Redshirts

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John Scalzi has become one of my favorite authors. It doesn’t matter what book I pick up, I’m never disappointed. When I read that Redshirts was Star Trek meets Purple Rose of Ciro (one of my all-time favorite movies) it was clearly the next logical book to pick up and consume.

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:
(1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
(2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
(3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Per my secret … err not so secret, love for Wil Wheaton, I listened to this on audiobook. He seems to be the go-to man for Scalzi books. Which I’m super okay with. I’ll put away my grin for now. As a huge Star Trek fan this book called out to me. Right from the beginning, were in an episode of the Intrepid (think Star Ship Enterprise). We watch redshirt after redshirt die. And when the characters finally start to put together that they’re … well dude. DUDE. It’s meta as frell.

Without giving any more away, because, let’s just say that I don’t want to ruin it for you. This should move to the top of your read list.

13 Reasons Why

It’s no secret the internet has been blowing up with the new Netflix original series 13 REASONS WHY based on the book by Jay Asher produced by Selena Gomez and her mother.

I happened upon it last week and started watching it on a whim. I’d never heard of it or the book. In fact about three or four episode in, I did a little digging and found the book. I didn’t want any spoilers so I avoided the internet but ordered the book on audible. When I finished the TV show on Thursday, I started the book, and last night I started to re-watch the show for t13-reasons-why-splashhe second time.

Hey, it’s Hanna, Hanna Baker. Don’t adjust your…whatever device you’re hearing this on. It’s me, live and in stereo. No return engagements, no encore, and this time, absolutely no requests. Get a snack. Settle in. Because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to this tape you’re one of the reasons why.

Both the show and the book are set in the aftermath of a suicide. From the very first lines we know, Hannah killed herself. She leaves behind seven tapes, with thirteen reasons why she took her own life. Each reason corresponding to a person. Both the book and the show follow Clay Jensen as he listens to the tapes. We hear Hannah’s story right alongside Clay.

This book, and especially this show, set out to do something bigger than other books and movies about suicide. It sets out to show readers and viewers the consequences of their actions. It attempts to prevent tragedies, like Hannah Baker’s, from ever happening. Hit it head on and target the Alex Standalls, the Justin Foleys, the Tyler Downs, the Sheri Hollands and the Zach Dempseys why-are-book-fans-skeptical-about-the-dramatic-13-reasons-why-trailerof the world. Your actions matter and everything affects everything. At the end of it all, Hannah Baker is still dead. There is no saving her with a happily ever after. There are no friends or a love interest that will magic her back to life. The point of all of it is to learn from your mistakes. But how do you do that? By being exposed to them. That’s what this book does. It exposes every bad decision that affected Hannah’s mental health.

Mental Health is one of those topics that is still overlooked and taken for granted. There is still a certain amount of taboo associated and it’s largely misunderstood. Suicide is often viewed as selfish because understanding how someone’s mind can betray them is hard. Understanding how seemingly trivial moments derail someone’s entire life can be incomprehensible. And that’s why this show and book are important. It wasn’t created to help someone who battles with depression,  it wasn’t made for the person who teeters on the edge of a cliff. It’s made for the rest of us. For those who find hilarity in a “hot or not” list. Hannah’s name made “the best ass,” and this is created for those who don’t see a 13-reasons-why_0problem with that. Who think, boys will be boys and teenagers are just being teenagers. But that one moment put a target on her bottom and changed the way others perceived her. It took her life one more step out of her control. She became a sum of body parts worthy of sexualization instead of Hannah Baker.

The show is graphic. They portray rape and suicide without a wavering camera.  If they had hopes of impacting their audience, of making people think twice about their decisions, then they couldn’t afford to avoid the true weight of a person’s actions. The moment when Hannah broke while she was being raped, still sends a chill through me thinking about it. I cried along side her when she slit her wrists in the bathtub. Those images were impactful because they needed to be. If it makes you uncomfortable, then it succeeded. You were supposed to squirm.

Each action was just as harmful as the next and watching that build is an important part of understanding how any decision can be the one that pushes someone over that edge to suicide. Rape wasn’t treated with any more harshness than the “hot or not,” list. Adults don’t get out of it either. Mr. Porter, the school counselor was just as responsible for Hannah’s death as the person as the boy who was stealing her complement notes. At the end of the day, you don’t know how much your words can hurt someone. How your actions can affect them in ways you’ll never imagine. Every person was forced to see themselves for what they’d done and evaluate their actions. Live with the consequences of that. What I appreciated with regards to the show, was that every person was shown a little sympathy except for Bryce, the rapist. By not showing any sympathy to him, viewers have no excuses for his behavior. He is a bad person and fuck that. But everyone else was just as human as Hannah.

