Book Review – Red Hill by Jamie McGuire

by Maryse on October 3, 2013 · 10 comments

in Jamie McGuire, My Book Reviews

Red Hill
<— Fun and so well detailed in it’s viral wrath. I love zombie stories like this! A great start to my Halloween season, and it’s got me excited for more! And what makes it even better, is that… along with the unimaginable horror… is a love story. Or two. Or three. ;) And I love when my two favorite genres mix!

But!!! Once upon a time, when I used to get my adrenaline spikes through horror (books and movies), zombies were my absolute last choice for potential entertainment. I dunno… to me, they were more of a campy-movie “guy” thing (yes I’m looking at you, husband. I know you love ‘em). Wow, reminiscing… I remember when we were first getting to know each other, how ecstatic I was to find a another horror-afficiando. Except… you tricked me. neutral I didn’t know that the ONLY “horror” you liked were b-grade zombie flicks. rolleyes

But we found a common ground, didn’t we? We both LOVE movies that start out with deadly epidemics. Worldwide outbreaks of mutant viruses killing masses of the world population in one fell swoop. Social discord. Reverting back to living with the bare minimum. Learning to survive and adapt. Whether it be a”realistic” thriller of mass deadly illness, or… something “other” that killed, and then re-animated, now I was with you. And lately, Zombie movies (and shows) totally do that! And they ROCK!!!!

And guess what? Zombie books are rocking, too!

Which brings me to this one. I’ve read a few that I absolutely loved, But one of the things I LOVED the most about this book in particular is not just the “scary” parts when the zombies are all over the place… but that whole “beginning”. When life carries on as the news reports illness outbreaks in other countries. Seeing news footage of riots in the streets and chaos in the world around us, but we continue “living our lives” as if it’s never going to touch us. After all, we’re an advanced country, right? The government surely has it figured out. They’ll keep it out, or contain it. Do we even need to worry about this?

But slowly, and then QUICKLY… crazy circumstances make themselves known within our own population. Strange symptoms, emergency rooms being inundated with deathly ill patients, odd bites…

She held up her arm, palm up. There was a perfect bite mark in the middle of her forearm. Each tooth had broken the skin. Deep, red perforations dotted her arm in mirrored half0moons, but the brusied skin around the bites were still intact.

I met her eyes. “Dog?”

“A drunk,” she said with a weak laugh.

…and worries of “rabies”.

“You… don’t think it’s rabies… do you?” She tried to laugh off her remark, but I could hear the worry in her voice.

*shakes head*. People come on!! Not rabies!! ZOMBIES!!!

I just LOVED the detail that the author put into the “discovery” of it all, within her own hospital. That crazy CAT scan, shocking them all.

Her insides were basically dead and withering.

Nothing like they’d ever seen before, but I understood what they were seeing. What they realized was happening, and yet not knowing exactly how far-reaching it was. Or… what it was.

And then absolute utter chaos. Devastating scenes exploding before the main character’s very eyes. People fleeing in panic, killing each other as they trample one another, and then realizing what they are fleeing from. Being bitten… no. Devoured.

Alarms screeching, cars crashing, it’s each for their own, and pretty much… nobody’s getting out alive.

I had no idea where we would go. Where could we hide from something like this.

And it’s the subdued yet bewildered thoughts and memories that the characters are having that had me forgetting this wasn’t real. Thinking back to what was “normal” just a few hours ago, and what they last said to the person they loved. Realizing as they try to use their now-useless cell phones that they have no way of contacting them. Roads blocked, danger at every turn (whether it be by monsters or just the panicked populous), trying to get to them, to no avail.

I had to get to them. My fingers tightened around the steering wheel. If it was the end of the world, I wanted to be holding my babies.

OMG pure devastation and horror, just in that thought alone. You’re alone amongst chaos, and so are your kids.. somewhere. Your spouse… your family… out there. Are they safe? Are they scared? Are they dead? Or are they now… Undead?

