Off the Charts – furiously happy (Jenny Lawson)

Ahoy there me mateys!  For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes.  Occasionally I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were.  So today I bring ye:

furiously happy (Jenny Lawson)

Mental illness is not a laughing matter.  Well, unless ye read this book that is.  Ye see mateys, this book has a psychotic raccoon on the cover.  I picked it up because I a) heard it was funny and b) thought it was a young adult book that had something to do with silly raccoons.  No joke.

Well turns out it is a memoir by a woman named Jenny who has a lot of mental illnesses, an actual taxidermied raccoon named Rory who is the featured on the cover of this novel, and many crazy stories to share.

As the author states in her disclaimers at the beginning of the book:

This is a funny book about living with mental illness.  It sounds like a terrible combination, but personally, I’m mentally ill and some of the most hysterical people I know are as well.  So if you don’t like the book then maybe you’re just not crazy enough to enjoy it.  Either way, you win

I must be crazy because I found a lot of the stories to be laugh out loud funny.  I had to read whole sections out loud to the first mate because they were just too good not to share.  And while the situations the author finds herself in are sometimes absurd and seemingly unreal, I still found them extremely human at the same time and relatable.

Feeling unproductive as a grownup?  Check.  Being unable to sleep for long stretches at a time? Check.  Not wanting to be around people – ever?  Check.  Embracing the quirkiness of being who ye are?  Check.

Add in things that wouldn’t occur to me or haven’t happened to me like:

  • dressing up as a koala in Australia while attempting to hold koalas
  • participating in a sleep study that sounds more like a horror movie
  • leaving voicemail messages for yerself at 2:00 in the morning
  • dealing with killer cannibal swans
  • pondering how to survive the zombie apocalypse, the airport, and the zombie apocalypse at the airport (okay I may have done this one)

Seriously I am not funny enough to do the humor in this book justice.  But the humor is not the whole point.  At the root of the book, there is a woman embracing life in spite of all of the difficulties life has thrown at her.  Whether it is her anxiety or depression  or just the day to day struggle to exist, underneath is a love for life and a determination to win through in the end.  To be furiously happy and savor the moments she can.  That is the true joy in the book.  As she says:

Be bizarre. Be weird. Be proud of the uniquely beautiful way that you are broken.

Be furiously happy.

To see another review of this book by a member of me crew, Emma-Louise “Elou” Carroll, visit:

Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

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.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

. . . 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?

To visit the author’s website go to:

Jenny Lawson – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

furiously happy – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

On the Horizon – the sieve (C.A. Caskabel)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

the sieve (C.A. Caskabel)

Title: the sieve

Author: C.A. Caskabel

Publisher: AuthorBuzz

Publication Date: September 13, 2016 (paperback/e-book)

ISBN: 9781533476784

Source: NetGalley

This was one of those fantasy novels where the cover caught me eye:

Not only was the face on the cover odd but the “Drakon” made me wonder if there were dragons in it.  I have a soft spot for dragons.  The synopsis sounded interesting so I requested it.  Of course by the time I read the book I had forgotten what it was about.  I actually think that contributed to me enjoyment of the story.

The story is of a “hero” Da-Ren who has fled to a monastery asking for redemption for his wife and daughter.  The monks there require that he tell his story in detail and assign a young monk to transcribe the tale.  The author has chosen to split this epic fantasy in four parts.  This novel was part one and deals with Da-Ren’s training in the Sieve.

I enjoyed this setup from the monk’s point of view.  We approach Da-Ren’s story from the end point knowing that he has been labeled the “First Blade of the Devil.”  The monk’s insight into Da-Ren’s character set the tone for the reader learning Da-Ren’s tale.  While most of the story is told from Da-Ren’s point of view, the author does returns to the monk’s viewpoint.  I didn’t always enjoy the interruption.

The Sieve is a coming-of-age trial for children of the tribe.  Da-Ren is an orphan raised in the dregs of society.  It is a warrior based society where both men and woman can have high roles if they earn it.  The spiritual side of the tribe is controlled by women who are witches (though men play a part as well).  I enjoyed that there were some strong female characters.  Da-Ren being an orphan, in this culture meaning his mother has died, is placed outside the usual structures.  He is uneducated, mistreated, and considered worthless to the tribe.

