Wednesday, April 09, 2014

After Life Lessons by Laila Blake ~ Review and Giveaway

after life lessons

Title: After Life Lessons

Author: Laila Blake & L.C. Spoering

Genre: Dystopian

Release Date: April 8 2014

Rating:

4 stares against all odds

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Synopsis

Hulking shadows emerge out of the chaotic flurries of the blizzard. Something is dying, and so they come, like vultures.

After months of struggling south to escape the zombie-infested remains of New York, a snowstorm traps 23-year old artist, Emily, and her son in an abandoned gas station. Starving and desperate, they encounter Aaron, an Army medic on a mission of his own, who offers them a ride to ease the journey.


The road is a long and dangerous place to travel, and every day brings a new threat. But fear and adrenaline also drive the two closer together; they find laughter and a budding attraction that starts to thaw at their numb and deadened feelings. And that’s when the pain really starts to hit, when places long thought lost prickle back to life. Eventually, they will have to fight not just for survival, but for a future together, or their broken world will swallow them whole.


This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader's discretion is advised.

 

Lisa’s Review

4 “Zombies Are Bad” Stars

 

“Hulking shadows emerge out of the chaotic flurries of the blizzard. Something is dying, and so they come, like vultures.”

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After Life Lessons by Laila Blake and L.C. Spoering is book one in this new dystopian series. The world is now a different place ever since “the virus” appeared infecting humans and turning them into zombies. It’s a dog eat dog world now-a-days where only the strongest and most resilient survive. With zombies on the attack and ferociously hunting their prey the name of the game is staying out of their path and staying alive.

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“Years ago she had believed that fear could be overcome by repetition, but now she knew that wasn’t true.”

Emily, a young woman from Brighton, England, used to have a good life with a musician for a boyfriend and a young son. A life in New York where she could easily escape into her art and create. Now Emily lives a life on the run with her son, Song. A life where she feels isolated and alone. Every day brings on new struggles and challenges. Every day is also one that could be their last. Ever since Emily and Song lost Sullivan, Emily’s boyfriend and Song’s father, they have been on their own, escaping the zombie-infested city of New York and trying to survive against zombies and snow storms. They are both depleted, starved and on the verge of giving up. Time is running out for them. When Emily and Song stop at an abandoned gas station, they encounter and ex-Army medic who is willing to help them. A sliver of hope slowly begins to form in Emily as for the first time since chaos erupted surviving may just be in the cards.

“She looked to Aaron, as though she was too small and too sleepy a thing to be out in the real world, a butterfly in half metamorphosis, peeking out too early and trying her very hardest to pretend she could fly.”

Aaron is on a mission of his own, determined to help those in need. With an operating vehicle and a means to obtain supplies, Aaron lives his life on the move going from one to place to the next aiding those in need and helping out where he is able to. When he comes across Emily and Song at an abandoned gas station, there is no way that Aaron is willing to walk away from Emily’s pleas for help. Aaron is able to provide Emily and Song with medication, food and safety against the elements and the danger. As they begin to journey all together, it becomes abundantly clear that slowly more is at stake than survival.

“People run, Emily. People hide out. You think you’re broken. Everyone thinks they are, too.”

The story progresses seamlessly, following Aaron, Emily and Song as they travel along attempting to find a safe haven in this new post-apocalyptic world. As the trio travel along gathering further supplies, Emily and Aaron find themselves becoming closer and a mutual attraction slowly blossoms. Amidst the constant threat of danger and vigilance to survive, their normal day to day interactions allow for a reprieve from the trials and tribulations they face on a daily basis. Their hearts slowly begin to awaken as both Emily and Aaron realize that they need each other for so much more than simple survival. But, demons and ghosts from the past trickle in and Emily and Aaron must work through their inner turmoil and allow for healing to take place. Is the promise of a happy forever together enough for the pair to work through their personal struggles and grasp at the hope of a new love?

This is a character driven novel, very different than other zombie and dystopian books I have read in the past. I found that refreshing. I loved the fact that the main focus was often on the day to day experiences and we get to see how the characters go on this journey discovering things about themselves that they did not necessarily know. Emily, despite her damaged spirit, was strength personified. The fact that she survived as long as she did on her own with a young son to look after spoke to how truly tough she is. Aaron has his own issues to work through and it all comes to a head near the end of the book. With this being said, one of the things that I wished there was more of was a little more detail and explanations regarding the virus. Where did it come from? Is it present in the entire world? How much of the population is left? The world building was lacking a little bit for me. However, perhaps we will get more about this as the story continues in the next books.

All in all, After Life Lessons was a great dystopian novel. I am looking forward to seeing where this pair of authors takes matters. I am pretty sure Aaron and Emily are in for more surprises as they try to navigate a world where continuous threats are being hauled at them. Bring it, I say. ;)

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Excerpt

Something was dying in the flurries of snow. The wind had piled it into drifts, threw it into icy funnels that danced between the trees.

