Review: The End by G. Michael Hopf + Giveaway

The End by G. Michael HopfFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: post-apocalypse, dystopian, science fiction
Series: New World #1
Length: 442 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Date Released: April 3, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

For Gordon Van Zandt life once was one of duty and loyalty to his country, so when 9/11 happened he dropped out of college and joined the Marine Corps. This youthful idealism vanished one fateful day in a war torn city in Iraq. Ten years later, he is still struggling with the ghosts of his past but must now face a new reality thrust on him and his family. North America, Europe and the Far East have all suffered a devastating Super-EMP attack that has caused catastrophic damage to the power grids and all electrical devices. With nothing working from cars to phones and with the total collapse of the economic infrastructure, Gordon must fight for the limited and fast dwindling resources. He knows survival requires action and cooperation with his neighbors; but as daily life continues to break down so does all sense of civility within his community. With each passing day Gordon makes choices that would seem extreme in today’s world but necessary in this new world.

My Review:

I have a ton of mixed feelings about The End. I couldn’t put it down. The story is absorbing. However, there were a lot of points, especially at the beginning, where I wanted to shake the author and scream “SHOW don’t TELL”, loud and often.

There is a lot of infodumping about the characters and their points of view. Lots of exposition and not much action or dialog.

Then “the end of the world as we know it” finally happens, and the story starts to take off. Although there is action in other places, the main story is one ex-Marine who figures out right away that an Electro-Magnetic Pulse weapon (EMP) has wiped out the infrastructure of the entire U.S. So the story is the breakdown of society, seen in the microcosm of one gated community in San Diego. There are side-plots focusing on the government’s collapse and the fragmentation of the military.

But the focus is on how Gordon Van Zandt and his family are affected.

Gordon is a survivor; and he has determined that his family will survive, his wife and two kids. (We know his daughter survives because the entire story is told by her as flashback)

It’s not just that Gordon is a polarizing figure, both in the moment and historically, but his point of view is very patriarchal. While that might help him survive, for the story it means that the only women seen are shown in relationship to their husbands or as power-mad, stupid and out-of-touch with the new reality.

The lead up to which is supposedly happening right now. The description of the events that lead up to The End felt more like political agenda than story because it’s so close. YMMV.

What made me keep reading was the scenario. The concept that an EMP could wipe out our infrastructure was all too plausible. But at the same time, once that infrastructure was gone, the survival story reminded me all too much of other works, particularly Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling and the classic Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven.

The End ends on a cliffhanger; with Gordon, his family and his supporters setting out on a cross-country trek across the blasted landscape, with the prospect of fighting their way through militarized gangs and avoiding radiation-soaked destroyed cities.

Escape Rating C: In spite of its problems, I couldn’t put this book down. Once the story gets going, it really zips along.

Because this is an extreme survival story, most of the characters that we follow are more anti-heroes than heroes; they commit acts that would not be condoned in any other circumstances. It’s not just that a lot of people die as a result of the disaster, but all the focus characters kill, not just in self-defense, but sometimes as prevention of a possible threat, rather than reaction to an imminent threat.

Thank goodness there are no zombies, vampires or any other supernatural creatures involved. What made The End seem plausible is that the story completely focused on the unfortunate but all too realistic ability of humans to turn on each other, and the lengths that some people would go to survive at all costs.


The Long Road by G. Michael HopfMichael is generously giving away a paperback set of both The End and book 2 in his New World series, The Long Road. This giveaway is open to US/CAN only
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Apocalypse Blog Hop


Welcome to the Apocalypse Blog Hop, hosted by Heidi of Rainy Day Ramblings, Maja of The Nocturnal Library and Christy of Love of Books.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. Maybe we do feel fine?

Dystopia with clock from wikipediaSometimes I give talks to library groups (or librarian groups) on romance and other genre books. One of the questions is usually about post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, and what the heck are they, anyway?

I generally say it’s about where are we going and how did we end up in this handbasket? If the society knows how it ended up in the handbasket, it’s post-apocalyptic. If they don’t know or don’t care, it’s just dystopian.

Dearly departed by Lia HabelDearly, Departed by Lia Habel (reviewed here) is still the best YA post-apocalyptic steampunk zombie romance I’ve ever read. And it’s still the only YA post-apocalyptic steampunk zombie romance I’ve ever read. Dearly, Beloved is on my TBR stack.

