The end is near...

The end is near…

My rating* – 5

“The end was near.” -Voices from the Zombie War

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead‘?” – Book Description courtesy Amazon.

We had nationwide power outage from a little after midnight until morning on March 29th this year and my first message to my family was “ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!!!” To say I’m intrigued by zombies will be putting it mildly. Ghosts and demons and clowns that live in sewers scare the crap out of me but voracious zombies I’m ok with. Go figure. And while I haven’t seen the movie and I have no particular interest in seeing it either…I simply LOVED the book. Yup, that’s right I gave it a 5 because I LOVED THIS BOOK!

Max Brooks can tell a zombie story! Told documentary style, which I suppose is what an “oral history” would be, Brooks spanned the globe getting Z-War accounts from different people, from different time periods during the war. I was enthralled from “Patient Zero” all the way to the end. It was a hard to put down book. I devoured it…cuz…BRAINS!!! There is a particularly horrifying underwater scene, that stayed with me.

And of course there are people who will argue whether zombies could actually exist or not, all I’m gonna say is when the zombie apocalypse begins, this Trini is gonna be prepared. Here’s a scary-as-eff fun fact for you: Scientists recently found a “zombie bacteria”.

Solanum aint too far behind if you ask me.

Yes, the book lacks a central character to follow or care about, which is the reason I’m not interested in seeing the movie…because what is Pitt’s role really? This is no Night of the Living Dead, or rather The Walking Dead which I am a huge fan of! We’re not following a group of survivors, trying to live in a flesh-eating-zombie world, where the government and society have crumbled and technology is a thing of the past. We get to follow Brooks/UN PostWar Commissioner who in my opinion was the central character in this “documentary” as he focuses on survivors around the world ten years after the war. We find out how technology failed them back then, why governments collapsed and why zombies ate most of the world.

Brooks explores hefty themes like fear, education vs superstition, warfare (the arms and ammunitions described are simply breath-taking), politics and most importantly how we deal with change. There were grave consequences on a worldwide scale because of how change was dealt with. Some of these consequences the world is still dealing with by the end of the book because there are still some places under the control of zombies.

Brooks scores on originality and message and now that I know that we eventually win the Zombie War…I plan to read The Zombie Survival Guide…because I wanna live to blog about it!!!

Looks like I wont be seeing the movie after all. This review says it all.

*my personal quality ratings are the scores I give books on a scale of 0-5 based on my personal opinion of a book. 0 is “birdcage liner” and 5 is “off-the-hook good”

book cover

Red Circle Days
by Leah Vidal

My rating* – 5

There are moments in our lives that are imprinted into our very soul. Moments that don’t require a photo album or memory book for us to revisit them time and time again. Some may bring to life the very feelings of sheer happiness they brought the day we experienced them. Others bring the heart wrenching sorrow we spend years trying to erase.

These are moments that don’t need a reminder or a red circle on a calendar date, our hearts wrapping around them much like the tiny box on a calendar, keeping them contained only to bring them to the surface each year. Red Circle Days is a collection of those moments that I will forever carry with me, thought-provoking moments and stories which have left an indelible imprint on my very soul. – Book Description courtesy Amazon

When Stephanie over at When Crazy Meets Exhaustion wrote her review on Red Circle Days I knew it was a book I wanted to read…and soon.

So said, so done. I downloaded it in a matter of days.

As promised, this book was a thought-provoking, quick read and I know I will be going back to some of my favourite chapters often. Leah shares with us, moments in time throughout her life, in a series of short essays. With themes like, Family, Love, Coming of Age, Friendship and Death of loved ones these essays are intensely personal, but are common to all of us. This was something I really loved about this book. The fact that through her stories, I could relate them to my own life and some of the experiences I have had along the way was awesome!

My favourite chapter was “All grown up”; Leah shared the moment she knew she had stepped through the gateway to adulthood. Her story hit close to home for me. My mom was dying of Ovarian Cancer and despite my cousin’s urging me to maybe consider a hospice, I knew where she would want to be when that time came and I was determined so fulfill that wish.

In “Counting blessings, counting sheep..” she shares how a moment of desperation resulted in a serendipitous discovery in the blessings department. It is a definite must read! And hey…the lady likes Walking Dead – gotta love her!

At the end of each chapter, she poses a question for the reader to consider. Thinking about those questions and coming up with answers was like a walk down memory lane and this made the book even more special to me. I definitely want my Book Club to read and discuss this gem of a book. I want everyone I know to read it. We all have our own red circle days and I thank Leah for this poignant reminder that it is good for the soul to remember and celebrate them. Always.

Leah blogs over at Little Miss Wordy go check her out!