This show is equally hard to watch as it was hard to look away. The book was just as powerful and I recommend both. The TV show takes it one step further, by expanding on the lives of each character. It also ends with the potential for wrongs made right by refusing to silence the things that have happened. It’s the one thing I wish the book would have done. If we can’t have a happy ending, then I want to know that people have changed. They’ve woken to their mistakes. If this does one thing, it forces viewers and readers to evaluate themselves. Making this series and book without a doubt invaluable.

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Alter World

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“You liked Ready Player One, you might also enjoy Alter World,” and so I bought it. It’s no secret that Ready Player One is one of my favourite books, so this wasn’t a hard sell. There were a lot of things that I enjoyed about ALTER WORLD by D.RUS and one thing that bothered me.

I’ll start with why I enjoyed this book. I love alt-reality books and tech inspired genres. Right now more than anything else, as technology changes, I find myself more and more drawn to books that use it in fun ways. ALTER WORLD takes place in a future (not too far off it seems) where technology has inadvertently allowed humans to become part of the digital world permanently.

Our main character, Max, has an inoperable brain tumour chosen to enter the digital world as a way of beating death. And thus our heroes journey begins. I enjoyed learning this new world as Max does. There was never an info dump and as someone who hates them, I can appreciate his avoidance of writing one.

I also enjoyed that this wasn’t typical in story-arc. There wasn’t a bad guy so to speak, it was about the journey and how things played out. BUT….

Spoilers….

The thing that bothered me about this book, our Hero was too good. He never falters. He never missteps without some fix pulled out of his ass to save him from seemingly nowhere. I never wondered if he would place second or win a battle or make friends with important people. At one point I thought maybe the girlfriend was a spy, but nope. She’s just what she says she is. I was disappointed with the sheer lack of surprise. Max was always better than the best. I wish he had some faults that made him more human. Even in his personal life. There comes a point where overnight he creates something others have spent years making. There was no struggle. It would have been more compelling if he’d spent half the book trying to create this item instead of one long night.

On a whole, I enjoyed the book. It was no Ready Player One. But I’d probably read the next book.

The Hate U Give

71VfOKSGUjL.jpegI don’t normally leave the book covers so large on this blog. But this blook was so good, all I want anyone to do is see this cover and buy this book. Angie Thomas has done an incredible job capturing life in this book. I can’t even…. Stop what you’re doing. Go to the store. Go to Amazon, go to Barnes and Noble, go to Audible.com go anywhere and buy this book. Most of my readers know it’s a rare day when I’m pushing a book so much that I give you links to buy it.

This is a brilliant, gut-wrenching, heart-bursting novel. Angie Thomas will be remembered for having written a classic of our times. This book is about the need to speak out against injustice in our lives, communities, the world. I feel like this book has opened my eyes, shattered my heart, and yet still warmed me inside. Fiction can be transformational, and THE HATE U GIVE is the best example of it, for me, to date. I couldn’t put this down and ugly cried through at least 40 minutes of it.

Like many books, I chose to listen to this one on Audible. The narrator  Bahni Turpin had very specific praise when I was reading up on the book before buying it.  So much that I had to listen to this book instead of buying a hard copy. I wouldn’t have changed that for a moment.  Each character was so specific to them, I could tell them apart based on her voice alone. She is a gifted story actress and I will be buying more of her work.

So to summarize…. Just buy this book and let it swallow you into its dark abyss.  Let it rip out your heart and sew you back together again. Let it paralyze you and make you ugly cry. Let it open your eyes and heart. Let this book into your lives where it belongs.

An Abundance of Katherines

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My first John Green book was The Fault in Our Stars, one of the best books I’ve ever read. So I went into AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES with some high expectations.

Colin, boy genius, was just dumped by K-19. His best friend, Hassan, has convinced him road trip for the summer to get out of his head, experience life, and forget about the Katherines. Their trip leads them to a small town in the middle of nowhere Tennessee, where for the first time, Colin learns to live.

What I enjoyed about this book: Hassan, the best friend in this book stole the show for me.

What I didn’t like: It was no The Fault in Our Stars. I was expecting it to be greater than it was. Not to say it wasn’t good in its own right, but I went into this book with higher expectations than I should have.

Was this book worth reading? For sure! Friendships, heartache, love, an extremely plausible adventure, YES.

 

 

Kindred Spirits & Dead Pig Collector

This might feel like an odd combo, but let me tell this, two of the best short stories I’ve ever read. Hands down. Now to break them down.

I want to start with KINDRED SPIRITS by Rainbow Rowell. When I bought this book, I missed the memo and somehow didn’t realize it was only about 60 pages long. I put it aside, a bit disappointed. Fast forward a few weeks and I was looking for something short to read. Something I could finish in a day. Well by golly guess what I found.

