You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost): Book Review
Autobiography/Biography , Comedy , YouTuber / October 31, 2016

Title: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) Author: Felicia Day Published: 2015 Genre: Autobiography, Comedy, YouTuber Pages: 304 (paperback) You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day, the actress and YouTube pioneer, is an autobiographical account that centers around comedy even in the face of some serious topics. For those who are not familiar with the informally dubbed “Queen of the Internet,” click these links to visit her Geek & Sundry and Felicia Day channels. Felicia Day’s first book is a funny, honest, and relatable account of growing up as a nerd (I empathized immediately) and building success from the very qualities that the “cool” (and ultimately foolish) kids once mocked. Felicia Day’s propensity for video games, books, and general geek culture is a central theme in her autobiography that allows her to immediately connect with her target audience. A great deal of her childhood (and homeschool curriculum, it would seem) was spent obsessing over PC games such as the classic Ultima. Felicia Day generally credits her homeschooling and corresponding lack of socialization as major reasons that she is “weird,” and she provides plenty of evidence! True to form, she presents several chapters about her childhood that include snapshots of her super secret diary and epic tales of playing way too much Math Blaster that sufficiently demonstrate…

You Deserve a Drink: Book Review
Autobiography/Biography , Comedy , YouTuber / October 29, 2016

Title: You Deserve a Drink Author: Mamrie Hart Published: 2015 Genre: Autobiography, Comedy, YouTuber Pages: 274 You Deserve a Drink by Mamrie Hart is a comedic, autobiographical account including many “boozy misadventures and tales of debauchery” that come straight from the creator of the popular YouTube channel of the same name. Mamrie Hart is so unique that my auto-correct is keen to decorate her name with red squiggles at every turn. Just like her name (that has now been added to my computer’s dictionary) her tales are nearly impossible to forget. You Deserve a Drink is one of the most honest memoirs that I have ever read. Mamrie does not shrink away from embarrassment. In fact, she generally takes advantage of her own discomfort, whether she is getting blackout drunk in New York or celebrating a bizarre, Americanized version of the Day of the Dead in Mexico, to turn her most awkward moments into self-deprecating comedy. I also appreciated her numerous pop culture references (which are part of the built in drinking game that Mamrie creates in the introduction) that range from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s. If you like TV, movie, and boy band references, then this book is especially for you! Mamrie spends a lot…

Young Adult Novels: Top 10 List
Top 10 List , Young Adult / October 16, 2016

Young adult literature is particularly interesting because it is often difficult to label.  Other than the age of the protagonist, some young adult literature could easily be mistaken for “adult” literature. There are so many excellent books in this genre that adults would really enjoy if they gave them a chance. Just as with graphic novels, young adult novels should not be viewed as something for “kids.” I am sure that you will be able to find your next favorite book, or several favorites that you have already read, on this list. Let us begin! 10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: The first Hunger Games novel is unique and does a decent job of world-building. It also manages to be a dystopian novel that does not involve zombies and instead uses government as the real threat to humanity. Hopefully, this series can act as a gateway to dystopian masterpieces like 1984 and Brave New World. Although, I must point out that I still question whether The Hunger Games actually needed to be a trilogy. The first novel is gripping, but Catching Fire reads like a sequel that ran out of new ideas fairly quickly and Mockingjay features a forced and unsatisfying conclusion. The original novel is the one that is really worth reading. 9. Looking for Alaska by…

The Book Thief: Book Review
Fantasy , Historical Fiction , Young Adult / October 16, 2016

Title: The Book Thief Author: Markus Zusak Published: 2005 Genre: Young Adult Lit, Historical Fiction, Fantasy Pages: 584 The Book Thief is Markus Zusak’s tale of a young girl living in Germany during World War II. Despite the fact that this book is classified as a young adult book, Zusak tackles adult themes involving ignorance and the senseless destruction of war. Zusak does not sugar-coat this tale, and it is definitely the sort of young adult book that should only be read by a truly mature reader (regardless of age). Oh, and did I mention that the book is narrated by Death? Liesel Meminger, the protagonist of the tale, is living with her foster family and develops an incredibly close bond with her foster father, Hans Hubermann. The tale revolves around Liesel’s life in a German town against the foreboding backdrop of the impending German defeat in WWII. With the looming danger of war always on the horizon, Liesel goes about her life in the town and develops a strong relationship (maybe even romantic?) with a young boy named Rudy. A Jewish man also comes to the Hubermann family for help, so the very real historical situation of a German family trying to hide…

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Book Review
Fantasy , Horror , Young Adult / October 15, 2016

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Author: Ransom Riggs Published: 2011 Genre: Young Adult Lit, Fantasy, Horror, Historical Fiction  Pages: 353 Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a young adult novel that embraces elements of fantasy, horror, and a touch of historical fiction for good measure. The story revolves around our protagonist, the sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman, and his quest to solve the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s unbelievable past. As Jacob travels across the Atlantic to revisit the childhood orphanage of his grandfather, Jacob finds himself grappling with his family’s past in very real terms as he also struggles to decide his own future. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is artistic, atmospheric, and awash with unique and fascinating characters. There is a general sense of impending disaster that hovers over the novel from the very beginning thanks to skillful foreshadowing on the part of the author. The gloomy and foreboding settings pair exquisitely with the incredibly unsettling photographs that litter the novel. To be clear, the black and white photographs that are copied with the pages of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children are all completely authentic. Ransom Riggs artfully inserts the photographs in the appropriate places to support and punctuate the novel’s plot and characterizations while…

