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Title: Lighter than my Shadow
Author: Katie Green
Genre: graphic memoir, YA
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 528
Date read: August 2017

Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She'd sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she'd have to eat it for breakfast.

But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behavior might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.

Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

Wow... this book really packs a punch.

An extremely poignant story about a teen battling an eating disorder and sexual abuse and the long-term effect on her life from both. It did an excellent job of explaining how having an eating disorder isn't just a phase that a person can grow out of - it takes years of work, setbacks, therapy and relapses and is probably something the person has to battle in some form or the other, for the rest of their life.

I liked the drawing-style and found it fascinating to see how Katie Green used the media to depict the specter of an eating disorder without having to use any words at all.

I did miss getting full closure on her battle with sexual abuse (mainly knowing whether or not she ever reported it), but appreciate that in real life we just don't always get that kind of closure, and that reporting it would probably have taken more strength that she had at the time.

A really brilliant graphic memoir that I highly recommend.
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Title: The Vintage Teacup Club
Author: Vanessa Greene
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 400 pages
Date read: August, 2017

At a car boot sale in Sussex, three very different women meet and fall for the same vintage teaset. They decide to share it - and form a friendship that changes their lives.

Jenny can't wait to marry Dan. Then, after years of silence, she hears from the woman who could shatter her dreams.

Maggie has put her broken heart behind her and is gearing up for the biggest event of her career - until she's forced to confront the past once more.

Alison seems to have it all: married to her childhood sweetheart, with two gorgeous daughters. But as tensions mount, she is pushed to breaking point.

Cosy and entertaining book that just stayed on the right side of being fluff. I grew to care for all the ladies of the Vintage Teacup Club as well as their families. They all seemed very real to me with all their flaws and charms. There isn't much of substance to the book, but delightful reads about friendships have always been right up my aisle, and I was very charmed by it.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Final Girls
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: horror
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 112
Date read: March, 2017

What if you could fix the worst parts of yourself by confronting your worst fears?

Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented proprietary virtual reality technology that purports to heal psychological wounds by running clients through scenarios straight out of horror movies and nightmares. In a carefully controlled environment, with a medical cocktail running through their veins, sisters might develop a bond they've been missing their whole lives - while running from the bogeyman through a simulated forest. But... can real change come so easily?

Esther Hoffman doubts it. Esther has spent her entire journalism career debunking pseudoscience, after phony regression therapy ruined her father's life. She's determined to unearth the truth about Dr. Webb's budding company. Dr. Webb's willing to let her, of course, for reasons of her own. What better advertisement could she get than that of a convinced skeptic? But Esther's not the only one curious about how this technology works. Enter real-world threats just as frightening as those created in the lab. Dr. Webb and Esther are at odds, but they may also be each other's only hope of survival.

The first stand-alone stort-story / novella I've read by Mira Grant (all the others have been in her Newsflesh universe), and it reminded me why I prefer longer novels in order to flesh out the universe more. I loved the premise of the story (revisiting problems via dreams and augmented reality), but thought the writing could have been better. The suspenseful part of the story wasn't nearly as powerful as it would have been, if you'd gotten to know the characters better, and I missed some sort of proper resolution / explanation at the end.

Still, Mira Grant always writes stories worth reading, and despite my small complaints I did enjoy the book and am as always eager to read more from her hand.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Half Bad (Half-Life #1)
Author: Sally Green
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 380
Date read: January, 2017

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world's most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan's only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it's too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?

I think, possibly, my expectations were too high. I liked it well enough, and found myself nicely entertained, but I never really got interested in Nathan's plight, and though Sally Green used too much of the book to define the universe and set the stage for the next book, and too little on the actual plot.

So though very little was actually resolved in this book, I'm in no rush to run out and pick up the next one. But I do understand the high ratings it has received - it was good... just not for me.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Feedback (Newsflesh #4)
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 512
Date read: October, 2016

FEEDBACK is a full-length Newsflesh novel which overlaps the events of Feed and covers the Presidential campaign from the perspective of reporters covering the Democrats side of the story.

There are two sides to every story...

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we unleashed something horrifying and unstoppable. The infection spread leaving those afflicted with a single uncontrollable impulse: FEED.

Now, twenty years after the Rising, a team of scrappy underdog reporters relentlessly pursue the truth while competing against the superstar Masons, surrounded by the infected, and facing more insidious forces working in the shadows.

