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.

Review: Doctor Who – Snowglobe 7


  • Author: Mike Tucker
  • ISBN: 9781846074219
  • Publisher: BBC Books
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Pages: 256

Earth, 2099. Global warming is devastating the climate. The polar ice caps are melting.
In a desperate attempt at preservation, the governments of the world have removed vast sections of the Arctic and Antarctic and set them inside huge domes across the world. The Doctor and Martha arrive in Snowglobe 7 in the Middle East, hoping for peace and relaxation. But they soon discover that it’s not only ice and snow that has been preserved beneath the Dome.
While Martha struggles to help with an infection sweeping through the Dome, the Doctor discovers an alien threat that has lain hidden since the last ice age. A threat that is starting to thaw. – Goodreads synopsis

Not long after I got hooked on Doctor Who, I bought every book involving my favorite tenth Doctor that I could find at the used bookstore.  When it came to choosing which one to start with, I looked at my TBR shelf on Goodreads and picked the first one on the list.
I wasn’t expecting anything fantastic, but now I wonder if the books are made from scripts that, while great, didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.  There are only so many episodes per series after all, and the majority of them link together in some way to form an overall story line.  So why not take the ones that didn’t fit and put them in another format for fans to enjoy during that excruciatingly long time between series?
Regardless of the reason, Snowglobe 7 felt like watching an episode, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for when I bought this and the other Doctor Who books I found.  This wasn’t my first Doctor Who story outside of watching the show, but my first was an audiobook narrated by David Tennant, so I couldn’t be 100% sure if it’s awesomeness was due to the format or the writer.  It was probably both, but it was also a different writer than Mike Tucker, so the only things I was truly certain of was that this book was about the 10th Doctor and Martha and the story involved some kind of dangerous alien species and a wintry environment.
If you’re specifically looking for a Doctor Who story but you want something new or don’t feel like re-watching the show, look no further than Snowglobe 7.  I have a feeling I’ll be repeating that as I make my way through my book collection.

Review: Black Widow – Forever Red

Black Widow

  • Author: Margaret Stohl
  • ISBN: 9781484726433
  • Publisher: Marvel Press
  • Genre: YA Science Fiction
  • Pages: 401

Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.
Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.
Until now.  – Goodreads synopsis

I requested Black Widow: Forever Read from Netgalley, but wasn’t lucky enough to get a copy, so I bought the Kindle edition with some of my gift card money instead.
Ok, this is one of those moments when my Fangirl starts showing and, trust me when I say this, I have no shame.  I don’t care what it is, if it’s got Black Widow’s name or logo on it, it’s mine, all MINE.  I don’t have to tell you how much Black Widow kicks butt unless you’ve somehow managed to miss every Avenger related movie, comic, or even movie trailer in which she appears, and this book is no different.  Yes, it’s YA.  Yes, I tend to steer away from YA, with very few exceptions.  This is one of those exceptions, and I wasn’t in any way disappointed.
I hadn’t even bothered to read the synopsis before I bought the book or even before I started reading it.  So, I was a bit surprised to discover that this wasn’t exactly what I thought it was.  I thought it was going to be a retelling of Black Widow’s story, but with her as a teen.  As you can tell from the synopsis above, that’s not it at all, and, honestly, I was a bit relieved.  I understand revamping Marvel’s greatest to appeal to a new generation, but understanding doesn’t mean I want Natasha’s story changed.  Please, Marvel, keep doing what you’ve done with this book and just leave my favorite assassin as she is, OK?  Oh, and how about giving her her own video game?  I’ll give you all my monies.
Full of action, attitude, and shocking red hair, if you want a non-comic comic book story, look no further than Black Widow: Forever Red.
Black Widow Rating

Review: The World's Strongest Librarian


  • Author: Josh Hanagarne
  • ISBN: 9781592407873
  • Publisher: Avery
  • Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir
  • Pages: 291

An inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight-lifting.
The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living. – Goodreads synopsis

Awhile back, Audible was having a sale, and I got The World’s Strongest Librarian for less than $5.  Had I not been looking for inexpensive audiobooks to help me get through my daily commute, I might not have ever come across this gem of a memoir.
Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have even picked this one up if it wasn’t about a librarian.  I’m not Mormon, or Christian for that matter, and though Tourette’s is an interesting disability, I didn’t think it was interesting enough to warrant reading a book about it.  Well, I was wrong.  First of all, his struggles with faith resonated with me because I was raised Catholic, and while I eventually found what I was looking for in Buddhism, the run of emotions, thoughts, and questions Hanagarne experiences throughout the book were similar to my own.  Secondly, I understood in a very clinical way what Tourette’s is, but I never thought about how it could affect every area of a person’s life.  While it’s a physical disability, it seems to have the same stigma attached to it as the majority of mental disabilities.  Just as many people ask those dealing with Depression why can’t they just be happy, I get the impression that the same people probably want to ask why can’t you just stop doing [insert physical/vocal tick here].
To me, this book proves that having a support network of family and/or friends is one of the most important elements in determining how well someone handles just about anything that life can throw your way.  It also proves that books and libraries are just as important because ultimately we each have to find our own way and what works for us.  What better place than the library to find the resources to do that?  If you need convincing, check out The World’s Strongest Librarian.