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Book Review: Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Young Adult Book Review

Shallow Graves by Kali WallaceShallow Graves by Kali Wallace
Published: January 26th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 360 pages
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery, Monsters, Zombie
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.

Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.

Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Debut author Kali Wallace interweaves folklore and myths from all over the world in this stunning novel about the heartbreaking trauma of a girl’s life cut short and her struggle to reconcile her humanity with the monster she’s become.

I don’t really like zombie books. I usually end up bored. (And have nightmares. Not because the books are scary but because my subconscious is a little shit. “Oh, you read about zombies today? Well, let me destroy the world and kill your family and friends in graphic color and full surround sound!” Yeah.) But I was pleasantly surprised with Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace. Right off the bat we see that this is not going to be your normal zombie story. Breezy Lin may have risen from the grave but she’s not the shambling rot we normally see in zombie stories. Instead we get an interesting character with the unique ability to spot murders and give them the punishment they deserve.

As with YA books, our main character is a bit too put together to really believe. If I had woken up buried in the earth and then killed a man with only a touch, I would be in hysterics and a gibbering mess. Even if Breezy’s parents are scientists that taught their daughter to be rational and calm, a teenager is going to lose their shit. Breezy deals with her awakening rather calmly but such is the nature of YA books. Wouldn’t be much of a story if the main character freaked out first thing. My only real complaint is the direction the plot veers off to. When Breezy leaves after waking, I thought we were going to get a plot where she hunts down her killer and figures out the strange circumstances of her zombification. Instead, these events are kind of not dealt with. Maybe it was because of the guy she killed when she woke up, who might have been a magician or might not have been, we never know for sure and then the reveal of her killer is kind of tacked on at the end, like an afterthought. The majority of the plot revolves around the world of monsters that Breezy finds herself in and the wacko cult of hunters she runs afoul of. There isn’t a lot of world building and I would have liked to know more details of the monsters Breezy discovers.

Kali Wallace says there is no sequel to Shallow Graves, which is a shame since I think there is so much to work with here and Breezy’s story is left so open that a lot more could be done with it. I’m not usually one to advocate sequels but Shallow Graves feels like there is more to tell. I hope Wallace decides to write more. There is a vagueness to the whole novel that could be better dealt with by a sequel or two but, if left as a standalone like Wallace said, just means it feels incomplete and messy. Secondary characters are a little light on detail and pretty cardboard feeling but Breezy is an interesting and compelling main character. Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace is a unique take on the zombie story and is a creepy atmospheric read I think people will really enjoy.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter


AliceAlice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
Published September 25th 2012 by Harlequin Teen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 404 pages
Genre: Zombies, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance, Horror
Reading Level: Young Adult
Goodreads | Amazon

She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real…

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies…

I don’t read a lot of zombie books. (They have a habit of giving me nightmares. Nightmares where I have a Japanese katana sword, speak French, and kick ass but then have to throw myself out of the dream when the zombie munching gets too graphic.) But my obsession with everything and anything to do with Alice in Wonderland won out over my hesitation and so when I was browsing the shelves at my library I picked up Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter. I’m weak. I do believe this is the first zombie book I’ve read in almost a decade. (And no nightmares! Although there was one crazy Wonderland dream…)

Alice in Zombieland was not what I expected. For some reason, the blurb made me think this was going to be an apocalyptic zombie novel and that our Alice character would be in an ‘end of the world’ situation. (Thus, creating some sort of new ‘Wonderland’ for our Alice character to live in.) Maybe I fell for a stereotype but the book couldn’t have been farther from what I envisioned. It’s set in contemporary times (In fact, at one point Alice mentioned reading The Iron Fey series and I had to blink in surprise at the destruction of the fourth wall.) and knowledge of the zombies is afforded to only a few select people. The zombies themselves are untraditional and Showalter had to create a whole new mythology for the creatures in order to explain why only certain people could see and fight them. I’m not sure I like the new mythology Showalter created. It works for the book but at the same time it’s a bit absurd. It sort of squashes zombies and ghosts together and gets a bit messy in the process. Also, to my disappointment, the Alice in Wonderland connection is thin at best. There are some scattered references that really don’t bring anything to the novel and that’s it.

Of course, my biggest beef with Alice in Zombieland is the romance. (Romance is pretty much the bane of my existence in Young Adult books.) Alice is a good girl, Cole is a bad boy, they are both ridiculously hot, and have an ‘Instant Connection of Destiny’. So a good portion of the book is them playing relationship yoyo and sucking face. There is even an ‘Ex-Girlfriend of Doom.’ Oh, and Alice is an extra special snowflake among special snowflakes. The only thing that saves Alice in Zombieland for me is that everyone can kick zombie butt and most of the characters are rather interesting, when they’re not trying to get into each other pants. So, the romance is clichéd, the zombie mythology interesting but a little convoluted, and there are a lot of awesome fight scenes. For me, Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter was a typical teen drama that was okay but not great. Other reviews bring me to believe you either loved this book or hated it. I fall somewhere in the middle.

Thank you for reading!

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