*my personal quality ratings are the scores I give books on a scale of 0-5 based on my personal opinion of a book. 0 is “birdcage liner” and 5 is “off-the-hook good”

The Fault In our Stars

The Fault In our Stars

The Fault in our Stars
by John Green

My rating* – 3.9

This review contains spoilers.

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.-Book Description courtesy GoodReads

When I realised the book was “a cancer book that was not a bullshit cancer book” I had to steel myself against all that I knew was going to come.

Many times during this book, I thought: Who is John Green and why does he think he can write a book like this? What authority does he have on this particular subject matter? And why use children with cancer? What’s his end game really?

There were times I felt like I was reading “A walk to Remember” if it were written by Diablo Cody. Gus and Hazel are teenagers but they don’t behave like teenagers. They act and speak like John Green. The supporting cast: parents, friends etal…all act and speak like John Green.

Thankfully, John Green is cool in his own nerdy, witty way. But let me warn you now, if you are planning on reading this book, make sure to have Google near at hand. When I say Green is a nerd…I kid you not. He expects you to know what a harmartia is or Zeno’s Tortoise Paradox. I felt like I was getting a vocabulary lesson, and when I thought about it, this is a good thing since this is a book for young adults. They could learn something reading this book. I certainly did.

I gave this book an almost 4, because it was better than ok, but not the best book ever. I liked that he made the distinction between a “cancer story” and “your story” because there is a huge difference. I also really identified with Hazel’s mother as care-giver. We the Care-givers have a really tough job and often don’t get the chance to really own what we are feeling. No matter how devastated you are, you are not the one with cancer. You are not the one who is dying. We have to put it all aside for our loved ones.

My favourite lines are:

    What a slut time is. She screws everybody.

    I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things

    That’s the thing about pain…it demands to be felt

    Grief does not change you. It reveals you.

What I didn’t like about the book, is what I liked about the book. It was pretty bittersweet because it was a sharp reminder of my own experiences with cancer. This tells me, that this is an adult story being played out by teenagers. Green also claims that it is “not a cancer book” ..but it so is. The whole draining of Hazel’s lungs (a side effect of the drug/cancer) was way too close to home for me. Green described the whole process in detail. This happened with my mother, we had to drain her lungs regularly. And it was one of the first indications that her cancer was back. The parts where Gus planned his funeral and then he had Hazel and Isaac write and share their eulogies…my mother planned her funeral down to the clothes she wanted us to wear (she wanted us all in white). At this point, I was back to thinking…what gives him the right?

It is a tear-jerker, but a lot of my tears had to do with some very adult questions these teen characters were pondering and I was thinking about them in the context of my mother and what she must have been feeling and thinking and asking herself.

Oh and there is teenage sex.

This book explores some pretty heavy stuff – love, death and living a life worth living. At the end of our lives, no matter how much time we had, we all want to know that it was worth it…our choices were worth it. Green’s end game? “A short life, can be a good life.”

*my personal quality ratings are the scores I give books on a scale of 0-5 based on my personal opinion of a book. 0 is “birdcage liner” and 5 is “off-the-hook good”

“…all endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”

The Five People You Meet In Heaven
by Mitch Albom

My rating* – 5

This review contains spoilers.

Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination, but an answer.

In heaven, five people explain your life to you. Some you knew, others may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie’s five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his “meaningless” life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: “Why was I here? – Book Description courtesy Amazon

This is the kind of book you recommend to people…but NEVER lend your own copy because you won’t get it back. I actually have a copy just for lending. It’s a pretty easy read…you can read it in a weekend. But the themes are deep and I suppose depending on the stage you are at in your life, those themes can get deeper still.

I read this book shortly after my mum died and then again this month for my book club. I already know that this is a book I’ll read again more than once in my lifetime.

“No story sits by itself. Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river.”

This is one of the major themes of this novel and for me most poignant. There are no random acts in this life. We are all connected in one way or another. Eddie was right where he was supposed to be. Despite him thinking that his life was just a life with no special purpose, therein held his purpose. To lead a regular, maintenance guy’s life and by doing so he achieved an even greater purpose…he was able to ensure that other people got to live theirs to the fullest by keeping the park rides safe.

“There are five people you meet in heaven,” the Blue Man suddenly said. “Each of us was in your life for a reason. You may not have known the reason at the time, and that is what heaven is for. For understanding your life on earth.
…..I am your first person, Edward. When I died, my life was illuminated by five others, and then I came here to wait for you, to stand in your line, to tell you my story, which becomes part of yours. There will be others for you, too. Some you knew, maybe some you didn’t. But they all crossed your path before they died. And they altered it forever.” – Blue Man

There are no ordinary lives. You were put on this earth to achieve a specific purpose and when that is achieved you move on. Forgiveness, love, letting go are all necessary for Eddie to understand why he was on earth and what his time meant.