A companion novel to "Feed". Takes place at the same time, but focusing on another blogging team, following one of the democratic nominees.

Every bit as good as I've come to expect from Mira Grant's novels. Granted, it couldn't quite live up to "Feed", but then none of her subsequent novels could. The plot is pretty much the same as "Feed", just focusing on another team and another set of 'incidents', but it was interesting getting background on some of the characters who only briefly appear in "Feed". Besides, I love the universe and was happy to see more of it :)

I did think Mira Grant perhaps tried a bit too hard to be diverse in this novel. The blogging team included a lesbian, a bisexual person AND a gender-fluid person... who at the same time were white, Asian and black respectively. I'm all for diversity in novels, but this seemed more like checking off boxes.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 608
Date read: July, 2016

A collection of all the Newsflesh short stories published until now, plus two never seen before. Some are obviously better than others, but they're all well worth reading for people wanting to remain (figuratively only, obviously!) in that universe.

The book includes a short introduction by the author to each short story, which I enjoyed.

Short stories included:
- Countdown
- Everglades
- San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the Browncoats (this one always makes me cry)
- How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea
- The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell
- Please Do Not Taunt the Octopus
- All the Pretty Little Horses (*new* - how the Masons moved on from losing their son in the rising)
- Coming to You Live (*new* - 2 years after Shaun and Georgia disappeared off to Canada)
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: The Runaway Jury
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 565 pages
Date read: July, 2016

Every jury has a leader, and the verdict belongs to him. In Biloxi, Mississippi, a landmark tobacco trial with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake begins routinely, then swerves mysteriously off course.

The jury is behaving strangely, and at least one juror is convinced he's being watched. Soon they have to be sequestered. Then a tip from an anonymous young woman suggests she is able to predict the jurors' increasingly odd behavior.

Is the jury somehow being manipulated, or even controlled? If so, by whom? And, more importantly, why?

I was a huge John Grisham fan back in the day, but it has been literally years since I read anything by him last. Recently I felt inspired to reread "The Runaway Jury" and was once again reminded of how ridiculously readable books he writes.

I did have a problem with the main premise of the book though. It may be a sign of the times, but it seems utterly ridiculous to me to sue a tobacco company for going against all warnings and smoking their stuff anyway... but perhaps that's why they have warnings in the first place.

Anyway, putting that aside, I really enjoyed the book and will probably reread more of his earlier works in the near future.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 305
Date read: May, 2016

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew

I watched the movie before reading the book, and don't know if that had any influence of my enjoyment of the book. It's ridiculously readable, just like John Green's other books, but I don't think it packed the same punch that "Looking for Alaska" and "The Fault in Our Stars" did.

I didn't care much for neither 'Q' or Margo (one too insecure, the other too self-centered), but I absolutely loved the road-trip Q, Ben, Radar and Lacey went on to find Margo. Those chapters made the book, with its depiction of the easy friendship between the four of them.

I think I liked this ending better than the one in the movie though. There seemed to be more closure for all of them.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 213
Date read: October, 2014

Katherine V thought boys were gross
Katherine X just wanted to be friends
Katherine XVIII dumped him in an e-mail
K-19 broke his heart
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact.

On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun--but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself.

It took me quite awhile to figure out where on earth this book was heading. It is completely different from "Looking for Alaska" and "The Fault in Our Stars" both in atmosphere and writing style, which took some getting used to.

I did end up liking it though. I wasn't quite as blown away by it as I've been by John Green's other books, but it was a decent enough read, and I did laugh out loud on several occasions - especially at some of the footnotes!

I really liked the three main characters, and loved reading their interactions. Despite the misleading title and back-blurb, this isn't a YA romance - it's a story about friendships... actually sort of like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower".
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Parasite (Parasitology #1)
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: Horror
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 512
Date read: November, 2013

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives...and will do anything to get them.

As much as I loved her Newsflesh series, of course I had to read this as well the moment it became available. And fortunately it didn't let me down. I was riveted from the very beginning and had serious problems putting it down. The end was slightly more open than i would have liked, which deducted the final half star, but I think everybody except Sal had already guessed the outcome.

