Review: Ruby Holler

  • Author: Sharon Creech
  • Pages: 288
  • Genre: Middle-Grade

Brother and sister Dallas and Florida are the “trouble twins.” In their short thirteen years, they’ve passed through countless foster homes, only to return to their dreary orphanage, Boxton Creek Home.
Run by the Trepids, a greedy and strict couple, Boxton Creek seems impossible to escape. When Mr. Trepid informs the twins that they’ll be helping old Tiller and Sairy Morey go on separate adventures, Dallas and Florida are suspicious.
As the twins adjust to the natural beauty of the outdoors, help the Tillers prepare for their adventures, and foil a robbery, their ultimate search for freedom leads them home to Ruby Holler.

Ruby Holler is the second book by Creech that I’ve read that is about orphans.  However, this book is a much sweeter story in comparison to The Wanderer.  It’s also a tad bit slower in pacing, and a little more relaxed, which makes sense, given it takes place in a holler instead of a boat out on the ocean.
The difference in pacing and intensity is one of the reasons why I didn’t love Ruby Holler nearly as much as The Wanderer.  What really sealed it’s fate, however, was how simple it was.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed being able to relax into a comforting story set in a house surrounded by woods with two elderly and very loving people who enjoyed cooking wonderful food.  It just wasn’t all that realistic compared to The Wanderer.  It felt more like the fantasies of children who are stuck living in the kinds of cold, unloving places like Boxton Creek Home.  It was the kind of fantasy I would have dreamed up when I was a little younger than Dallas and Florida.
If it weren’t for the interwoven message that children deserve to be loved for who they are instead of constantly punished for the small troubles they get into, I might have considered the story to be more fitting to children who are not quite ready for Middle-Grade books.  In fact, Ruby Holler is only one step above a chapter book.  I would definitely recommend it for children who need something a little more advanced, but who aren’t ready for something like “Harry Potter” or “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Review: 30 Rock and Philosophy

  • Edited by William Irwin
  • Pages: 240

With edgy writing and a great cast, 30 Rock is one of the funniest television shows on the air–and where hilarity ensues, philosophical questions abound: Are Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy ethical heroes? Kenneth redefines “goody two shoes,” but what does it really mean to be good? Dr. Leo Spaceman routinely demonstrates that medicine is not a science, so what is the role of the incompetent professional in America today?
In 30 Rock and Philosophy, Tina Fey and her fellow cast members are thrust onto the philosophical stage with Plato, Aristotle, Kant and other great thinkers to examine these key questions and many others that involve the characters and plot lines of 30 Rock and its fictional TGS with Tracy Jordan comedy show. – Goodreads synopsis

30 Rock and Philosophy is another one of the many ebooks I bought when I only had my 1st gen Nook.  After the Boyfriend got me a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas a few years ago, that old Nook languished on a bookshelf along with all of the ebooks on it.  That very quickly changed after Barnes and Noble notified customers that the 1st gen Nook would no longer be supported after June 29th of this year.
You know what?  I’m glad B&N made that decision.  It lit a fire under my butt to finally get around to reading all of those ebooks.  Not only did I discover I had a lot of duds that weren’t worth my reading time, but I also found several excellent books that I’m glad I spent a little money on.  30 Rock and Philosophy is one those books.
Like “Popular Science” books, the Pop Culture and Philosophy books are a great way to learn that Philosophy isn’t just for elderly professors spouting their love for the classical philosophers.  Nope, Philosophy can be applied to just about anything in our world, Philosophy snobs be darned.  I’ve read several other Philosophy books from this series, including The Hobbit and Philosophy, and so far, I’ve never been disappointed with them.  If you are a fan of “30 Rock” you should give 30 Rock and Philosophy a try.  Fair warning, though, you might find yourself re-watching the entire series after reading a couple of chapters.

Review: The Wanderer

Thirteen-year-old Sophie hears the sea calling, promising adventure and a chance for discovery as she sets sail for England with her three uncles and two cousins. Sophie’s cousin Cody isn’t sure he has the strength to prove himself to the crew and to his father. Through Sophie’s and Cody’s travel logs, we hear stories of the past and the daily challenges of surviving at sea as The Wanderer sails toward its destination — and its passengers search for their places in the world. – Goodreads Synopsis