On the other hand, Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford is a totally excellent (reviewed at Book Lovers Inc) bit of post-apocalyptic urban fantasy. Not the only, but very recent and quite, quite good.




As part of the hop, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And please be sure to visit the other blog hop stops for more chances to win!

Guest Review: Stung by Bethany Wiggins

[Cover of Stung by Bethany Wiggins]Format read: ARC provided by publisher
Formats available: hardcover
Genre: Young adult science fiction
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Walker and Company
Date Released: April 2, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered–her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right wrist–a black oval with five marks on either side–that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. And she’s right. When the honeybee population collapsed, a worldwide pandemic occurred and the government tried to bio-engineer a cure. Only the solution was deadlier than the original problem–the vaccination turned people into ferocious, deadly beasts who were branded as a warning to un-vaccinated survivors. Key people needed to rebuild society are protected from disease and beasts inside a fortress-like wall. But Fiona has awakened branded, alone-and on the wrong side of the wall…

Fiona Tarsis goes to sleep in a world much like our own, just with fewer bees.  When she wakes up, she’s immediately faced with what that world has turned into, and she is taken on a wild ride.

The decline in bee populations is a real problem; losing major pollinator species means fewer plants and crops, which in turn could have a significant ripple effect on human society.  In Stung, however, attempts to solve that problem have backfired spectacularly: people who received a bee-flu vaccination turned into the equivalent of werewolves–with no way to return to normal.  (How does one get from bees disappearing to bee flu?  Let’s just say that it’s not a good idea to short-circuit the scientific peer review process.  It’s also not a good idea to keep digging, once you’ve found yourself in a hole.)

Fiona wakes up knowing only that she must hide her tattoo and that she’s still thirteen.  The latter “fact” is quickly proven false–four years have passed since the culmination of the disaster–and she must survive long enough to figure out what’s going on.  Fortunately, she soon runs into a young militiaman named Bowen, and with his help starts to learn more about herself and her world.

Escape Rating B-:  At the exhibits hall of any American Library Association conference, advance reading copies are generally easy to pick up.  In this case, it was particularly easy: the ARC was literally thrust upon me.

It’s easy to see why the the publicist in the booth was collaring passers-by.  Stung is a fast-paced, engaging read.  The author does a good job dropping Fiona and the reader into an uncertain situation and providing enough information to keep the pages turning while not giving the game away too soon.  In fact, Wiggins has written one of the better amnesiac openings I’ve read in some time.

Fiona is a sympathetic viewpoint character.  Although her upbringing was middle-class and sheltered, she’s not completely helpless in the rough circumstances that face her.  She can shoot quite well (a legacy from her father’s training), she’s smart, and she eventually finds out that the vaccination has given her some advantages in tight spots.

In Bowen she finds a connection to the pre-apocalyptic world and a source of romantic tension.  As it turns out, if you go to sleep at 13 and wake up at 17… you don’t still don’t get to skip puberty.

Unfortunately, for all her general competence, Fiona still needs rescuing at the end.  While Fiona herself is not unhappy with how things turn out–and Bowen serves nicely as a rescuing knight–I finished the book wishing that Fiona had had a little more control by the end.  Also, the main villain had a little too much cardboard in his makeup for my test.

The last page of the book leaves the door open to a sequel; if one is written, I hope that Fiona avoids the trap of becoming little more than a symbol of better days to come.  That said, I do hope that Wiggins continues the tale.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Post: K. Reed on Chaos and Manners plus Giveaway

Today’s guest on Reading Reality is K. Reed, the author of the utterly fascinating (read the review) post-apocalyptic Regency romance Dark Inheritance: Fallen Empire.

I will say that I picked up Dark Inheritance because a part of me was wondering “how did she do it?” and another part was wondering “why did she do it?” Reading the story itself takes care of the how, and I’m glad I did. it’s a wow!

For the “why”, we have Ms. Reed herself to answer that question!



Thank you so much for hosting me at your blog today, Marlene! I love that you’re a librarian and that you’ve worked in so many different places. Really gives you a perspective on places and things.

I love this question: There couldn’t be two more opposite images than the “ultra-ordered society of the Regency Era” and the “one half-step away from chaos” that the words Post-Apocalyptic or Dystopian bring to mind. Tell us how you reached the decision to combine those two opposites into a single story concept. Were there any other times and places in the running for your Fallen Empire series?

