Minis: Outbreak, Goodbyes and a Prince

I have some books lined up for review but I thought I’d get the shorter ones out of the way with another round of mini reviews. :)

Countdown by Mira GrantCountdown by Mira Grant
Newsflesh # 0
Publisher: Orbit
Number of pages: 84
My copy: ebook, bought from Amazon Kindle Store

The year is 2014, the year everything changed. We cured cancer. We cured the common cold. We died.

This is the story of how we rose.

When will you rise?

* * *

This is actually one of the last books I read for 2011, and I got this because I’m such a loyal reader of Mira Grant and her Newsflesh universe. Countdown is the a prequel to her story and it narrates just how the Rising happened through the different perspectives involved in the story. I liked how the story wasn’t really as simple as how it seemed when Georgia talked about it in Feed. There were so many people involved, some that were already known such as the developers of the cure, and also some unknown people like the activists that caused the virus to go out. It had just enough detail without being too scientific or too political, and the growing terror of what just might happen because of the chain of events was very well conveyed. The slow unveiling of the effects of the new virus strain was horrifying at its best and you just know that it’s too late when it all comes down.

While there’s no Georgia or Shaun in this book yet, we get a glimpse of their parents and how they got involved and what happened that could have led them to adopting the two. It wasn’t really narrated as a whole, but when the book is done, it’s easier to connect the dots.

This isn’t a required reading to fully understand the series, but for fans who are itching to read the last book in the trilogy, Countdown is a good pick to satiate this hunger.

Rating:

What is Goodbye? By Nikki GrimesWhat is Goodbye? by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Raul Colon
Publisher: Hyperion
Number of pages: 64
My copy:  hardbound, gift from KD

Jerilyn and Jesse have lost their beloved older brother. But each of them deals with Jaron’s death differently. Jerilyn tries to keep it in and hold it together; Jesse acts out. But after a year of anger, pain, and guilt, they come to understand that it’s time to move on. It’s time for a new family picture-with one piece missing, yet whole again. Through the alternating voices of a brother and sister, Nikki Grimes eloquently portrays the grieving process in this gem of a book that is honest, powerful, and ultimately hopeful.

* * *

I read and loved Nikki Grimes’ A Girl Named Mister so I was very excited to get this book from Kuya Doni during one of our Goodreads meet ups. A slim volume with illustrated pages, this is a book that discusses griefs and its different effects on people struggling with it. Jerilyn and Jesse just lost their older brother — too much too soon that they are at a loss at how to deal. Jerilyn holds it all together, showing an unruffled exterior but inside she is just as broken as how Jesse acts out. Questions about life, death and family surface and we get to see how the siblings and the rest of the family dealt with this loss. It will never be the same again, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be whole.

Nikki Grimes’ poetry was easy to read and the illustrations were a good complement to the story. True to form, I found myself shedding some tears at a certain page, and I honestly cannot imagine losing my one and only brother too soon to death. While this book offers no solutions on how to handle grief and death and loss, it shows a hopeful picture that someday, it will all be okay.

Rating:

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExuperyThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Publisher: Egmont
Number of pages: 96
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

A pilot forced to land in the Sahara meets a little prince. The wise and enchanting stories the prince tells of his own planet with its three volcanoes and a haughty flower are unforgettable.

* * *

I read this book sometime during high school, I think, not because of a school requirement but because people around me were quoting it and such. I remember being partly fascinated by it, but not so much to make it a favorite book. I just know that this book had a memorable line that everyone seems to know: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

I ended up reading the book again for our book club’s discussion, and seeing that it was a short book, I read it just a few days before the discussion happened. Still the same — the book had that whimsical feel, with the little prince’s innocence and stories bringing the pilot (and the readers) to wonder if this little prince was the real thing. The book didn’t bring any new emotions, but it reminded me of just how sad I felt when I got to the end. I remember not knowing the answer to the question: what do you think happened to the little prince?

Nevertheless, the book gained more meaning to me after my friends and I had a very good (and brain-frying) discussion on it. Despite its thinness, The Little Prince is one of those books that pack a pretty heavy punch with its different adages that is pretty much applicable to so many things in life. I’d like to believe that people of all ages will be able to pick something interesting in this book, even if it gets a wee bit childish for older readers. After all, this was written as a children’s book.

However, I would have to agree: the meat of the book really happens with the prince’s conversations with the fox. Don’t get me wrong — the rest of the book was pretty lovely as well, but if you need the most popular quotes in the book, just look for that chapter. It’s pretty much all there.

