don’t like romantic fiction, and I don’t; its predictibility, its cookie-cutter plots, bore me to death. Ros’ writing isn’t like that. To classify Ros as a writer of romantic fiction would be a disservice to both Ros and her writing. Her books are, as I said before, character driven. They’re very much character studies, studies in human nature (even her short stories). They’re deep, they’re involved, they make you think, and they make you feel.

And now that I’ve said that, I’m getting down the brown betty, brewing up some Earl Grey, and finishing this book – I have fifty pages left. I just hope I have enough facial tissues!