I found Da-Ren to be a compelling character and narrator.  The society was rich with tradition and detail.  The myths in particular were compelling and enriched the narration.  The trial itself was very unusual in its composition.  I found this novel overall to be highly enjoyable and read it in one sitting.  While there were some inconsistancies in the story, I am not sure if they were part of the overall larger picture or just mistakes.  In any case, I thought it was a great introduction to a fun character and worldview and I certainly want to know what’s coming next.

So lastly . . .

Thank you AuthorBuzz!

Netgalley has this to say about the novel:

“I am here to redeem the lives of my wife and daughter. I’ve brought the offering.”

Da-Ren, an infidel barbarian, arrives at the Castlemonastery, his only offering a jar of honey. Baagh, the Cross Sorcerer, follows him there under orders of the Emperor, demanding from the monks to transcribe the warrior’s story.

Book I chronicles Da-Ren’s early years, growing up in a tribe of archer riders and pagan witches, camped north of the Blackvein River. He enters the Sieve, the forty-day initiation trial that determines the fate of every boy and girl. Many of his comrades will fall, the strong will join the warriors, and an elite few will be marked for leadership. Da-Ren learns to endure the elements, to obey the Truths, to keep standing when all hope is lost. He swallows the legends of the Ouna-Ma witches, learns to hate all other tribes, and conquers fear.

And yet there is one trial that will bring him to his knees. The Goddess’s favorite daughter. “Brown-haired, brown-eyed. Brown was the first color of the day.”

The journey begins for the man who will become the First Blade of the Devil.

To visit the author’s website go to:

C.A. Caskabel – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

the sieve – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Off the Charts – the sound of a wild snail eating (Elisabeth Tova Bailey)

Ahoy there me mateys!  For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes.  Occasionally I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were.  So today I bring ye:

the sound of a wild snail eating (Elisabeth Tova Bailey)

This was a beautiful and fascinating non-fiction read.  Ms. Bailing was 34 years old and vacationing in Europe when she caught a virus that would change her life’s trajectory.  What seemed like a simple flu led to her being bedridden and unable to move.  The impulse of a visiting friend to bring her some violets and a woodland snail to her bedroom’s windowsill, leads the author on a journey of contemplation and companionship of an unlikely creature.  Part memoir and part natural history lesson, I highly recommend this novel.

Snails are fascinating.  For example did ye know that snails have teeth?  Or that the scientific name for a snail, gastropod, means “stomach-foot?”  Or that snails “tormented & haunted” Charles Darwin? Or that if it is quiet enough ye CAN hear a wild snail eat?

From poems and quotes from scientific literature, to exquisite reflections from the author, this novel was poetic look into the life of snails in general and one snail in particular.  It is a fast and stunning read.  I will never again look at snails in the same way.  Pick this one up.  It’s worth the read.

To listen to a wild snail eating click below (from the author’s website):

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail.

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal.

Told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Elisabeth Tova Bailey – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

the sound of a wild snail eating – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Abandon Ship – we are legion we are bob (Dennis E. Taylor)

It is time to abandon ship me mateys!  This one was recommended by me first mate because he loved it.  Of course he did warn me that there was a 50/50 shot that I wouldn’t like it.

I made it to the 53% mark before calling it quits.  To be fair the beginning of the novel was wonderful.  This is the story of a dude named Bob who signs up for a cryogenics program, dies, and wakes up in the future as an artificial intelligence computer program.

The circumstances that Bob finds himself in, the politics of the world, how Bob deals with it, and the beginning of Bob’s exploration of the universe were delightful.  Bob is a bit of a nerd to put it mildly.  His quirky personality made the beginning of the novel fly by.

The side characters like Bob’s AI digital personal assistant, Guppy and the other “Bobs” are humorous.  There are deeper concepts woven throughout concerning identity, personality, technology, and space exploration.  The mix of cool technology and the silliness of Bob were wonderful.

The problem for me was that eventually, it was less about Bob exploring his new roles in life and more about determining the future.  I got bored.  There are only so many descriptions of new planets, mining, and such that I could take.  It began to feel repetitive.  There began to be gaps in time where we skipped the process of Bob figuring things out and jumped to the problem having being mostly solved.  I get that Bob’s AI is way beyond me brain skills but I just wasn’t absorbed in the story.  So I gave up.  Of course the first mate disagrees with me . . .

From the First Mate:

One of my absolute favorite “cancelled too soon” t.v. series was a show from 1999 called “Now and Again.” The premise of the show was that an ad executive is accidentally killed in the subway, his brain is stolen by the government, and then a scientist puts that brain into an artificial body for use as a spy/assassin/whatever.  What the scientist and the government didn’t count on was that a lazy ad executive’s personality is completely at odds with what they ultimately wanted to do with the artificial body.  And that conflict was really the driving force of the show.  The ad executive wanted to get away and be with his family again, while the scientist and the government wanted him to train and be a machine.