Gabe, Elena, and Troy are in line for the new Star Wars movie. The only three in line. KINDRED SPIRITS chronicles their adventures in line sleeping on the sidewalk for four days before the opening. This short story is funny, heart-warming, and about serendipitous meeting of kindred spirits. It made me smile, laugh, and get the warm and fuzzies while reading.

A+ all the way.

DEAD PIG COLLECTOR by Warren Ellis, was like a snake. It slowly snuck up on me and before I knew what was happening I was being eaten alive, not able to stop reading till I got to the last page. Mr. Son was hired to kill a woman. But when he walks in on his target, murdering the boss what does this hit man do? It’s gruesome, it’s thrilling, it’s like being on a rollercoaster that ends too quickly. I didn’t want it to stop.

 

Mrs. Kennedy and Me

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I don’t know that I have adequate words to describe how beautiful and painful this book was to read. There are no pros. Instead, it is an honest account of what happened during the Kennedy administration. The book is written by Clint Hill, a former secret service officer who was placed on Mrs. Kennedy’s detail. What follows is an extraordinary tale of love, loss, and history. I can’t help but feel like Mr. Hill wrote this book as a sort of love letter to Ms. Kennedy. Maybe I’m wrong in this assessment. But maybe I’m not. It’s personal, touching, and it’s clear he loved her deeply.

I’ve always been fascinated with history and the Kennedy’s are no exception to this rule. This private glimpse into the lives of such a historic presence in our history was, for me timely, but also a treat.  From President-Elect Kennedy to the assassination, each moment was handled with grace. I cried when the book ended. I wasn’t ready to let this one go so quickly.

Sometimes there isn’t more to say then simply: Read This Book.

 

 

Everything Everything

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This book has been on my wish list since it was first released, but somehow it never made it into my shopping cart. But then I saw the paperback released on my birthday and I bought it. Best decision ever. This is my first Nicola Yoon book.

EVERYTHING EVERYTHING was not everything, everything, but it was pretty damn close. A story about first love, coming of age, and deciding what in life is worth living for. It’s contemporary, it’s romantic, it’s a wonderful right up to nearly the end. I won’t spoil it, but I found myself swooning right up until the gripping game changer. I think part of me was disappointed with it, and part of me saw it coming.

Maddy and Olly are neighbors. We get to experience their blossoming romance through text messages, notes, and eventually their inevitable physical contact. This is unique as Maddie is sick and contact with people and the outside world is strictly forbidden. I did enjoy the beautiful way this book is laid out, with sprinklings of book reviews, Maddy’s own definitions, text messages and wonderful illustrations.

I’m glad I read this, take my money. I’m looking forward to the movie.

 

Evermore

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Where to start, where to start… I was really initially intrigued by this concept. A girl who was in a life threating accident loses her family and gains the ability to read minds. That snip sold me and I bought the audio of this book. The narrator does a lovely job, and she’s the only reason I continued to listen. But honestly, I listened at double time because I just wanted to be done reading it. I struggled with how ‘perfect’ the love interest was all the time. I struggled with

I struggled with how ‘perfect’ the love interest was all the time. I struggled with how mean the main character was to her dead sister’s ghost. And overall, I think I struggled with how immature the main character is. In the beginning, I can understand how angry and distrustful she is, but by the end of the book I expected there to be a character arc but it lacked one. There didn’t seem to be the growth I kept hoping for.

The other thing that really bothered me about this book was the over reminding. There seemed to be a distinct lack of faith the reader would remember Ever could read minds, her sister was a ghost, and that nobody else knew these pieces of information. Every time there was a well-written section or a part that had a bit of intrege, I’d think damn, she’s figuring it out… oh never mind…. because inevitably the author would make sure to remind the reader again, why something was the way it was, without trusting the reader enough. I found it extremely annoying.

I don’t think I’ll be continuing this series.

Matilda

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Reviewed by Miranda Boyer

Reading Matilda has been on my “to-read” list for years. Ever since Mara Wilson embodied the intelligent, magical little girl in 1996, I knew I wanted to read her origin story. 51g02ZHEDkL._SX200_QL80_.jpegListening to Kate Winslet bring to life this array of characters was sheer delight. Kate embodies each character whole heartedly. I even wondered for a moment if someone else was doing a few of the voices, but no. It’s all her. And it’s all wonderful!

What I didn’t expect was to both enjoy Kate Winslet’s narration and enjoy the story too. I was delighted to find that unlike many other children’s books, this did not feel limited to enjoyment by children alone. Matilda is well written, to begin with, and will be enjoyable for many generations to come. Not limited to those under the age of 10.

If you enjoyed the movie, Mara Wilson, or Roald Dahl, I highly recommend Kate Winslet’s reading.