Emily couldn’t see five feet of road in front of them, but the desperate howl pierced the wind.  A dog maybe, or something altogether wilder. One hand firmly wrapped around Song’s wrist, she dragged the boy along. He grew heavier, slower with each step. Piece by piece, they had let go of their possessions, offered them like sacrifices to the cold, to earth’s gravity and fatigue. Song had long stopped complaining; he’d even stopped coughing, just hung on to her, placing a shaking foot in front of the other.

The dog howled again, and Emily forced her legs to quicken the pace. Song whined, and then his hand slipped out of hers, and he sunk onto a pile of snow. She was aware they were going to die; that was as clear as the icicles that hung from the hard guitar-case she still carried strapped to her backpack. She could barely walk on her own skinny legs and they wouldn’t get far, but she pulled him up anyway, hefted him onto her hip. His frozen cheek came to rest against hers. He coughed, tried to lock his ankles around her waist, but his boots were too slippery, and he soon lost the strength to try again.

Emily was not far behind. With each step along the icy road, her knees shook, and even in the split second in which she slipped, she found herself utterly unsurprised, almost unmoved.

They were going to die.

Blinding pain blasted through her wrist, up along her arm when she landed—hard on her left side, protecting Song from the brunt of it—and, still, she was left impassive. The pain drove tears to her eyes, and the wind froze them on her cheek, but she hardly noticed. She struggled back to her feet, sucked in stinging breath after stinging breath, and pressed forward.

There had to be something out there, something other than the snow, the trees that formed an aisle on either side of them. Hope felt foolish—but this was logic. They were not out in the wilderness; there had to be something.

“Song please, please…” she begged, when he slipped down her thigh again, clinging to her neck like a monkey. She hefted him back up, swallowed the pain that shot through her arm, and tried to squint through the snow. Another howl filled the stillness, closer this time.

In her head, in her legs, it felt like she was running. The truth came closer to padding along on heavy feet, but it was the idea that mattered, the breath that burned in her lungs. She envisioned herself bursting through the trees to some large, well-appointed house, with food and a bathtub big enough to float in, to make it all worth it.

What she found—in the end—was a decrepit gas station, but she reminded herself, sing-song voice in her head and all, beggars can’t be choosers.

They made an inelegant entrance, crashing through the door that hung on its hinges, into a convenience store that had been ransacked long before, the toppled shelves mostly emptied, covered in dust and a fine layer of ice. Emily hauled the both of them through the tangle of wood and wire, past the cash register that lay, gaping open like a wound, on the floor by the counter. The wind whistled through the broken windows, and had it not been for the storeroom just behind the cigarette display, there would have been no point to the gas station at all, not for them.

The storeroom had only one small window and a rotting desk—no food in sight. It was cold, still, but temperature was relative—they were out of the snow, out of the wind, and she could finally set her boy on the floor, and collapse herself.

Every motion sent pain crashing up her arm, and somewhere in the back of her mind that scared her almost as much as Song’s cough and the way his cheeks were burning up the moment he was out of the wind. Biting down, she pilfered through her pack, throwing onto him whatever they had left: a few clothes, a blanket. Where was the towel she’d always used to rub him dry?

“I’m getting some snow to melt, okay? Don’t move.”

Song didn’t answer; Emily grabbed the empty bottle and struggled to her feet. She thought of fires, of tea and food as she stumbled through the store-room, cradling her arm and ducking her chin into her scarf to protect her from the wind. Kicking the door open again with her boot, she squatted down, and pushed snow into the bottle until her gloves were caked in the stuff. She was back on her feet, shivering, when something broke through her pain-addled senses.

The dog barked, once, then again—vicious, aggressive and scared. A shadow hushed through the snow somewhere far ahead. Emily stood, frozen on the spot until, in the distance, hulking shadows emerged—a soft grey against the chaotic white of the blizzard

 

About The Authors

LAILA BLAKE & L.C. SPOERING

L.C. and Laila met in 2010 on an online forum and have been inseparable ever since. Having supported each other in their individual writing projects for years, they finally decided to work more closely together in a cross-continental cooperative writing partnership. Together, they host the podcast Lilt and started their micropublishing venture Lilt Literary in 2013.

L.C. (generally known as Lorrie) lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, kids, and too many pets. Laila is a nerdy German translator, living in Cologne with her kitten and a lot of sparkly lights.

Lilt Literary links: Lilt Literary | Facebook | Twitter | Podcast

L.C.’s Links: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Tumblr

Laila’s Links: Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Tumblr

 

Giveaway

 

To win either a zombie survival kit or an ebook of After Life Lessons, just enter the Rafflecopter below and Good Luck!

 

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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