Mini-Review: Mockingjay


  • Author: Suzanne Collins
  • ISBN: 9780545788298
  • Genre: Sci-Fi/Dystopian
  • Pages: 400

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived. But her home has been destroyed. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding… – Goodreads synopsis

I’ve had Mockingjay on my shelves for awhile and forgot that I had yet to read it until after I started the first book of another popular Dystopian trilogy, Divergent, by Veronica Roth.  I figured it was about time I wrap up “The Hunger Games” trilogy once and for all.
Mockingjay was difficult for me to get through.  There were parts of it that were just too real for me, having served in the military.  At one point, I had to take a break to read something fun and easy.  I ended up re-reading The Princess Bride by William Goldman.  All in all, though, I needed Mockingjay.  Katniss helped me heal, even if just a little bit.  Collins didn’t end the book with a sappy or sickly sweet happily ever after.  The book wouldn’t have helped me at all if she had.  Instead, she ended it with Katniss’ thoughts on how her past affects her life.  One sentence that had the greatest effect on me:

“I’ll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I’m afraid it could be taken away.”

Within the paragraph that one sentence is from, I have found someone who knows exactly what I feel on “bad mornings”, but I’ve also found someone who has done more than just survive.  Thank you, Katniss.

Review: The Fangirl Life

Fangirl Life

  • Author: Kathleen Smith
  • ISBN: 9781101983690
  • Genre: Non-Fiction/Self-Help
  • Pages: 240

You’d probably know a “fangirl” when you see one, but the majority stay relatively closeted due to the stigma of being obsessed with fictional characters. However, these obsessions are sometimes the fangirl’s solutions for managing stress, anxiety, and even low self-esteem. Fangirling is often branded as behavior young women should outgrow and replace with more adult concerns. Written by a proud fangirl, The Fangirl Life is a witty testament to the belief that honoring your imagination can be congruous with good mental health, and it’s a guide to teach fangirls how to put their passion to use in their own lives.
By showing you how to translate obsession into personal accomplishment while affirming the quirky, endearing qualities of your fangirl nature, The Fangirl Life will help you become your own ultimate fangirl. – Goodreads synopsis

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Fangirl Life was not written with my age group in mind.  It’s targeted for a considerably younger audience.  However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything out of it.  In fact, it was one of the best books for me as I transitioned from college to working full-time and handling it more like the younger me who flailed through everything than the BAMF I had learned how to be as I settled into my 30’s.
Looking back to what happened when I transitioned from the Army to life in college, I wish I had had The Fangirl Life then, too, because somehow, I forgot everything I learned when I was going to therapy.  Smith reminded me of all those techniques I had learned to handle life as an adult, but she also taught me that my fangirling didn’t have to be separate from the rest of me or from those techniques.  Being a fangirl is who I am, and my life works best when I accept it, own it, and apply it to the areas of my life that I want to improve.
The best thing that The Fangirl Life gave me?  In an office full of people I didn’t think I had anything in common with, I found out that one of my coworkers has a major crush on Captain America.  While Bruce Banner is more my type, we’ve had several fun conversations about all things Avengers; something that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t let my fangirl flag flutter in the breeze.

Review: Furiously Happy


  • Author: Jenny Lawson
  • ISBN: 9781447238355
  • Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir
  • Pages: 276

I used one of my Audible credits to get this book after listening to Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.