Mira Grant is a very talented writer who knows how to keep her readers in her grasp. I'll definitely be following this series.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea (Newsflesh #3.5)
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 132
Date read: July 2013

Post-Rising Australia can be a dangerous place, especially if you're a member of the government-sponsored Australia Conservation Corps, a group of people dedicated to preserving their continent's natural wealth until a cure can be found. Between the zombie kangaroos at the fences and the zombie elephant seals turning the penguin rookery at Prince Phillip Island into a slaughterhouse, the work of an animal conservationist is truly never done--and is often done at the end of a sniper rifle.

Yet another novella in the Newsflesh universe. I wasn't quite as taken in by this one as by the earlier ones, as there seem little new ground to explore... but what little new ground there is, Mira Grant found in this novella. My biggest beef with the story is that like in all novellas, there's not enough page-space to explore the plot and the characters.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Blackout (Newsflesh #3)
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 659
Date read: June 2013

The year was 2014. The year we cured cancer. The year we cured the common cold. And the year the dead started to walk. The year of the Rising.

The year was 2039. The world didn't end when the zombies came, it just got worse. Georgia and Shaun Mason set out on the biggest story of their generation. They uncovered the biggest conspiracy since the Rising and realized that to tell the truth, sacrifices have to be made.

Now, the year is 2041, and the investigation that began with the election of President Ryman is much bigger than anyone had assumed. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, the surviving staff of After the End Times must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies-and if there's one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it's this:

Things can always get worse.

Definitely one of my favourite series read this year. I feel the need to own the physical versions of the books at some stage :)

It was kind of weird to be reading this one after having listened to the two previous books as audiobooks - I kept hearing things with the narrators' voices. But guess that just means they did a terrific job.

After seeing that book two had been a transitional novel, I was a tad worried whether or not this final one would be able to live up to my expectations and provide a fitting closure to the story. Fortunately it managed this very nicely, although it in no way took the form I had expected - there were many curve-balls thrown at the reader along the way. The end was left kind of open, but with this kind of scenario, I can't really see how it could be anything else.

I'm sad to leave the characters behind - they became unusually 'real' to me.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Deadline (Newsflesh #2)
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4/5
# pages: Audiobook ~15hrs
Date read: June 2013


... trying to make this a spoiler-free review though, so I'll leave out the summary for this one...

Very obviously the middle book of a trilogy and therefore really cannot stand on its own. It had me totally hooked from the very beginning, and was as action-packed as I could have wished, but the story was definitely action-driven and character-driven rather than plot-driven... some major twists were thrown at us, but nothing resolved.

I'm still really impressed by the world-building, and how Mira Grant so effortlessly switches between Shaun and George's voices - making both equally believable. I thought the revelations about their relationship more than a little unnecessary though... it makes sense, but I'm not sure that it was necessary for the story... but perhaps that will be revealed in the next book.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy #1)
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: Thriller, Dystopian
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~14hrs
Date read: May, 2013

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives - the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will get out, even if it kills them.

This was amazing! Pretty near impossible to put down. I "read" it as an audiobook, and found myself making excuses to bike detours just to read a bit more. To label it merely a zombie-book or a dystopian novel would be doing it a disservice, because it is so much more than that. The true strength of this book is the worldbuilding, and Mira Grant's descriptions of a world post-zombie outbreak. A world where George Romero is considered a national hero, and where bloggers are the true journalists.

The only reason I left out the last half star is because I wasn't too pleased with all the events near the end of the book, but there's no way I'm going to spoil that for you! The ending itself was satisfactory though, and I've immediately started on the second book.

The title is pure genius, even though I'm embarrassed to admit how long time it took me to get the second meaning... I'm blaming this on not having the cover in front of me all the time.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Light (Gone #6)
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 432
Date read: April, 2013

It's been more than a year since every person over the age of fifteen disappeared from the town of Perdido Beach, California. In that time, countless battles have been fought: Battles against hunger and lies and plagues and worse, battles of good against evil, and kid against kid. Allegiances have been won, lost, betrayed, and won again; ideologies have been shattered and created anew, and the kids of the FAYZ have begun to believe that their new society is the only life they'll ever know. But now that the Darkness has found a way to be reborn, the tenuous existence they've established is likely to be shattered for good. Will the kids of Perdido Beach even survive?

After having waited for this for almost exactly a year, I was very glad to discover that it completely lived up to my expectations. I'd been a bit worried whether or not Michael Grant would be able to draw the series to a satisfying close, but I think he managed very nicely. I liked the various resolutions and how some people ended up redeeming themselves in a believable and not-too-tacky manner.

