Rise of the Undead

“Attention Zombie Fans”

Review by Joey Madia

I will be the first to admit, I am not a fan of zombies. I do like Zombieland, got a few laughs out of Return of the Living Dead recently, and enjoyed the third through fifth seasons of The Walking Dead. I was even a lead actor in a remake of White Zombie several years ago, although the Haitian-type zombies are another thing altogether. This is my first review, out of more than 230, to engage with the subject of this unique brand of monster, and I have made a commitment to get to know this subgenre better. I have another zombie book on my to-be-read list, so expect another review on the subject before the end of the year.

As to Infection, it is a quick, action-filled read, which operates squarely in the zombie subgenre of horror/adventure, offering plenty of violence, gore, and all the tropes zombie fans love. It lies somewhere between The Walking Dead and Shaun of the Dead, the latter solely because good mates with everyday lives suddenly are faced with a zombie invasion and learn as they go. It is not at all a comedy.

Although it never states so, the novel seems to take place in the present, with no leaps in technology or other indicators of the future. It takes place in Kirkintilloch, just outside Glasgow, giving it a slightly different tone than typical American zombie novels. Continue reading

Alien Intelligence

“The Matrix is Real and Nothing Is What it Seems”

Review by Joey Madia

Every so often, a book comes along that requires me to assess just where I am on the healthy skeptic continuum. Being a healthy skeptic is crucial to being a good paranormal investigator and researcher. It is not to be confused with being a cynic—a person for whom no amount of evidence will change their position that we live in a predictable, mechanistic universe where one lives and dies and is forever gone.

I’m a mix of Mulder and Scully. I “want to believe” and know “the truth is out there,” but I also know we’re bombarded with false flag ops and disinformation, while some people are just looking for attention, memory is stunningly unreliable when tested, and there are mostly mundane explanations for what is initially termed paranormal or supernatural.

I also believe that, one day, as science catches up to experience, there will only be the normal and the natural. We are getting there, slowly but surely.

About a decade ago, when I was only a few years into my decade-long mentorship in paranormal investigation and research with Rosemary Ellen Guiley, I read Ingo Swann’s Penetration. I devoured it in a couple of days. I could not believe what I was reading, although I wanted to. After I finished, I went right to the phone and called the trusted colleague who had given me the book. I asked him, not even saying hello, “Do you believe this? Because if you do, I do, and it CHANGES EVERYTHING.” Continue reading

When a Brave Bear Fights Cancer

“Making it All Seem Better”

Review by Joey Madia

It is a joy when two authors you admire for their positive messaging and high level of craft join forces—especially for a cause as worthwhile as childhood cancer.

Carola Schmidt is a pediatric oncology pharmacist and author of several children’s books, two of which are about her Ukrainian grandmother and her experiences leaving Ukraine and coming to American to escape the atrocities being committed by the Russian army, and then returning to Ukraine decades later. She is also the author of Bald is Beautiful, which is a letter to a young person with cancer.

When a Brave Bear Fights Cancer is filled with photographs by Mark O’Dwyer, the author of the Mawson the Bear children’s series. Mawson—sort of a Winnie the Pooh, especially when considered through the lens of books like The Tao of Pooh—is a dreamer and seeker who is a big fan of naps and working with his equally inquisitive friends to explore just what it is that drives and fulfills us.

The cover advertises this beautiful collaboration as a “Get Well Soon Gift,” appropriate for those five years old to 100+. It truly is generation spanning and a perfect opportunity for all the members of one’s family—and friends—to sit together and learn about the cancer treatment journey. Written in simple, effective language, the book starts at initial diagnosis and goes through the various treatments one many encounter. The text and photographs work together to demystify complex ideas, soften the edge of what can be a scary idea through use of adorable bears, and to provide visuals of the doctor’s office and other venues. Continue reading

Vampires of Lore: Traits and Modern Misconceptions

“A Fine Line between Fiction and Folklore”

Review by Joey Madia

Legends of vampires have become so much a part of the fabric of who we are as human beings that we often give little thought to their origins, although those origins and how they manifest in popular culture are rather complex. There are true revenants—the stinking, almost mindless undead rising from the earth and their graves each night to satiate their bloodlust. There are the tuxedo’d, hypersexualized vampires that began with Bela Lugosi and culminated with Frank Langella on stage and screen in 1979. There are the teen and 20-something vampires best represented in Lost Boys and Twilight (the latter ushering in an age where the “monster” is analog for the human outsider and their bonding is their mutual salvation). Last, we must include the vampire/zombie hybrids that have derived from Matheson’s I Am Legend. In the age of COVID-19, we cannot overlook the virus as monster-maker, with too many films, TV series, and comic books produced in the past few decades to name.

A.P. Sylvia has written an indispensable guide for folklorists, horror writers, and vampire enthusiasts. He was initially driven to explore the roots of vampire lore after a visit to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! in Times Square, where he saw a purported vampire-hunting kit from the nineteenth century (having seen this display, it reminds me of the kit used in the Fright Night films). Researching the provenance of the kit, Sylvia found more questions than answers. Continue reading

Birthrights

“Infant Secrets”

Review by Joey Madia

There are few things as sacrosanct as a mother’s rights when it comes to childbirth and issues of custody. The maternal instinct—although it is hard for fathers to acknowledge (I am one, three times over)—is nothing less than a force of nature only mothers can truly understand. The “momma grizzly” label for a fiercely protective mother expresses something very real and nothing less than vital for the evolution of humankind in times of great stress and trial.

This intense energy is the driving force of Carly Rheilan’s well-written, compelling novel, Birthrights. The motherly instinct is not reserved here for biological mother–child relationships only—the true strength of this dark page-turner is the expansion of the maternal instinct to protecting one’s siblings and the health practitioner–patient relationship.

In the dedication, Rheilan writes, “For Joan Davis, who encouraged me to write what I knew.” This is the advice given to all writers at some point in their development. Although we all write about things we do not know about, or simply make up—we are fiction writers, after all—there is great authenticity here. Rheilan’s experience as a psychiatric nurse working for the National Health Service in England, research into criminal justice, and teaching background serve her well in giving this novel—and her others—a chilling realism. Continue reading