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).

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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