The world I created in Dark Inheritance…I am a huge fan of the Regency era, I love Jane Austen and so many other Regency authors. I wanted to enter into the historical market and Regency, regardless of the umpteenth time it’s been declared dead in the publishing industry, is still one of the most popular romance genres. Its popularity makes it attractive to historical writers to step into that genre, but it also means a lot of competition.

I wanted to step in. But I also wanted to stand out.

Aside from my love for Regencies and historicals, I enjoy reading many genres, including those that cover the post-apocalyptic. So, through a series of coincidences with what I had been watching (mainly the History Channel) and what I wanted to write (mainly Regency Romances) the world of Dark Inheritance presented itself.

It was exactly because of those rigid rules of society during the Regency Era, that I wanted to smash them and see what their echo in a world like the one I created, would wrought. The traditional Regency is the epitome of rigid rules, and when you alter them or veer them away from the historically known, you create a new world that awaits discovery. I hope you’ll take the time to discover what I’ve created in Dark Inheritance: Fallen Empire.

Now then, the places and times for the series. Yes, I absolutely did wonder about other times. I debated between Victorian and Regency, and even wondered about the Colonial Era. For a while the Victorian Era was a frontrunner, mostly because at this time the British Empire’s reach spanned the globe.

In the end, I decided on the Regency Era because it was a much more insular society with incredibly specific rules I could toy with. I also wanted to center it in the British Empire specifically because of their legendary rules of society.

I admit to playing with the idea of a limited series of shorter books that take place within the Fallen Empire series but not set in England. One of the things I didn’t like about The Hunger Games was not knowing what went on in the rest of the world. Or even the exact boundaries of Panem. If I want to know what’s happening elsewhere, I hope others will also!

Ms. Reed, I certainly want to know what’s happening elsewhere. And I want another book in the series, so I can find out! Thank you so much for telling us some of the thoughts that went into the worldbuilding behind Dark Inheritance: Fallen Empire.

Tour-wide GIVEAWAY!

Just in case, truly, just in case we experience some kind of apocalyptic event, Ms. Reed wants to make sure her readers are prepared.

So she has graciously agreed to award nine Post-Apocalypse survival baskets (each basket includes tea, a fan, a shawl, a bracelet and more) –Plus ONE Grand Prize basket will include a iPod Touch–to randomly drawn commenters during the tour!

This giveaway is open to US/Canada residents only.

Follow the tour and comment, the more places you comment (be sure to leave a comment here at Reading Reality), the more chances you have to win a basket. You do want to be prepared, don’t you?

May 14: Christine Young
May 15: Live To Read ~ Krystal
May 16: Books Reviewed by Bunny
May 17: Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer
May 18: Ramblings From This Chick
May 21: Queen of all She Reads
May 22: Immortality and Beyond
May 23: Writers and Authors
May 24: Books Are Magic
May 25: Megan Johns Invites
May 28: Novel Reflections
May 29: Reading Reality
May 30: A Case of Reading Insomnia
May 31: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
June 1: The Life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object
June 4: Reader Girls
June 5: Words of Wisdom from The Scarf Princess
June 6: It’s Raining Books
June 7: Dawn’s Reading Nook
June 8: Adventure Into Romance

Dark Inheritance: Fallen Empire

Two flavors that taste surprisingly good together: the manners of the Regency period, dipped into the darkness that comes after the complete collapse of civilization that results from an utterly devastating plague.  In other words, what happens to the upper crust of the ton in a dystopian world?

Unlike Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, K. Reed’s Dark Inheritance: Fallen Empire is not playing for laughs. Someone has unleashed a plague on England, and the population has been reduced to a mere remnant of itself. Only the strong survive.

There are no zombies, no vampires, no ghouls. Well, not in the classic horror sense. There are only men and women who have survived a deadly disease that seems to have struck down eight or nine out of ten. Civilization has collapsed. Whole towns have ceased to exist. It’s as if the Black Death struck full force in 1804 instead of the 1400’s.

The English blame Napoleon. If the same thing happened in France, the French probably blame the English.

But Grayson Merrick, Baron of Harwich, doesn’t have time to worry about who the French think caused the plague. He’s much too busy holding his own lands. He kept his coastal fief of Harwich together, and relatively safe, when most of the lands around him descended into chaos. It’s required iron discipline, and a will of adamant, but two years later, he’s carved a safe zone for his people and is bringing more villages under his protection each month.