In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.
According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”
FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that? – Goodreads synopsis

I enjoyed Furiously Happy even more than her first book.  I didn’t think that was possible, but apparently it is.  This book also solidified me as a fan of Jenny Lawson.  I’m a religious reader of her blog and follower of her Twitter and Instagram accounts.  I got ridiculously excited when I found out she’s coming out with a new book, which just happens to be a coloring book.  I pre-ordered it as soon as pay day, and I was actually anxious about not having the money to pre-order as soon as it was available.  As if, somehow, it would disappear before I could claim my future copy of it?
For the first time, I’ve read of someone else who got so angry about her brain chemistry messing up or getting in the way of her living her life the way she wants to that she decided to give it the finger.  As she says in the first chapter, being “furiously happy” isn’t a cure, it’s a weapon.  It’s also the realization that being “crazy” is ok.  If there is such a thing as the perfect book for just about anyone suffering from Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, chronic medical conditions, phobias, etc., this is the book.  It’s an amazing and wonderful reminder that humor and accepting yourself as you are is the best way to get through the craziness of life.
One day I will own Furiously Happy in paperback so I can re-read with highlighter and pen in hand and also read out loud all the passages that I want the Boyfriend to hear.  Until then, I’ll just re-listen to bits and pieces of the audiobook whenever I need a reminder to be furiously happy.

Review: The Giver


  • Author: Lois Lowry
  • ISBN: 9780553571332
  • Genre: Science-Fiction/Dystopian
  • Pages: 180

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back. – Goodreads synopsis

This is one of the many books I’ve learned that lots of kids from my generation read during middle school but that I hadn’t.  I got a copy so I could find out why teachers felt this was a book that was important enough to be a part of their curriculum.
While it’s certainly not the first to point out that perfectly ordered societies are never perfect, it might be the first that doesn’t do so to take a stance against Socialism.  Instead, Lowry seems to be against the idea of a “perfect” society in general.  To attain that level of peace and order, we would have to give up the very attributes that make us human and all the things that give real meaning to our lives.
The Giver isn’t my favorite Dystopian novel.  It’s not even my second favorite.  However, it deserves a solid place high up on the list of “must read” Dystopian fiction.  Having finally read it, I can now see its influence on more modern novels from authors who are close to my age.

Review: The Martian

The Martian

  • Author: Andy Weir
  • ISBN: 9781101905005
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Pages: 435

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him? – Goodreads synopsis

The Boyfriend bought a copy of this book for me back when we first saw the movie trailer.  I had heard of The Martian long before that but it hadn’t piqued my interest enough to get it at the time.  After seeing the trailer, I definitely wanted to read it before I saw the movie.  Now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it, I still want to see it.
The Martian is a story in which we already assume the outcome.  We know Mark Watney is going to survive.  What kept me reading despite knowing that?  One, it’s hilarious.  As you can imagine, Watney has some spectacularly bad days, beginning with the day he gets stranded on Mars.  He handles it all with the kind of sarcastic humor required for impossible situations.  Two, I didn’t know HOW he was going to survive.  Every moment of uncertainty on his part had me on the edge of my seat, rapidly getting through the pages until I knew whether or not one of his plans worked.  I cheered for him when they did, and I felt frustrated for him when they didn’t.  Three, the book is organized into chapters that are broken down into short sections, which made it extremely easy for me to say, “just a couple more pages.”
This was supposed to be my “work” book, and while I mostly read it during my lunch breaks, I also took it home with me to read after dinner and during the weekend instead of the other books I was reading at the time.  I sincerely hope Weir has plans to write more books.

Review: Time Lord Fairy Tales

Time Lord

Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales read by Tom Baker, Paul McGann, Joanna Page, Michelle Gomez, Adjoa Andoh, Ingrid Oliver, Anne Reid, Dan Starkey, Sophie Aldred, Rachael Stirling, Samuel Anderson, Nicholas Briggs, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Yasmin Paige & Andrew Brooke.
A collection of dark and ancient fairy tales from the world of Doctor Who, these captivating stories include mysterious myths and legends about heroes and monsters of all kinds, from every corner of the universe. Originally told to young Time Lords at bedtime, these twisted tales are enchanting for Doctor Who fans of all ages. – Goodreads synopsis

