The Classics Club: The Fellowship of the Ring

Fellowship

  • 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.

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Review: The Communication Room

Communication

  • 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.

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Review: Primary Inversion

Primary

  • 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.

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Review: Feed

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.

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Mini-Review: Mockingjay

MJ_Movie_CVR.indd

  • 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.

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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.

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Review: Furiously Happy

Furiously

  • 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.

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Review: The Giver

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.

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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.

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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.

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