Relative safety means that he has time to worry about the future, the future of England. Rumor says that the Royals are all fled, or dead. That the government is gone. He heard one fairly credible rumor that some of the governmment officials were still alive in London, and he mounted a expedition to check it out. He found London a burned out wreck, and no government left. Almost no one left alive except the rats.

The heart of the Empire is dust and ashes.

As he returns to Harwich Grayson decided to take his foraging party, (for that is what they are, it is not possible to go out into the countryside without searching for supplies) to the house of his former commander.

His commander has died of the plague. Everyone in that house has died of the plague. Except for one beautiful woman. Who has survived, and like all survivors, is probably immune. But she is weak and will slow them down returning to Harwich.

Grayson has always told his men not to take survivors. They can’t save everyone. They don’t have enough supplies. This is a brutal necessity in a world gone mad. But he wants this woman. She is the only thing, the only person, he has asked for, for himself, in the time since the plague, since he began saving everyone else.

His men make space in the carriage they are using to haul supplies, and they bring her back to Harwich.

Her name is Juliette, Lady Adair. They should have met in a ballroom. He should have been able to respectfully pay his addresses, before the world went mad.

That world is gone.

Instead, he installs her in his rooms, because they are the only place good enough for her. There are no proprieties any longer.

And the first thing she sees when she wakes up is Grayson whipping a man for being falling down drunk on sentry duty, and allowing bandits into the safe zone. The man chose the whipping, because it was a preferred punishment to being exiled. Exile is death in this terrible world.

And Juliette understands. Only the strong survive. She is one of the strong ones. She is a member of the British Government. The question is, whether or not she can trust Grayson with her secret.

And whether he can trust her with his.

Escape Rating A-: This is an a darkly fascinating alternate history. The reader does not know how the plague came about, because the characters don’t know. The world has gone mad. How do the strong survive? Who do you trust? Life still goes on, but what changes?

The description of this story was a post-apocalyptic Regency romance, and it kind of is, but more in an alternate history sense. Everyone remembers the mannered culture of the ton, but the sane people know it’s over.

There is a love story, and the lovers, Grayson and Juliette, both think about what things would have been like, if, but recognize that the world has shattered. They regret what they’ve lost, but mostly the people and how much easier life was. They are pragmatic. Very. And while it’s expected in the hero, it’s also excellent to have in a Regency heroine. A simpering miss would be dead. Literally.

Regarding the spying and skullduggery against the French, it’s absolutely fascinating that even with the plague, the enmity between France and England is eternal.

What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? AKA The Sunday Post 5-27-12

It’s Memorial Day Weekend in the U.S. And Monday it is Whit Monday for some of my European friends at Book Lovers Inc., so it’s a three-day weekend for a lot of people.

So there will be lots of reading going on this weekend. At least at my house.

There will also be a lot of playing of Diablo III. Like last night until 2 in the morning. Galen and I both love a good dungeon crawl now and again, with serious hacking and slashing for flavor. And that pretty much describes every Diablo game. I play the barbarian, and he, as he so eloquently described it, plays the “squishy wizard”.

But this is the Sunday Post, so that I can describe what will happen at Reading Reality once the weekend is over. (Tuesday is Monday this week!) Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer is the host of the Sunday Post.

I use the Virtual Nightstand as a way of peeking into next week to see what I should be reading, so my next week’s schedule doesn’t pop up and shout, “Surprise!” this time next week. It also gives me a chance to talk about upcoming books that I thought were neat or cool enough to grab from NetGalley or Edelweiss.

Coming up this week…

Monday, May 28 is Memorial Day. Normally, there would be an Ebook Review Central on Monday, but ERC is taking Memorial Day off. It will return on June 4, with the Samhain April 2012 wrap-up.

On Tuesday, I’ll be hosting a guest post from author K. Reed about her post-apocalyptic Regency romance, Dark Inheritance, Fallen Empire, as well as a review of the book. I’m fascinated, because I never thought that those two tropes could manage to co-exist, the manners of the Regency and the chaos of a post-apocalypse. This should be awesome.

Thursday is another big day, with the cover reveal of Stacey Kennedy’s new Frostbite book,  Mystically Bound (after Supernaturally Kissed and Demonically Tempted) and an interview with Tiffany Allee about her latest book, Succubus Lost.

Then there’s the books I’ll be reading for next week. Also one that got itself moved to this week. A book blogger’s work is never done. But it’s so much fun!