I had an Audible credit and no idea what I wanted to listen to next.  I had already gone through my wishlist and didn’t find any of the samples of the audiobook editions appealing.  I also knew I wanted something in the Sci-Fi genre, but no idea what, so I did a search to see what Doctor Who books were available.  Most of them were far lower in price than what I paid for the credit, but then I saw Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales and that Michelle Gomez, the actor who plays Missy, was one of the narrators.  The sample sounded wonderful, and really, what could be better than uniting Doctor Who and classic fairy tales?
I don’t think I could have made a better choice than to use my credit to purchase this gem of an audiobook.  I loved every minute of every story.  I wasn’t always sure what fairy tale a story was based on, but that didn’t matter to me, because they all had the feel and sound of a fairy tale, and that was exactly what I wanted.  The first is a wonderfully creepy tale involving the Angels, and while it felt familiar to me, I couldn’t quite place its origin in the fairy tale canon.  However, most of the other stories were immediately obvious, even if you’re not paying attention to the titles, including one that was an interesting version of Sleeping Beauty and another equally interesting version of Hansel and Gretel.  There are also versions of Cinderella (which is one of my absolute favorites), Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and several other well-known stories.
Normally, I’m not one to re-listen to an audiobook, but I think Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales might be the exception.  I also want to add the hardcover edition, which is supposedly beautifully illustrated like a children’s storybook, to my collection.  This is definitely one of the books every Doctor Who fan should have.

Review: Murder is Binding


  • Author: Lorna Barrett
  • ISBN: 9780425219584
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Pages: 271

When she moved to Stoneham, city slicker Tricia Miles met nothing but friendly faces. And when she opened her mystery bookstore, she met friendly competition. But when she finds Doris Gleason dead in her own cookbook store, killed by a carving knife, the atmosphere seems more cutthroat than cordial. Someone wanted to get their hands on the rare cookbook that Doris had recently purchased-and the locals think that someone is Tricia. To clear her name, Tricia will have to take a page out of one of her own mysteries-and hunt down someone who isn’t killing by the book. – Goodreads synopsis

This book cost me a penny, and I found it when I was looking for another book.   I had never read an adult mystery novel before, having only ever read a couple of Middle-Grade mysteries, but for a penny, I figured it was worth trying.
For that small piece of mostly zinc, I discovered that cozy mysteries are my new favorite comfort reads.  I enjoyed Murder is Binding so much that after I won a giveaway, I chose the 2nd book in the series, Bookmarked for Death as my prize.  I also bought a couple of other book-related mysteries when I took a box of books to the used bookstore, and the first book of another mystery series when it popped up as a Kindle daily deal.  Then there’s the other mystery I bought with some of my Barnes and Noble settlement money.  Yep, I’ve added five books to my TBR all because of a book I got for a penny.  Let this be a lesson to those of you who love books as much as I do: those random, too good to pass up deals are how they get you.
I have no idea if I will like those other series, but having already finished Bookmarked for Death, I can safely say that Lorna Barrett’s “Booktown Mystery” series is perfect for anyone who is a fan of cozy mysteries.  Even better if you love stories about books.  And if you want to try out the mystery genre, Murder is Binding works as a stand-alone novel to find out if it’s your cup of tea.

Review: Divergent


  • Author: Veronica Roth
  • ISBN: 9780062024039
  • Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian
  • Pages: 487

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue. On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is – she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are – and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves…or it might destroy her. – Goodreads synopsis