Rating:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse AndrewsMe and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Publisher:
Abrams

Number of pages: 304
My copy: ebook ARC from Netgalley

Up until senior year, Greg has maintained total social invisibility. He only has one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time—when not playing video games and avoiding Earl’s terrifying brothers— making movies, their own versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Greg would be the first one to tell you his movies are f*@$ing terrible, but he and Earl don’t make them for other people. Until Rachel.

Rachel has leukemia, and Greg’s mom gets the genius idea that Greg should befriend her. Against his better judgment and despite his extreme awkwardness, he does. When Rachel decides to stop treatment, Greg and Earl make her a movie, and Greg must abandon invisibility and make a stand.

* * *

I admit: I requested this book on Netgalley because of the cover. Don’t you think it’s so cute? This is the kind of cover that I would want to be printed as a poster and placed on my room. Or over my desk. The colors in this cover is enough to cheer me up, and I wouldn’t mind just looking at it without really knowing what’s inside.

Oh but wait, I actually read it. I don’t know about you, but the book’s synopsis reminded me of a John Green novel — and not just because The Fault in Our Stars had a girl with cancer in it1. Even the start of the book kind of reminded me a bit of Green, with the geeky guy and the “sidekick”, but that is really pretty much where the similarities end.

Here’s the thing about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: this book had a guy named Greg who’s content with just skimming and being under the radar and not making any real friends so he won’t have to be ridiculed for being a part of a group. The only “friend” he had is black-guy Earl, who’s had a difficult home life and whose default expression is “pissed”. And then there’s Rachel, the dying girl who Greg used to be linked to, and is linked to again because his mother asked him to visit her and keep her company. And there are movies, too – home movies, since Greg and Earl are big time movie fans and pseudo movie makers. Secret movie makers because they never let people watch any of them, until Rachel came along anyway.

Here’s another thing: this book doesn’t really have a real and solid plot that isn’t mentioned in the title. This book really feels more like a study on high school and how a kid deals with having a friend (who he won’t admit is really a friend) who’s battling cancer. And even then, Greg didn’t even admit it. He isn’t out to win any trophies for friendship, or any of his abilities for that matter. Greg is so down on himself and what he can do that it made my heart hurt. At one point in the book, I wanted to shake him and say that he better snap out of his “Oh I’m good for nothing so I’ll just make you laugh” type of thoughts. I guess there was just too much self-deprecating quips in the book that it got me a bit turned off — it’s either I’m just too positive, or his character is really just too negative. I’m not really sure.

That being said, though, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl really is hilarious, and it’s a good book to lift you out of a bad mood with all the quips and tangents and all the movie stuff (if you don’t think of the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph and stuff). I also loved Earl — maybe even more than I liked Greg — for all his tough-guy persona with a soft heart inside. I can imagine his “pissed” and “mega-pissed” expression, although I can’t exactly think of him as an actor. I think most of my LOL time happened when Earl was present, although he also showed that he had a more difficult life compared to Greg. Personally for me, if anyone had the right to complain about his life, it was Earl. Rachel also had more rights to complain, with the cancer and all. I liked Rachel’s quiet presence in the story, her snort-laugh and how she changed (but also not really changed) Greg’s life. I thought all the scenes with her was pretty poignant, and I liked how she really tried to help Greg even if he wasn’t willing to be helped that much. Their dynamic was pretty unusual, but it worked, and it really made the book true to its title.

Overall, this book is an enjoyable read, albeit not really as much as I expected. I guess I was used to having books make me feel so many things and think so many things that I imposed these expectations on Me and Earl and the Dying Girl too, when it’s really not that kind of book. I doubt this will be one of my favorites but in the grander scheme of things2, this book is one I’d recommend for anyone who’s looking for a few lot of good laughs.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews will be out March 1.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Nocturnal Library
The Readventurer

  1. I haven’t read the book yet, in case you’re wondering []
  2. Wow, look at me using this phrase, haha! []

The Spark Project

Today I am over at my lovely lawyer (and all-around awesome nanay) friend Monique’s blog for the second installment of the new blog feature, The Spark Project.

After featuring her in my blog, it’s my turn to be on hers! This feature, as shown on the image, is really about *cue LOTR tone* the (one) book that started it all. :) Or in my case, several books. To be more specific, the book that started it all for me is a part of a series. Oh and it’s not Harry Potter or Twilight, if that’s your first guess. :P

Click here to read the interview!