My editor at Library Journal asked me to review the Carina Press Presents: Editor’s Choice Volume 1 with a May 30 deadline. She usually only gives me about a week to review a book. Lucky for me, the books she sends are generally very good, and are often books I’ve already picked up from NetGalley, like this one.

This Editor’s Choice volume is really three novellas in one, and the novellas are also available separately. So it’s Kilts & Kraken by Cindy Spencer Pape (finally something in her  Gaslight Chronicles), Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey (not Kowalski, but still contemporary) and Negotiating Point by Adrienne Giordano, the latest in her Private Protectors series. I forced myself to read some of the Giordano series to figure out what was going on there, and it was so hard (I’m joking, I’m really joking. They’re good.)

And the darn thing has a June 4 publication date, so I was going to be reading it anyway! Along with the Editor’s Choice Volume 2, which contains No Money Down by Julie Moffett, Dead Calm by Shirley Wells, Dance of Flames by Janni Nell and Pyro Canyon by Robert Appleton. I’m most interested in Robert Appleton’s Pyro Canyon, it’s space opera.

I have a tour book for Book Lovers Inc., Deadly Secrets, Loving Lies, by Cynthia Cooke. Reading Reality participated in the Cover Reveal on Mothers’ Day, so when the book came up for a tour at BLI, I was curious. It looks like an interesting and short romantic suspense story.

There will be a Goddess Fish tour at Reading Reality for Drowning Mermaids by Nadia Scrieva. This is paranormal romance, with, of course, mermaids. There aren’t a lot of stories using mermaids as the heroines, so my curiosity bump itched.

I’ll confess, I do have a problem picking more books than I have time for. I like having choices. And so I have too many choices.

Next week, the following books are being released, and I have review copies that I really want to get a chance to read.

The two highest on the hit parade are both science fiction. Worldsoul (see On My Wishlist #1 for description) by Liz Williams and The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett. These are two authors that I simply read everything.

This is also a week for books in pairs. Lady Amelia’s Mess and a Half by Samantha Grace and The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine by Jayne Fresina have the same feel to them, at least by title. But Regency romps can be heaps of fun. Maybe not back-to-back.

I’m so glad it’s a long weekend! What about you? What’s you Sunday up to this week?

Unacceptable Risk

Unacceptable Risk by Jeanette Grey is a terrific read. It’s gritty, dark and almost has an urban fantasy feel to it in some ways, because there’s a mystery to be solved. But it’s not urban fantasy. Oh no. This is science fiction romance. Oh yes. A little cyberpunk, a little post-apocalypse, and absolutely, positively SFR.

Plix returns to consciousness the way she always does, battered, bruised and broken in an alley, surrounded by the scents of her own blood and burnt circuitry, half-blind with pain and with pieces of her memory wiped. She knows this has happened before. But this time is worse than usual. Her only hope is that whatever she found is worth this much damage.

Plix is mostly flesh and blood, but she has a few added cybernetic features. They’ve saved her life. They’ve aided her in her quest. She prays that she stashed whatever it was that she learned into those circuits before SynData found her. But there’s only one way to be sure. She has to go to the only person who can “tune”, repair and maintain her cybernetic parts and data circuits. His name is Edison. And Plix loves him. Which is why she keeps leaving him behind. Because her secret mission to bring down SynDate is going to get her killed some day. Probably sooner rather than later.

She knows that SynDate killed her father.

But if she doesn’t uncover the evidence that she is looking for, the poison that SynDate is spilling into the ecosystem will eventually kill everyone. It will just take longer.

Plix takes a suicide mission, thinking it will be the end, cutting all ties, but leaving one final message of love. He’s both angry and heartbroken. Edison loves Plix, and putting her back together only to have her come back broken again and again is killing him. This time he’s done.

But when Plix returns, nearly dead, he finds her last message, and they finally have a chance together. He knows all her secrets. Can Plix stop protecting him enough to include her lover in her quest to save humanity?

Escape Rating B+: The story ended and I was not a happy camper. It was too short. I want to know how things got so bad. This world is neat, in a really, really sucky way, as in I seriously would not want to live there, but I want to know more about how it got that way, and how Plix got to be Plix. Edison is a really cool guy, his job is fascinating. How do things work? I like these people, I want to know more. And what happens after? This world has gone so far down, I’m not sure that even getting SynDate out of the way solves a whole lot. I want part 2.