It seems like ages ago, but when my BFF ended up in the hospital after being hit by a truck, I found out she loves the Divergent series.  I quickly went out and bought her the final book that she hadn’t because it was still only in hardcover.  I also got myself a copy of Divergent with the full intention of it being the next book I read.  Lots of physical therapy and a couple surgeries later, and my BFF is a handbike racer and kayaker, and I finally got around to taking the book off my shelf.
While I won’t say this book belongs on my all-time favorites list, I will say that once I started reading it, I had difficulty stopping.  The writing isn’t all that great, but the story sucked me in, and even though I noticed the many awkward sentences and word choices, I kept turning pages until I had read over half of the book in one sitting.  I can definitely see why my BFF gobbled Allegiant up as soon as she was off the pain meds long enough to stay awake for a decent amount of time.  The pacing and chapter lengths are perfect to keep telling yourself “just one more chapter” or “just a few more pages.”
I enjoyed Divergent so much that I’ve already got myself a copy of Insurgent.  I could have left the story at the last page of this book; it’s not a cliffhanger.  However, I don’t want to leave it there.  I want to know what happens next, and I want to continue getting sucked into Tris’s story.  I don’t think there’s anything better than that when it comes to books, no matter the level of writing.

Review: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency


  • Author: Douglas Adams
  • ISBN: 9780671746728
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Pages: 306

What do a dead cat, a computer whiz-kid, an Electric Monk who believes the world is pink, quantum mechanics, a Chronologist over 200 years old, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (poet), and pizza have in common? Apparently not much; until Dirk Gently, self-styled private investigator, sets out to prove the fundamental interconnectedness of all things by solving a mysterious murder, assisting a mysterious professor, unravelling a mysterious mystery, and eating a lot of pizza – not to mention saving the entire human race from extinction along the way (at no extra charge). To find out more, read this book (better still, buy it, then read it) – or contact Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. ‘A thumping good detective-ghost-horror-whodunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy epic.’ – Douglas Adams (Goodreads synopsis)

Prior to my BFF giving me this book and the second Dirk Gently book, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, for my Birthday a couple years ago, I had no idea that Douglas Adams had written other books than the ones in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.  I’m so glad she set me straight about that!
While I think The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is probably his best work, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency isn’t far behind.  Also, I think it’s a bit unfair to compare the two since the first started out as a radio series before being rewritten into a novel and polished.
Regardless, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is everything you could hope for from a Douglas Adams novel.  It’s Sci-Fi that doesn’t take its self seriously, and it’s a wonderful way to escape from reality for a bit.  It also makes you wonder if the story isn’t more real than reality as we know it, which is what I love about Adams’ writing.  I’m greatly looking forward to The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
Five Towels

Review: Welcome to the Future


  • Publisher: Christina Escamilla Publishing
  • ISBN: 9780991529360
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Pages: 260

What will the future hold? Sometimes bleak, sometimes inspiring, these twenty tales seek to answer the very question that civilization has pondered for centuries. From a world where specialized eyes shape the way reality is perceived to fabricated simulations that are designed to allow full control over an augmented reality. This book takes you to the far reaches of the universe to the remnants of a forgotten Earth. In short, these twenty tales boldly answer the question of “what if” with a simple: Welcome to the Future. – Goodreads synopsis

I won Welcome to the Future during a #COYER challenge, and I was so happy I did since I was also participating in a book buying ban and had added the book to my wishlist nearly as soon as it was published.  I was particularly interested in it because one of the authors also has a blog I love to read.  However, that also made me hesitant to review it.  What if I didn’t like the book or, even worse, her story?
To get around the worry, I promised myself that I didn’t have to review it if I didn’t want to or feel comfortable doing so.  I don’t review every single book I read, though I try.  However, I had nothing to be concerned about since I wound up devouring Welcome to the Future in one day.  I don’t usually do that with short story anthologies.  I tend to dip into them for a story or two and then read something else for a bit before returning.  That’s mostly because I’ve never read an anthology in which every single story was phenomenal.  While I didn’t love all the stories in this one either, almost all of my favorites were front loaded.
If anything, that’s what I disliked about this collection.  I didn’t enjoy the last few stories, and if I hadn’t plowed through the book so quickly, that might have tarnished my view of it as a whole.  I feel as if the runner-up selections were tacked on at the end only to make the book a little longer.  A better way of organizing it would have been to spread them out amongst the gems of the bunch.  Putting that aside, Welcome to the Future is well worth buying.