It was nice to once again pick up a book I couldn't put down - I read this in just over 24 hours and enjoyed every minute of it.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 315
Date read: March, 2013

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

I'd been warned by just about everybody that this book would made me cry. People kept saying that it was the saddest book they'd ever read, and to be prepared for a sob-fest. I don't know if I was perhaps too prepared, because while certainly sad, I didn't think it was nearly as bad as they had made it out to be. Certain parts did bring tears to my eyes, but cry? No, not this time. Of course, it might have helped that I'd guessed the ending already in Amsterdam, so it didn't come as the shock to me as it might have to others.

But it's an amazingly beautiful book. John Green really knows how to write characters to the point where the plot is of lesser importance. I couldn't put it down, but kept wanting to know more about Hazel, Gus, Isaac and the rest of them.

So far I've loved everything I've read by JG (this and "Looking for Alaska"), and I'm definitely keen to read more.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre: YA
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 221
Date read: September, 2012

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

I've been wanting to read this for ages, and finally got around to doing so this week. I had no expectations at all - didn't even know what the story was about - but the title kept popping up everywhere, so I figured it was time I saw what the fuss was all about.

Fortunately I ended up really liking it. It's character-driven more than plot-driven, but the way John Green writes really makes it work. I read it over the course of two days, and found myself thinking about it constantly during the second day. The characters are believable and sympathetic... even when I acted out. And I LOVED Alaska's last prank - that really made me laugh out loud. Especially the Eagle's reaction to it.

"Looking for Alaska" definitely isn't for everybody. I could see people finding it too dull, or too depressing or even too pretentious. But it worked for me :)
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Title: Fear
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 509
Date read: April, 2012

It's been one year since all the adults disappeared. Gone.

Despite the hunger and the lies, even despite the plague, the kids of Perdido Beach are determined to survive. Creeping into the tenuous new world they've built, though, is perhaps the worst incarnation yet of the enemy known as the Darkness: fear.

Within the FAYZ, life breaks down while the Darkness takes over, literally—turning the dome-world of the FAYZ entirely black. In darkness, the worst fears of all emerge, and the cruelest of intentions are carried out. But even in their darkest moments, the inhabitants of the FAYZ maintain a will to survive and a desire to take care of the others in their ravaged band that endures, no matter what the cost.

I think this most recent installment of the Gone series may actually also be the best since the first one. There's a lot more plot and not just non-stop action (though there's plenty of that as well). I like the new relationship between Sam, Astrid, Caine, Quinn and Lana. I want to know more about Petey though, although I do appreciate all the questions that got answered now.

Shades of "Breaking Dawn" with Gaia.... or is that just me?

As far as I know this is the second-to-last book which seems fitting. It's clear that things are drawing to a close - the end game, so to speak - and spinning it out longer would be doing a disservice to the intensity of the story.
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Title: The Magician King
Author: Lev Grossman
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 1.5/5
# pages: 400
Date read: January, 2012

Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent's house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.

Most of the book was semi-boring, but okay enough that I wanted to finish it, so I figured it would be a 2-star review... then along came the sucky ending and we're down to just one. A shame too, because I had really liked "The Magicians".

If "The Magicians" was inspired by Harry Potter and C.S. Lewis' "Magician's Nephew" this was inspired more by "The Dawn Treader" - but is unfortunately nowhere near as good. I ended up actually not caring too much about life in Fillory and was much more interested by Julia's life in the safehouses - especially once she made it to Murs.

But even at its best it was unfortunately only "vaguely interesting", so I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anybody.
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Title: The Magicians
Author: Lev Grossman
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 416
Date read: August, 2011

Quentin Coldwater is brillant but miserable. He's a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he's still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.

Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he though it would.

Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real.

The first half of this book was amazing. Imagine suddenly discovering that Narnia was real all along and that though Hogwarts doesn't exist, there is such a thing as a magician's college, and you've just passed the exam to enter.

That was basically what the first 200 pages of "The Magicians" were all about. I immediately got sucked completely up in the story, and did NOT want to put it down. This was the stuff dreams were made of.

Unfortunately the second half didn't quite live up to it. After Quentin left college the book suddenly got very black and bleak. I understood the reason, but it made for a somewhat less engaging read, and I do wonder where Lev Grossman is going to take this in the sequel, "The Magician King".

So 5 stars for the first half, 3 stars for the second half, so 4 stars on average.


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