“We Are Legion (We Are Bob)” plays with the same trope (a normalish person is flung into a military science project against his will) but spins it in completely the opposite direction.  Bob is simply too competent a programmer to be bound by the controls that the military has placed on him, and much of the fun of the first half of the book is watching him figure out ways to do what he wants instead of what is expected of him.  And the first half of the book is fantastic.  Dennis E. Taylor covers some quality philosophical ground without dragging the plot to a halt.  We’re given an amazingly depressing in its plausibility backstory of the theocratic government of the future.  Some quality tension in a ticking clock scenario to get Bob in space. There’s even a very compelling discussion of why 3D printers ultimately take the sci-fi place of nanotechnology in this world.  And skiffy references galore.  So many fun references.

While I was reading the first half of the book, I was thinking “this is the most fun I’ve had with a sci-fi book in forever.” I was also pondering, “this is so fun, I wonder if I should recommend this to the Captain.”

Unfortunately, for me, the second half of the book doesn’t quite live up to the first half.  Which is a shame, as the second half of the book is where the “We Are Legion” aspect really takes off.  The conceptual aspect of a multiplicity of Bobs is very interesting and Taylor does a very good job of differentiating the various Bobs.  It’s just, well, the uses to which he puts them were less than interesting to me.  Indeed, one storyline that involves a primitive civilization seems to be little more than a way of keeping one of the Bobs sidelined from the other storylines.  Another gets bogged down in a very realistic bureaucratic negotiation situation that, while well written, didn’t make me smile in the ways that the first half of the book did.  Still enjoyable, just a step down from earlier.

I suppose the major difference between the first and second half of the book is that the second half didn’t feel as though Bob et. al. was staying ahead of anyone.  Sure, they planned and prepared for various scenarios (some which worked out and others which did not), but generally it was all very reactive.  The first half of the book was full of Bob outsmarting controls and limits using skills that the military didn’t expect him to have.  Perhaps that means that the first half is pure nerd fantasy, while the second half is more of a variant on hard sci-fi in space.

In some ways, “We Are Legion (We Are Bob)” feels like it fits in with the work of early Heinlein or Scalzi.  Sci-fi adventurism with some hard sci-fi trappings.  If that’s in your wheelhouse, it’s well worth a look.  Me?  I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel later this year.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure. There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch. So it’s a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street.

Bob wakes up a century later to find that corpsicles have been declared to be without rights, and he is now the property of the state. He has been uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe looking for habitable planets. The stakes are high: no less than the first claim to entire worlds. If he declines the honor, he’ll be switched off, and they’ll try again with someone else. If he accepts, he becomes a prime target. There are at least three other countries trying to get their own probes launched first, and they play dirty.

The safest place for Bob is in space, heading away from Earth at top speed. Or so he thinks. Because the universe is full of nasties, and trespassers make them mad – very mad.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Dennis E. Taylor – Author

To buy the novel go to:

we are legion (we are bob) – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – the vagrant (Peter Newman)

Ahoy there me mateys!

I have to say that while this was an interesting read, it was definitely unusual.  To give you an idea – the main characters are a mute, a baby, and a goat.  Aye mateys.  Ye read that right.  And if that weren’t enough, there also be a magical sword with an eyeball.  Cool, huh?

The story involves a world where there has been a breach and the demons are getting in and trying to take over.  Wherever the demons go, corruption ensues. I loved the weird half-breeds and other unsavories that demon taint makes.  In fact most of the demon related details were awesome.

The chapters alternate between the present where we follow the mute, i.e. the Vagrant, on his quest to take the magic sword to the Shining City and then chapters that go back eight years in the past to how the present came to be.  And of course converge nicely.

I actually loved both the Vagrant and the goat.  I mean, the goat was actually one of the highlights of the novel.  Baby was different but not to me taste overall.  I liked the idea of the baby more as a prop then as a character.

Having a character that was mute was actually fascinating.  I thought the author did an excellent job making the Vagrant communicate.  Of course, the Vagrant does run into lots of talking folk along the way and picks up some for a time along his travels.  Also this is not the type of book where ye get to see into the main characters thoughts.  So everything ye learn is basically through dialogue and action.  Works astonishingly well.