So what’s it about?

Various character’s that take us along on their struggle for survival. And all of them have one thing in common. Heading to a secure house called “Red Hill”.

One is an employee of the owner of the house. She knows of the security offered by the country land that surrounds it, the vast ammunition that it houses, and the well-stocked pantries that will keep them fed for a long time.

Two are the daughters of the owner of the house (and their boyfriends), and one stranger they pick up along the way…

and one is… just an errant man and his daughter looking for safety, and pointed in that direction.

Of course, we get their “backgrounds”, their worries, their hopes and their losses along the way. We travel with all of them as we all attempt to “get there” safely. And lemme tell you, zombies are not the only things we need to worry about, but there are also good people, too. And as we journey with these characters, we meet more and more people that interconnect this group even further.

The first 60% of the book is wonderfully… this. Disconcertingly exciting. Terrifying. But not  just in regards to “horror-movie-monsters” but mostly terrifying in the fact that the world as we know it, has ended.

We passed more people, unsure of who was running and who was chasing. I saw parents carrying their young children, and pulling along older ones by hand. A couple of times people screamed at me to stop, begged me to help them, but stopping always meant dying in the movies, and I was barely eighteen. I wasn’t sure how long we could survive, but I knew I wasn’t dying on day one of the f%&king zombie apocalypse.

And there’s no “next” step. No instruction. No routine. No going home. No “safe harbor”. Because nowhere is safe. Even the news is off the air.

GAH!!!!! That is my ultimate nightmare! As much as I LOVE reading/watching stuff like this, I think I love it this much ’cause I fear it could happen. Okay I dunno about zombies, mind you, but social pandemonium because of war/EMP effects/viral outbreaks… I could go on and on. And wait. Are zombies that far-fetched? What about some of those real news reports about the “zombie-like/drug-induced” attacks. (P.S. VERY clever nod, in this book, to those true-life incidences. It breathed even more “reality” into this work of fiction).

“Anyone that didn’t think this was a possibility was in denial. With the technology out there, how long have people been talking about zombies? Since before we were born. I know last fall when the reports about human attacks were on the news for a day or two, and then you didn’t hear anything about it. I don’t care how crazy bubble bath can make a person… there is no drug that can get me high enough to chew someone’s face off.”

“It was bath salts, Skeeter. They said the guy even admitted it. It was in his system.”

Skeeter looked at my, dubious. “You still believe that, do ya?”

I crossed my arms and leaned against the doorjamb, trying to pretend his theory wasn’t completely disturbing. Surely our government didn’t know. This sickness couldn’t have been there that long – months – without the government telling us until it got out of hand.

“They would have reported it in the news before now.”

Skeeter paused and took a breath, still staring at the floor.

“They did, Nate.”

Okay so for us romance lovers? Well, we have some of that, too! Because in a world where everyone you’ve loved is lost, and everyone you’ve found is a stranger but in the same “boat” as you… there is a certain bonding that happens. Strangers that become friends, and eventually family, out of forced proximity. And out of need for connection in a time of total discord. Working together to build a safe haven. Various skill sets that complete each other. Times of irritation as they get to know one another (and doing so in these circumstances makes for some definite hostile standoffs). Change in all areas, in all mindsets.

I loved that there were a few different potential romance angles going on within our “group”. That there was a touch of angst, even within the “end of the world” atmosphere. The struggle between clinging to what they knew, battling what they were changing into. Who they were becoming. I was becoming invested in the new connections being made, while the old connections were struggling drastically… clinging to what was left of their changing lives.

And while I loved that the author took us there (and not just “zombie warfare/death and destruction” – this is not a “horror” book), I wish there was more development in terms of the budding romances and friendships. Slower, more detailed… longer. More intense? More emotional, considering how much we experienced with them in the first half. I needed “more”, to feel complete in this read.

Every scary detail I could have hoped for was included in the first 60% in regards to their reactions, their actions, run-ins, and journey to eventual “potential” safety. All the scary and the “OMG HELP ME!!” adrenaline rushes were there.


