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:

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

Required Reading: February

January has come and gone…and it’s been a very good reading month, if I do say so myself. I read a total of 12 books — can you believe that? And I finished all Required Reading books too! Here’s a recap:

That was pretty good, yes? I think the books I read in January were pretty good, too, and I enjoyed most of them. I still ended up getting more books so my TBR pile is still solidly on 128. Oh well, I’ll find a way to get that number down.

Did you join last month’s Required Reading challenge? How did you do?

Now we’re on to February!

Required Reading: February

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Faves of TwentyEleven: The Random

I’m a few days late to this part of my Faves of TwentyEleven post — sorry! Christmas got me a little too busy, so yeah. Too much food and time with friends will do that do you. But anyway, I have a few more days left of 2011 (Can you believe it!) and so I still have time to do this. :)

Faves of TwentyEleven is hosted by Nomes of inkcrush. And in case you’re interested, here are my other Faves of TwentyEleven posts:

Day Four: The Random

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Deadline

Deadline by Mira Grant

Deadline by Mira Grant
Newsflesh # 2
Publisher: Orbit
Number of pages: 581
My copy: ebook, bought from Amazon Kindle Store

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organization he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn’t seem as fun when you’ve lost as much as he has.

But when a CDC researcher fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun has a new-found interest in life. Because she brings news-he may have put down the monster who attacked them, but the conspiracy is far from dead.

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.

* * *

One of my best book discoveries last year was Mira Grant‘s Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy. I was so excited about it when I heard it was about zombies AND blogging, and it was my first big Kindle purchase. It remains as one of my favorite books, one that I have given away as gifts and prizes numerous times. I was excited for the next book, Deadline, but I wasn’t expecting that much, given that second books are usually so-so compared to the first books in a trilogy. I had a feeling it would be good, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as its predecessor, you know?

Deadline starts shortly after Feed, where Shaun Mason and the rest of the staff of After the End Times are still reporting the news and making noise in the blogosphere. Shaun, however, is no longer the Irwin that he used to be — he’s tired of it, and he’s just running the news organization because he had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. When a CDC researcher fakes her death and drops by their office with a lot of terrifying and confusing medical research, Shaun and the team find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy connected to the ones they encountered during the campaign. Hungry for the truth, they follow the trail, and find themselves facing an enemy bigger and scarier than the living dead that has become a constant threat in their lives.

I decided to reread Feed shortly after Deadline was delivered to my Kindle to refresh my memory of the Newsflesh world. I was a bit impatient while rereading because I kept on seeing really good reviews for the newest book, but I soldiered on, determined to have the best reading experience for the sequel. It took so much control for me not to read reviews and comments in reviews in full, too, so I won’t be spoiled (and believe me, there are spoilers galore in the reviews for this book). I finished the first book, loved it just the same, and then moved on to the next book. Not even 1/4 into the book yet and I was already crying. A little over that, and my heart was breaking. And then, I just can’t stop reading it. I finished the book at one in the morning last Sunday and it took all of me to stop myself from swearing. If my mom wasn’t fast asleep beside me, I would have yelled many, many expletives that morning.

Deadline Wallpaper available at miragrant.comMira Grant achieves a great balance between detail and action in Deadline. The previous book was admittedly wordy with all the exposition on the history of the Rising and the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Deadline may be just as wordy, but since the book is told in Shaun’s point of view, we are given a bit of time to process the information in the same way as he does. There’s less politics here, as it focuses on the virus itself — lots of science, lots of medical terms, but not so much that it’s too hard to follow. It’s got good, solid world building, with lots of references to pre-Rising things, the things we have now. I love the references to zombie video games, most especially, and it makes the action scenes easier for me to imagine. There was a time when I was reading a zombie chase scene when something similar to a Resident Evil background music played on the TV. Talk about setting the scene. The story is tight, and it honestly had me totally creeped out as the story progressed. I had the same feeling while rereading Feed, but I dare say Deadline amplified that feeling. By the end of the book, I was ready to hide under the covers and never go out.

While this is more of Shaun’s story to tell, the girls Georgia and Buffy still play a big part in the story. The best part, I think, is how their staff gets to play bigger roles. Mira Grant created excellent characters that you’d want to be on your side when zombies walk with the living. I loved Mahir and Maggie (with her epileptic teacup bulldogs!) the most, but I also liked Dave, Becks and Alaric well enough to get attached to them even if I knew better not to get attached to any of Mira Grant’s characters. Lines are blurred and gray areas abound in Deadline: the stereotypical villain in the previous book suddenly had more depth, there’s no clear villain in this book, and there really is no one you could trust.

Unlike Feed, Deadline ends in a major cliffhanger, which could have also resulted in many, many expletives if I hadn’t finished this book late in the night. And to prove the evil (genius) that Mira Grant really is, a preview of the third book, Blackout, is included in Deadline (A word of advice — do not read the preview if you’re not yet done with the book. YOU WILL REGRET IT IF YOU DO, TRUST ME.). While that’s a teensy bit comforting, it still doesn’t change the fact that it would not be out until next year. Alas, I wait in agony with the rest of the world. :o

Deadline by Mira Grant definitely exceeded all my expectations. I love it when a book does that. Even if I have to wait for a whole year for the conclusion of this wonderfully terrifying, expletive-inducing trilogy, I have a good feeling the third book will shoot straight up the ceiling with its awesomeness.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Midnight Garden
Pen and Ink, Camera and Keyboard
Wear the Old Coat

Reviews for other Newsflesh books:
#1 Feed (at thepoc.net)