You are Special: Words of Wisdom for All Ages from a Beloved Neighbor: Book Review
Autobiography/Biography / October 15, 2016

You are Special: Words of Wisdom for All Ages from a Beloved Neighbor is a book of quotes that was written by the great Mister Fred Rogers.  As with many people my age, I grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and learned invaluable lessons that have guided me throughout the years. Although this book was written in 1994, I think it is still a powerful source of encouragement and growth for readers today.   Growing up near Pittsburgh, I know Mister Rogers as our greatest local hero that ever lived. I even visited the studio where Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was filmed when I was very young. His show both entertained me and helped be through difficult times in my youth. You are Special reminded me that Mister Rogers’ wisdom is not just for children. The book is relatively slim at 171 pages (plus a short introduction), but it is packed with quotes that are divided into many different sections. The general topics of the quotes are divided into eleven sections including relationships, childhood, discipline, learning, difficult situations, growing in adulthood, and others. Some of Mister Rogers quotes are short and sweet, such as “You can’t really love someone else unless you really love yourself first,” while others are more like brief,…

The Salem Witch Trials: Book Review
History , Psychology , Religion , Sociology / October 14, 2016

The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, by Marilynne K. Roach is the ultimate guide to the most famous case of mass hysteria in American history. This tome, weighing in at an impressive 690 pages, contains anything worth knowing about Salem. I already owned several books about the witch trials before I bought The Salem Witch Trials, but this is probably the only book about Salem that I need to own. I imagine that my obsession with Salem probably began in elementary school when my class read a book called The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The idea of witchcraft, rather real or imagined, right in the only outpost of civilization in the dark and dangerous American wilderness simply fascinated me.  I am addicted to the TV show Salem and desperately want to travel there some day to experience Salem in person. The Salem Witch Trials chronicles essentially every word and action that scholars are aware of from the time before, during, and after the trials in one convenient (although heavy) resource. The book is written in a diary form, in which all of the news that pertains to each day is listed and quoted, often directly from primary sources. It is absolutely fascinating to be reading the words…

Time Travel Dinosaur – Book Review
Choose Your Own Adventure , Comedy / October 14, 2016

Time Travel Dinosaur is a Chooseomatic adventure written by Matt Youngmark. The Chooseomatic Books are essentially adult Chose Your Own Adventure style books infused with hilarious and zany concepts such as time traveling dinosaurs. There are so few gamebooks (the generic term for Choose Your Own Adventure style books) written for adults that those of us who refuse to leave this awesome type of book behind in childhood are always grateful for a new release. Before I even review the book itself, the cover deserves it’s own paragraph. Just from looking at the cover-art, we are treated to a dinosaur sporting a classy monocle and top hat, a space dinosaur (spaceosaur?) toting a ray gun, and a medieval T-Rex prepared to bash in his enemies’ brains with a wicked mace despite the limited reach of his tiny arms. This honestly might be one of the best covers that I have ever seen because it is not only visually impressive, but it also accurately represents the content of the book. The 76 possible endings guarantee that any gamebook fanatic will find a great deal to explore. The basic premise behind Time Travel Dinosaur is that your character is an employee of…

Choose Your Own Adventure – Top 10 List

When I was growing up, I always loved a good choose your own adventure book.  What could be more fun than interacting with, and choosing your own story?  In a way, it was almost like you were the author of your own destiny. True, there were always those cheap deaths that would happen when you were forced to make blind choices like which path to go down, but at least you could always go back and start over again! I think that it is a sorry shame that a lot of readers leave the choose your own adventure type books behind in their childhood. There are actually some very entertaining books for adults as well, although there are not nearly enough of them!  It was difficult to come up with ten.  This list combines choose your own adventure for younger readers as well as the more adult oriented ones. Also, I am aware that “Choose Your Own Adventure” is technically used to refer to the series of the same title, but I use the term for any book where you are able to choose your own path. The generic term to use is “gamebook,” but I do not think many people would…

The Moaning of Life: Book Review
Autobiography/Biography , Comedy , Travel / October 12, 2016

The Moaning of Life is the latest book by everyone’s favorite Idiot Abroad, Karl Pilkington.  First, I have to point out that the title continues to make me laugh no matter how many times I see it.  Combined with the excellent picture of Karl’s expression, the book’s cover is pure genius. Karl Pilkington is a friend of the British comedian Ricky Gervais’ who became famous in his own right after Gervais’ dragged Karl, I suspect unwillingly, into to some of his projects.  Karl’s pessimistic travel show, An Idiot Abroad, is probably his most well known work.  The show, and much of The Moaning of Life, features a reluctant Pilkington as he travels the world and manages to find fault with everything that he discovers along the way. The Moaning of Life is structured into different chapters based around some of life’s most important events and concepts including marriage, happiness, and death.  Karl, with his characteristically dry and at least partially serious style, manages to convey his musinga on these topics as he simultaneously recounts many of his travel stories.  The chapters feature conversations between Karl and the natives of exotic lands, as well as semi-applicable and interesting facts that Karl learned during the course of writing the book….