Okay, if you haven’t read this yet… skip this mini section below as I analyze my reaction to something (no spoilers but if you want to go into it having NO idea what you’re in for, skip this):

But when it came to the interpersonal connections, at times, I lost my footing. Considering how deeply I was connecting to some of the characters, and how invested I was in their… plights, I was surprised at how some of the connections I made were simply… severed (whether it be by simply not delving into these characters as much, or possibly… their succumbing to the horror at hand). I won’t say what, though. Or who. My lips are sealed. ;) .

I suppose there was a sort of “lack of closure” for me for a few things and I’m going to admit it. I was surprised. Confused. Perplexed. And a few times, devastated.

But as in real life, sometimes you’re not going to get what you wish for, in the way that you want it.

Okay you can start reading again! :D

But nonetheless, as a whole, this was an exciting apocalyptic read. Not just the horror, and not just their fight to stay alive… but a personal aspect to the situation as a whole. To keep hope alive, as everything succumbs around them. The hope to reunite with loved ones. The hope to be happy again. To live, love and laugh again. To let go. The hope to rebuild.

After all, without hope, what else is there?

4 stars!

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy. I haven’t read a paper book in a while, but this was kind of fun! “Old school”. ;)

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Danette October 3, 2013 at 8:56 PM

Once again, you and I are pretty much on the same page with your review. I actually *loved* this book until … well, “things” happened close to the end. While I understand while JM would want to take things where she did as a writer I, like you, was invested in some of these characters. I wasn’t prepared for what happened. I was like… WAIT! NOOOOOOO!!!!! Overall, though, a really great read!

I do, however, admire Jamie McGuire for writing something so totally unexpected! Looking back to Providence series, Beautiful Disaster/Walking Disaster and now this — she has written three completely different stories and I’ve loved them all! Now *that* takes talent!

Krystal October 3, 2013 at 9:01 PM

Am excited to read this ! Even more now, thanks ;)

Maryse October 3, 2013 at 9:05 PM

Danette! My reaction exactly… *hug* I’ve been needing a hug all day, after that. ;)

Maryse October 3, 2013 at 9:05 PM

YAY Krystal!! Let us know what you think. :)

Andrea October 3, 2013 at 9:40 PM

I thought JM nailed it. The reason being we are here talking about it with love and passion in our hearts for good, intense books. I agree with you that towards the end I was a bit astonished with some of the paths certain character stories took but I love that feeling of angst and rapid heartbeat as you read, I truly love her style of writing and I was sad to see the book end but was happy there was no cliffhanger. I LOVE JM, and I look forward to her next book.!! Xoxo

Maryse October 3, 2013 at 10:05 PM

I wonder if she’ll continue this as a series? Lots to explore in this kind of world…

Shannon W March 25, 2014 at 9:43 AM

I agree with this 100%. I have actually put off reading this until now. No idea why. I love paranormal books, LOVE The Walking Dead, LOVE Jamie McGuire. I was afraid of being disappointed, I guess. And I was…a little. But then I had to remember what I was reading. It was a wonderful book. I did not like some things that happened at the end. They left me feeling a bit disturbed, unsettled and annoyed. This was not a touchy-feely book though. I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be. I loved The Hunger Games and the Divergent series and I felt the same way when I finished them. Just because I didn’t necessarily like the way they ended, doesn’t make them any less awesome. I’m not sure if this makes any sense!! I felt like the end was a little rushed, I suppose, and I didn’t feel as connected to the characters as I usually do in her novels. But the story was just amazing. I easily give it 4 stars as well! :)

Brittney Hanright April 1, 2014 at 3:00 PM

I LOVE YOUR BOOK. What r the names of your other books?

Wendy Brown August 1, 2014 at 7:09 PM

I loved this book. I want to find more books like this one, but the only ones I found are more on the ya side. Does anyone have suggestions on any?

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