I don’t remember when or why I purchased this ebook, but I’m glad I did.  I’m also happy to have finally read The Wanderer and discovered how talented Sharon Creech is at writing Middle Grade fiction.
My reason for saying Creech is talented is because I’m not remotely interested in sailing, and yet this story of a family sailing trip to England from the East Coast of the United States pulled me in from the first line.  I remember thinking, “OK, this grabbed my interest, but I’m sure it will quickly disappear as I get further into the book.”  Nope, not even close.  I was irritated whenever I had to put my Nook down to do anything else.  I stayed up well past my bedtime when I got to the climax of the story because I HAD to know what would happen.  Creech managed this by keeping Sophie’s back story a mystery and doling out bits and pieces that led to more questions throughout the book.  She also made sure that my assumptions about the other characters were called into question.  It wasn’t until after I finished reading it that I realized this is a Hero’s Journey, with a rhythm that matched the ocean they sailed on.
While I still have no interest in sailing (I prefer relaxing while I travel), I became extremely interested in reading more of Creech’s work.  I’ll be reviewing another of her books, Ruby Holler, later this week, but just know you definitely have to read The Wanderer.  It might not make you want to go sailing, but you could find yourself viewing the meaning of family in a new light.
This book qualifies for the COYER Scavenger Hunt item #29 (a book with no magical or futuristic elements).

Review: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye


  • Author: Tania del Rio
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Quirk Books
  • Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye was good, but not quite what I was expecting.  While it could be put in the Gothic category, there is a Steam Punk element that surprised me.  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing; at least for me.  Middle-Grade readers will probably love it.
Perhaps my problem is that I was expecting a story that was a bit darker like Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books.  It’s close to that kind of darkness, but not quite.  Also, the story is rather simple.  There isn’t much complexity at all, and that leads me to think that perhaps this book was written for the youngest Middle-Grade reader.
Overall, it’s still an excellent choice for young readers, especially if they’ve just graduated from Children’s books.  Adult readers will likely enjoy reading it aloud to their kids as well.

The Classics Club: The Fellowship of the Ring


  • Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Pages: 407
  • Genre: Fantasy

I have the audiobook version of The Lord of the Rings, but since I haven’t read it since I was 12, I decided to borrow the Boyfriend’s copy instead of listening to the audio for #FanspeakTheRing.
Did you know that The Lord of the Rings is not actually a trilogy?  Though it’s usually broken down into three books (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King), it’s actually six books broken down into three parts/volumes.  Did you also know that, as a whole, they’re on the banned and challenged books list?  According to the ALA, it was burned in Alamogordo, New Mexico for being “satanic.”  My guess is that the people behind such a horrible act have never actually read The Lord of the Rings or know anything about its author.
Since I’m following the schedule for #FanspeakTheRing, I’ve only just started the second part.  So, I don’t yet have an opinion about it or the third part.  However, so far, it’s much better than I remember it being.  The Hobbit has always been my favorite book by Tolkien, and even though I love the movies based on The Lord of the Rings, I remember feeling as if the books dragged on a bit and were easily confusing when I read them all those years ago.  I never felt that way during this re-read, and if the rest is as wonderful, I’m fairly certain it will be joining the ranks of The Hobbit on my all-time favorites list.

Mini-Review: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul


  • Author: Douglas Adams
  • ISBN: 9781476783000
  • Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mystery
  • Pages: 256

I love anything by Douglas Adams, but I was particularly interested in reading The Long Dark Tea-Time of the of the Soul because of the title.  I thought there’s no way this book could be bad with a title like that.  In order to read it, however, I had to read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency first.  That was amazing, so I was looking forward to this one even more.
The story was very different from the first book.  It was more of a Fantasy than a Sci-Fi story and involved Norse mythology.  However, think of a comical version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and you’ve got The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.  After I finished it, I even wondered if this book is where Gaiman got his idea for American Gods.  Regardless, I enjoyed The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul much more because, as with everything Adams wrote, it doesn’t take itself, or anything, too seriously.  If you’re looking for a book that shows just how absurd life really is, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Review: The Communication Room


  • Author: Adam Aresty
  • ISBN: 9780692664797
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Publisher: Vagabondage Press

Leonard Ackerman works at a remote army base trying to solve the greatest threat facing mankind. An alien invasion that has eroded our species down to very few numbers as far as Ackerman can tell. His base is compromised and Ackerman retreats to a laboratory he has never been inside, locking himself there with the enemy right outside his door. Inside the lab are thirteen telephones—from the American civil war through to Ackerman’s present day, about 100 years from now.
This laboratory seems to be some sort of closed experiment and Ackerman discovers that he cannot exit the lab until the experiment has run its course. The method and ultimate goal of the test is beyond his reach for now… but the first telephone rings and the only thing Ackerman can do is answer… – Goodreads synopsis