I especially loved that we start at the end of Eddie’s life. Albom, cleverly moves the story along by marking Eddie’s birthdays. Anyone who know’s me for all of two minutes, knows how much I love birthdays. I believe that, God chose this time in our history to bless this world with your presence, who are you not to acknowledge that? Celebrate away!

Eddie on the other hand…saw his birthdays as simply passing time. Not understanding that each year, brought more wisdom, each moment was significant for him. His life, my life…your life, is a series of beginnings and endings and most times we only see the importance of an event or “lesson” upon reflection. And this book is all about reflection and closure.

Eddie lacked “closure” in his life. He was abused by his dad, who withheld his love with no explanation. He was haunted by his war experience. He grieved for his dead wife and pretty much lived his life in the past, reliving old memories. Eddie was a frustrated old man. His “FIVE” helped him understand what happened so he could finally honor and let go of his past so he could move forward to the next stage of Heaven.

He finally understood that what he did while on earth was needed…the little things all made a huge difference in the lives around him. It all mattered, every trial, misstep, all the tears, hurt, joy, every choice, all added up and made a difference.

After he met his five, Eddie now waits in the line of five for another person…to help that person understand their life on earth because even in the after life we have a duty to help each other out.

No matter how you envision heaven, the after life or the great by and by to be…The Five People You Meet In Heaven will cause you to pause and examine some “profound” moments in your own life and consider their impact and meaning in the grand scheme of things.

*my personal quality ratings are the scores I give books on a scale of 0-5 based on my personal opinion of a book. 0 is “birdcage liner” and 5 is “off-the-hook good”

Book Front Cover
Muse by Susie Hanley

My rating* – 3

This review contains spoilers.

Books like Muse, are the reason I joined the book club at work.

This is an urban fantasy set in modern times in a world like ours. Only in this world Muses and Guardians are real. Guardians, who have superhero powers and qualities, protect Muses until they die. This book is written from the point of view of Shelby, a 25-year-old divorced mother of two and talented artist. The book is well written and characters are well-developed, they have layers quite like real world people.

Shelby has worked hard to make a life for herself. Her parents died when she was young, and her husband left her with two kids. When her ex-husband comes back to town, he has more to say than just I’m sorry: he’s a Guardian, and his new assignment is her. She is a Muse now, one coming into her own no matter how hard she fights it, and trouble stalks her wherever she goes. Her ex-husband can’t keep up and, with their history, she doesn’t want him to. To complicate matters, there’s another Guardian around when she needs help, and they are falling for each other. He has a dark past that’s trying to reclaim him, and Shelby is in the way. But she has to accept her Museness and figure out fast what being a Muse really means if she is to keep herself and her children alive. – Book Description courtesy Amazon

However, I have issues with the book: In this world Muses and Guardians are not a secret, so I did not understand why Shelby seemed so ignorant about them. Even though she has reasons for not wanting to know about them, in this world they are everywhere, celebrities even, so she should have known something. I’ve also already connected the dots about her parents…I don’t understand why after learning the truth about herself, she hasn’t made the connection.

I get that Shelby spent half of her teenage years being a single mother but her prickly personality with her ex-husband Cal, was more than a little overbearing at times. There was one instance where she gets information about her “musedom” and from her suitor Guardian, who wonders why Cal didn’t explain things to her…and that was because she never gave him a chance to.

“A Guardian is only as strong as its Muse.” ― Susie M. Hanley, Muse

I like Shelby though. She’s a young mother, student and now Muse and I see potential in her development as a character. There is light and darkness to being a Muse, and Shelby has both within her. I laughed out loud when she described the darkness in her as her “dark passenger”. I thought to myself that it was an Ode to Dexter.

There is a lot of action towards the end of the book which I liked. But when Shelby’s son is in danger it takes far too long for her to tell the necessary parties about the situation. For such a strong and protective mother, that should have been the first thing out of her mouth and then she could have filled in the rest of the story on the way to defuse the situation.

I am a romantic at heart, so when the love triangle was introduced between Shelby, her ex and her super fast Guardian boyfriend; Hanley developed the ex-husband so well that he seemed to have a deeper story to tell, I must admit I’m rooting for him. Team Cal all the way.

My go-to books are memoirs and spiritual/inspirational books Muse felt like a guilty pleasure for me. I’m so over vampires who glow in sunlight and paedophile werewolves and other shades of meh…that this was a welcome and fresh change. I like this world of Guardians each with their own unique super powers and Muses who are talented and strong but also vulnerable and just looking for love. This book has everything, romance, action, suspense, Menage-a-Guardian, I am looking forward to the second book in the series.

*my personal quality ratings are the scores I give books on a scale of 0-5 based on my personal opinion of a book. 0 is “birdcage liner” and 5 is “off-the-hook good”