Also, I am very flattered to read how Monique described me. :”> Thank you! Haha, and I love that she used pink on my name for the intro. And she even plugged my birthday too (in less than a month, eep!). :D

Again, thanks for the feature, Monique! And do drop by at her blog not just for the features but also for her detailed and honest reviews. :)

The Enemy

The Enemy by Charlie HigsonThe Enemy by Charlie Higson
The Enemy # 1
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Number of pages: 448
My copy: hardbound, borrowed from Aaron

In the wake of a devastating disease, everyone sixteen and older is either dead or a decomposing, brainless creature with a ravenous appetite for flesh. Teens have barricaded themselves in buildings throughout London and venture outside only when they need to scavenge for food. The group of kids living a Waitrose supermarket is beginning to run out of options. When a mysterious traveler arrives and offers them safe haven at Buckingham Palace, they begin a harrowing journey across London. But their fight is far from over–the threat from within the palace is as real as the one outside it.

* * *

It’s been a long time since I last read a zombie book, so I knew I was in for a bit of an adjustment when I decided to read my stocked zombie books for my February challenge. The Enemy by Charlie Higson has been languishing on my shelf since 2010, after my friend Aaron lent it to me for my YA-D2 challenge for that year. Obviously I never read it for that, and I don’t think I would have unearthed this now if I didn’t choose to read it for this month.

Besides, a borrowed book on my shelf for a year feels wrong.

In The Enemy, all people aged sixteen and above have succumbed to a disease that turns them into flesh-eating monsters. Only the children are left and several have made it into some safehouses, banding together using their own abilities to survive in a bleak world. One of these groups of kids were the Waitrose kids, led by Arran and Maxie, who has lived in an abandoned grocery in the last few months. Food and important resources are already scarce, and the kids are already losing hope. Until one day, a kid in a colorful coat (made from contemporary fabrics and the like) comes and invites them to join him to Buckingham Palace, where another group of kids are living and are successful in creating a new life for themselves. The kids decided to go with him, but will their lives really change for the better once they get to the palace?

The Enemy starts of with action and doesn’t really leave that kind of mode until the end. Which is good, because it kept me on my toes and had me biting my fingernails for whatever else could happen to these kids. Other people warned me not to get attached to any of the characters in the book because the author kills them — and it is true. Boy how true is that. This makes for a very gripping read because you just never know who would die and how, and you never know who are the bad guys really are.

I also really liked Small Sam’s story — I think I was rooting for him the most! I like how his story paralleled the others, and where he got to. The subway (or to be appropriate, the tube) scene in the dark reminded me of a similar scene in The Dark and Hollow Places, and it truly got me worried for him and how he would get out of it. There’s also a hint of cannibalism in the story and I have to admit that it got my stomach churning uncomfortably there.

With all these positive things, though, I have to admit that I wasn’t that invested in the story. That, and I was partly grossed out for some reason. Maybe I’ve turned soft and my stomach isn’t as adept as handling zombie gore anymore. There were several times I felt like gagging while reading the book, and I couldn’t handle reading it while eating. With that, I didn’t really feel like I was glued to the pages. True, the story had all sorts of action and it made me fear for the characters, but my overall feeling in the end was, “Okay, finally that was done.” I only really wanted to see how it ended, but I didn’t care that much as compared to the other zombie novels I read and loved. My friends who have read this all sang praises to this…but I’m afraid I’m more on the lukewarm side.

Now that I think about it…maybe I have turned soft. :O

Nevertheless, The Enemy is still one of the better written zombie novels out there, and it’s a good read especially for those who like more gore than the usual. If you want to read a book about survival, a bit of politics and the undead, then his Higson book is for you. What’s more: its sequel, The Dead, is already out so you won’t have to wait too long to know what Charlie Higson had in mind when he thought of a post-apocalyptic world.

Rating:

Required Reading: FebruaryMy copy: borrowed from Aaron

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
I Am Pinoy Peter Pan
Attack of the Book

20 Great Love Stories at Female Network

Belated Happy Valentine’s Day! :) Before the love week1 ends, I thought I’d plug my latest Female Network list — Romantic Reads: 20 Great Love Stories.

20 Love Stories

Click the image to go to the list

This list contains 20 love stories to tug your heartstrings this February. This is far easier to write compared to the Young Heroes list, but it was also a bit hard because there were so many good love stories! I haven’t read the others here, but from how they sound like, they seem like swoony reads. :)

Hop over to the list if you need some romance fix, or if you want to share some of your favorite romance books, leave them in the comments section (of the list, preferably :) ).

Much thanks to my Twitter friends who responded to my shout out for suggestions! Have a great weekend, everyone! <3

  1. I can’t believe I used that term, LOL []