So why didn’t I love it?  Well, I think overall it was the very last leg of the journey into the Shining City that seemed lackluster as well as the City itself.  It fit the story and the characters.  It just didn’t thrill me.  I think that overall I would have preferred this to be a standalone and not a trilogy.  While I will not be reading any more of the series, this was a good read and I am glad I read it.  Especially because of the goat.

Check out another of me crew, Brad’s, review here.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape, carrying nothing but a kit-bag, a legendary sword and a baby. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Peter Newman – Author

To buy the novel go to:

the vagrant – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Sailing to the Stars – planetfall (Emma Newman)

Ahoy there mateys!  Me last review was of this author’s novel brother’s ruin which was extremely enjoyable but an oh so very very different fantasy read.  I loved that one immensely which made me immediately pick up this recently purchased novel.  I am extremely glad I did.

This sci-fi novel is the story of a colony on a remote alien planet far far from Earth.  The settlers came chasing a dream of a woman named Lee Suh-Mi, known as the Pathfinder.  Suh-Mi had visions of an unknown society calling to humanity.  The settlers make planetfall and establish new lives working towards a purpose.  Little does the colony know that it is living a lie – one that Renata Ghali, Suh-Mi’s best friend, helps perpetuate.  When a stranger arrives at the colony, his presence threatens to spill old secrets.  At what cost?

This story is told from the point of view of Renata, also known as Ren.  Part mystery, part adventure, and part character study, this novel was emotionally compelling and fascinating.  While Ren is intelligent and capable, she has personal demons to fight.  I continually seemed to float between curiosity, pity, and hopefulness about Ren’s situation.  While slow-burning in many ways, I was always fully engrossed in the story and desperately wanting to find out more details and what happens next.

I loved the world building and technology.  From the use of 3D printers, to how the homes were built, the structure of society, and the mysterious God’s City, this novel was full of wonderful details.  I will certainly be reading more of this author’s work.  Ye should too.

Side note: there is a companion novel out.  Arrrrr!

Check out some reviews of this novel from members of me crew:

Sarah @ Brainfluff

Brad @ Goodreads

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

To visit the author’s website go to:

Emma Newman – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

planetfall – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

On the Horizon – brother’s ruin (Emma Newman)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

brother’s ruin (Emma Newman)

Title: brother’s ruin

Author: Emma Newman

Publisher: Macmillian-Tor/Forge

Publication Date: TODAY!!!! (paperback/e-book)

ISBN: 9780765393951

Source: NetGalley

This novella was quick-paced, a fast read, and fun.  The story is set in 1850s Great Britain which was win number one.  Win number two was the protagonist, Charlotte Gunn – intelligent, feisty, and loving (me favorite type).  Win number three was the magical society set up in this book.

Charlotte is a woman who wants normal things like marrying her fiance and having a family.  She also wants slightly more challenging modern things like continuing to earn her own income from her illustrations and keeping her male publishing pseudonym unknown.   But most challenging off all is keeping her magic talent a secret.  If it is found out, the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts will claim her and her dreams of the future will be forfeit.

Keeping her magic a secret is not so easy.  Charlotte has the guilt of not joining the Society to give her parents and brother a better life as well as the challenge of holding her magic in check and not going “Wild.”  However events soon spiral out of control and Charlotte has to decide whether her dreams or her realities will determine her choices.

This novella is super short at 192 pages and felt more like a set-up or prequel to a longer novel.  I loved it and wanted more.  Charlotte’s family members were loving, struggled, and were realistic in many of their reactions to the occurring events.  The magic of the society is introduced but ye don’t get all the bells and whistles of how it works or what it can do . . . yet.  The plot was predictable at a few points but I didn’t care.

The novella had a great ending, left lots of questions to be explored, and had tantalizing hints of what may happen next.  Whether the next installment be a novella or (hopefully) a longer novel – sign me up!

Side note: This author sounded familiar because I had just purchased her other novel planetfall, a sci-fi, to read!  Stay tuned for that review in the next log post.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Macmillian-Tor/Forge!

Additional side note: the blurb is rather spoiler-y and misleading.  Be forewarned and read at yer own peril!

Netgalley has this to say about the novel:

The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Archie’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Archie Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect. However, maintaining the charade will mean masquerading as Archie’s assistant, and delaying or destroying her own plans for marriage.

When she discovers a nefarious plot by the sinister Doctor Ledbetter, Charlotte must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Emma Newman – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

brother’s ruin – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List