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
As soon as I start reading that an author is “award winning” in a pitch from a publisher, I tend to be suspicious about the book they’re trying to get me to read.  However, the idea of being locked in a laboratory full of phones from various points throughout time was too intriguing for me to pass up.
The only negative I have about The Communication Room is that it’s too short.  I think it would be an even better story if it were closer to novel length rather than only a novella.  Other than that, it’s a terrific example of the Science Fiction genre and would fit perfectly into an anthology, perhaps between two much shorter pieces.
For anyone interested in trying out some Sci-Fi, this would be an excellent choice.  It only takes an hour or so to read, so it’s not a huge investment.  Besides, I think this story just might get anyone new to Sci-Fi hooked and wanting more.  I’ll definitely be looking into reading more of Adam Aresty’s work and seeing what else Vagabondage Press has to offer.

Mini-Review: Insurgent


  • Author: Veronica Roth
  • ISBN: 9780007442911
  • Genre: Sci-Fi/Dystopian
  • Pages: 525

Not long after I finished Divergent, I bought a copy of Insurgent.  I just had to get it.  I needed to know what would happen next.  I forced myself to wait and read something else so that I wouldn’t get burnt out on the story and end up having my opinion of the book suffer as a result.
I’m glad I didn’t wait too long, though.  I had already forgotten who was who amongst some of the smaller characters, but I was able to jog my memory and figure things out fairly quickly.  One thing that stood out to me while reading is that Roth’s writing improved.  No longer did I come across awkward turns of phrase and clunky dialogue.  However, some of the interactions between Triss and Four didn’t make much sense to me, even though I can’t put my finger on exactly why.  Despite that, I couldn’t wait to continue reading anytime I had to put the book down.  I look forward to picking up the final book, Allegiant.

Review: Primary Inversion


  • Author: Catherine Asaro
  • ISBN: 9780812550238
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Pages: 384

The Skolian Empire rules a third of the civilized galaxy through its mastery of faster-than-light communication. But war with the rival empire of the Traders seems imminent, a war that can only lead to slavery for the Skolians or the destruction of both sides. Destructive skirmishes have already occurred. A desperate attempt must be made to avert total disaster. – Goodreads synopsis

I discovered Primary Inversion a couple years ago when I picked it as my “Blind Date with a Book.”  From the synopsis above, I didn’t think this would be a story told from a First Person POV.  I was expecting something more along the lines of “Battlestar Galactica.”  Instead, everything is seen from Soz’s perspective.  Soz is a woman, and a soldier, and that made Primary Inversion another difficult book for me.
I was reading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins at the same time, and due to how much both books hit home for me, I ended up having to take a break from them to read something a bit more light-hearted.  Primary Inversion is an excellent example of the kind of mental breakdown many soldiers, including myself, have gone through.  While Soz’s mental health isn’t the only thing in the story, it stood out for me because Catherine Asaro wrote Primary Inversion nearly a decade before the subjects of PTSD and suicide rates increasing amongst Veterans began to make headlines as they came home from lengthy deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
As hard as it was for me to face myself in a Sci-Fi novel, I wish there were more books like Primary Inversion and “The Hunger Games” trilogy.  Reading about Soz and Katniss was like looking in a mirror, and that’s still a rare event for a woman who has been to war.

Review: Feed


  • Author: Mira Grant
  • ISBN: 9780316122467
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Pages: 571

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat 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, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

Feed was recommended to me by a Librarian who also happens to be a fellow member of Geek Girls Brunch.  It sat on my wishlist for awhile, until I got my share of the settlement money from an anti-trust lawsuit involving Apple.  While I didn’t get nearly as much credit from Barnes and Noble as some people did, I did get enough to buy Feed and a few other books that I didn’t mind having as ebooks.
This is the non-cliff hanger first book of Mira Grant’s “Newsflesh” series.  While the story and the writing are certainly good enough to continue the series, I know I probably won’t.  Feed is told almost entirely from Georgia Mason’s POV, while the second book is supposedly told from Shaun’s.  As much as I like Shaun, Georgia’s personality and way of thinking were one of the best parts of this book, and I’m not all that interested in Shaun’s “Irwin” style of doing things.  I would definitely be a “Newsie” like Georgia.
Again, that’s just my personal preference.  For those that want to start and finish a zombie series, I don’t doubt that the remaining books hold up to the first.  However, those of you who just want a great stand-alone zombie story that’s considerably different from any other you’ve read, you won’t be disappointed in Feed.