**Zombiewood Confidential by Marianne Mancusi**
Romeo George’s new zombie film, Isle of the Living Dead, is filming on a desert island, starring action star Mason Mark and high maintenance, demanding Cissy Max. Derek, the makeup artist, just hired Scarlet because he was desperate to fill the position even if she hadn’t quite finished cosmetology school yet. She has had a huge crush on Mason Mark since his days as a singing, dancing child star, but knows that people like that thrive off of fawning peons and try to take advantage of them. Mason really likes Scarlet as well, but is contracted to be in a relationship with the insufferable Cissy by the studio to generate interest for the film. While all this drama is going on, the extras playing the zombies are acting in increasingly strange ways, including biting the stars and repeatedly observing how delicious Mason’s dog smells. When the crew and extras keep disappearing, Scarlet thinks there is something really wrong. With this zombie film come true, can she and Mason stop the zombie apocalypse alone on a desert island?
This is one of my favorite stories of the anthology. The return to the flesh-eating variety of zombie is refreshing and makes me feel right at home. The writing flows really well, making it an enjoyable, fast read. Humor is infused throughout the story along with the typical romance conventions. It’s kind of like a more romance focused Shaun of the Dead. The romance aspect succeeds well in organically establishing the attraction between Scarlet and Mason, which made me care about the couple. In the first two stories, there really wasn’t any build up to the romance which made the story flat and made me more unwilling to suspend my disbelief. The two stars and the director are obvious parodies of famous zombie film directors, macho action stars, and slutty starlets, but there is a dimension to them that also makes them good, relatable characters. Scarlet serves as the everygirl of the story: just a normal person trying to make a living and pay her rent. Although she is justifiably horrified by the zombies and at having to kill one of her friends, she is no simpering damsel in distress. I really like her and I rooted for her through the whole story. The ending is kind of an implausible romance ending with a twist. Overall, I’d say this story rocked.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins
**Every Part of You by Lisa Cach**
Angelica Sequiera is in Dr. Velazquez’s office to just fill in 6 shallow acne scars in her face with fat from her chin. Nothing major. She doesn’t exactly want to advertise this, but a rude surfer dude type guy named Tom Haggerty keeps asking her probing and insulting questions. She gets the procedure done and while she is under anesthetic that makes her loopy, the doctor asks if she wants Phi-Tox, a formula of Botox that he has made himself. She resists, but the doctor skillfully manipulates her and takes advantage of her loopy state and injects her. Later, Tom gets her phone number from her friend that works at the plastic surgeon’s office and she reluctantly goes on a date with him. They don’t mesh well at first, but through conversation, sailing, and picnics, they grow to fall in love. After she comes back from their trip, there are increasing cases of women bingeing on sweets, including herself and her friend. They soon realize that women are turning into zombies that only crave sugar because in a last ditch effort to stave off the paralyzing effects of Phi-Tox. It’s only a matter of time before the effect gets worse in Angelica. Can she and Tom find an antidote and save Dr. Velazquez’s clients from certain death?
This is the other story that I enjoyed the most in this book. Instead of a straight romance story, this one focuses on a larger message about how the expectations of society can become poisonous and make us into zombies that have no will of our own. The women in the story all get plastic surgery based on the mass media’s vision of the ideal woman and how others (like creepy, manipulative Dr. Velazquez) view them. Tom represents what true love should be: a man that will love every part of you as you are. He is my favorite character with his surfer dude demeanor, frank way of talking to people, and hidden layers that people who make assumptions about him would never see. The first things he notices about Angelica are the very things she has been led to think need to change to be beautiful: her nose, her breasts, and her butt. Unlike those trying to push surgery on her, he finds these characteristics of hers sexy and unique compared to the typical vision of what beautiful women should look like. The romance between Tom and Angelica is sweet and steamy. This is easily the hottest story of the book, so if you don’t like sex scenes, you should stay away from this one. I really like how the story starts as a typical romantic comedy and then ends with a crazy zombie epidemic. Overall, this story is fun, sexy, and sends an important message to its readers.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins