Sunday, September 9, 2012

Book Review: Bossy Pants, Redshirts, & Insurgent

How's this for a long overdue book post, eh? Let's see if I can actually remember these titles well enough to tell you how well I liked 'em. :)

Bossypants, by Tina Fey
 (I will never get used to that cover. NEVER.)

Tina Fey is an inspiration to any woman who tries to be funny, and her book is just the right mix of biography, behind-the-scenes juiciness, and literal LOLs. My favorite chapters were the ones about attending your own photoshoot, which had me hooting with laughter, and the one with her thoughts on Photoshop, which I found quite thought-provoking - if somewhat controversial. (In a nutshell, she thinks it's a far better alternative to cosmetic surgery, and that future generations will be savvy enough to know it doesn't represent reality.)(Don't yell at ME, now - I'm just recapping what SHE said. Heh.)

Bossypants is a quick read that left me both entertained and better educated on the obstacles Fey has faced in the male-dominated field of comedy. She talks about the continuing (albeit improving) sexism in the industry without being preachy or overly bitter, and she even manages to convey a sense of optimism by pointing to the triumphs of other strong funny women like Maya Rudolf and Amy Poehler. A good, funny, and often inspirational read.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi

I've followed Scalzi on Twitter for ages, and yet had somehow never read any of his books. When I asked a friend and Scalzi fan which I should start with, she immediately pointed to Redshirts.

I went into the story knowing absolutely nothing about it (I like to skip the back cover sometimes), and wondering if the title was just a passing Star Trek homage or something far more central to the story. 

To my delight, it's the latter.

Redshirts is gleefully, unapologetically absurd. It's a Trek parody that not so much breaks down the fourth wall as dematerializes it with a Douglas Adams-style disrupter ray. The character names are different, but any Original Series fan will be picturing Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew in the story, and nodding and laughing along as Scalzi good-naturedly exploits some of the show's more ridiculous foibles - the most central being, of course, that only red-shirted security members die on away missions.

The story follows a new security ensign who discovers an entire ship gone insane, physics thrown out the window, a captain who lapses into overly dramatic speeches at critical times, and key bridge officers who are routinely pummeled to near death but are back at their stations, healthy and whole, within days. I won't say more for fear of spoiling anything, but trust me when I saw it's crazy good fun.

The only thing I didn't like about Redshirts were the three "codas" at the end of the book. The story ends at 230 pages, making it quite short, but then there are an extra 85 pages of first, second, and third person filler - broken into three chapters - that felt a bit tacked-on and unnecessary. I'd only recommend reading the third and final coda, which is a sweet epilogue that follows up on a love story mentioned in the main storyline. The other two add nothing of value to the story, and are a bit tedious to boot, so I'd advise skipping 'em.

[Note: You Kindle users can grab the first four chapters of Redshirts for free here.]

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

When I reviewed Divergent some months back many of you urged me to go on and read its sequel, saying it would take care of some of the problems I cited in the first book. And you guys were right! 

I think I enjoyed Insurgent even more than Divergent - a rarity with sequels - precisely because it does tackle that main sticking point for me: that of everyone being forced to choose one faction to identify with for life.  As the title suggests, Insurgent is about a revolution, and there's plenty of action and drama to keep the pages zipping by. I'd even go so far as to say this revolution succeeds where the one in Mockingjay fails. It's large enough to feel world-shaking without losing the personal narrative and feeling of investment you have with the characters. It also keeps the main character Tris central to the storyline, instead of shoving her to the sidelines while the adults call the shots ala Mockingjay.

That said, I did get pretty ticked off at Tris this go-round. The whole self-sacrifice-to-the-point-of-stupidity thing tends to get my blood boiling; I want my heroines to be intelligent fighters, not angst-riddled "they'll be better off without me" Bellas. (To be clear: I'm not saying self-sacrifice is stupid. I'm saying pointless self-sacrifice is stupid.) 

Other than that, though, I highly recommend Insurgent. Just know you'll be yelling at a fictional character for a few chapters. ;)


Good news, book lovers! I've compiled all of my reviews into one handy-dandy page! Hopefully this will help us all keep track of what I have and haven't read yet.

Also, a lot of you have been e-mailing me book recommendations - which I love - but it's hard for me to keep track of them all that way. So could you guys do me a favor, and only leave book recs in the comments on one of my book review posts, or on my book review page? This helps me keep them all consolidated, and I promise I *DO* read each and every one. Plus, leaving them in the comments makes your recs available to your fellow readers - a win-win!

And because it's an FAQ: I do know & use GoodReads, but only as a personal account. Since I've used it since long before CW, and back before anyone knew who I was, I prefer to keep it private. (Let's just say I really shredded some books back in the day. Ha!) If I ever create a new, public account, though, I'll let you guys know!


  1. Oooh! Can't wait to get into Insurgent! I liked Divergent, too, but was with ya on needing some clarification and such. Can't wait to read it!

  2. Since you asked so nicely. I recomen the Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell. It's YA and relatively short but a satisfying read.

  3. I want to go to there!

  4. I finished both Divergent and Insurgent about a month ago. I then moved onto Enclave. I haven't gotten far into it yet, and it's not peaking my interest nearly as much as the previous dystopian books I've read, but it's still good, and I do intend to finish.

  5. Bossypants is a hoot on audiobook. Tina Fey reads it, and it's even more hilarious than the written version. I dare you to have a listen!

  6. I just finished "Insurgent," which I loved, while spending a large part of it wanting to smack Tris upside the head. Now, I'm in that personal Hell of waiting for the third book to get written. Fortunately, I had "Shadow and Bone" waiting in the wings and I've been inhaling it -- I read 2/3 of it today. Once again, it's the first in a trilogy, so I'll have to wait for the rest of the books, but if what I've read so far is any indication, it should be worth it. Finally, I highly recommend "Seraphina," the first book in a trilogy (dammit) that came out recently. I'm also looking forward to "Mark of Athena," Rick Riordan's latest book in the Heroes of Olympus series, which comes out on October 2nd. The previous book, "Son of Neptune," was my favorite of all the Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus books. What will I read until then? Why, "Redshirts," of course.

  7. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel! Somewhat steampunk YA novel that has two great sequels!

  8. If you're looking for another YA fantasy book with an awesome female heroine, I highly recommend the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy. Why? Because the title character is a walking, talking, fireball-throwing skeleton. It's action-packed, with great screwball humor, lovable characters,and a mature, witty, independent twelve-year-old girl for a main character. The first book can be found under the title Skulduggery Pleasant or Skulduggery Pleasant: Scepter of the Ancients.

  9. Based on your enjoyment of Bossypants (which I, too, enjoyed) i would HIGHLY recommend reading "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" by Mindy Kaling (better known as Kelly from NBC's The Office). I wasn't immediately attracted to the book when I saw it in the store, but when I received it as a gift--it consumed me! I couldn't put it down. It was so funny and smart--a must read!

  10. Woohoo! Thanks for the consolidated list. I'm excited to try some of the books you've reviewed. Always need new reading material!

  11. I just want to say I read Divergent on your recommendation and loved it, devoured it in 48hrs and quickly followed it with Insurgent. I agree with you, I was yelling at Tris for much of Insurgent. I am hoping there will be a third book.

  12. Yay! I'm glad you liked insurgent! Some of the relationship stuff was too teenager-y for me, but I liked the political story line. Can't wait for the next installment! Did I mention the immortal life of Nicholas flammel to you before? I really like that series too. I listened to the audio version of bossy pants which was narrated by Tina fey herself!!! hilarious! I'll have to add Redshirts. I really need to get caught up on reading!

  13. I *loved* Redshirts (and even all the codas!). Dave and I mentioned that book to you and John when we met you in Epcot that day.

    I also recommend Seraphina. Beautifully written and very interesting story. Also, try The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Totally NOT what you expect and you get to see a wimpy girl turn into a strong and powerful young woman. I eagerly await the sequel which comes out in about a week.

    And speaking a sequels, I, too, am looking forward to Mark of Athena. I love how Riodan is playing around with the differences between the Greek and Roman gods. Fascinating stuff!

  14. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway is great! It's not YA at all, but it's like a Dickens steampunk noir (if that makes sense at all). Filled with gangsters and a clockmaker and super villians. Such a fun read! Highly recommend!

  15. I e-mailed you this before, but I'm adding it here for everyone else: Rick Riordan's book review master post.

    From it, I've just finished The Windup Girl (didn't care for it), and The Search for WondLa (liked it, and will be looking for the sequel).

  16. I highly reccomend "lets pretend this never happened " by. Jenny Lawson. Absolutely hysterical and her posts on The Bloggess are phenominal.

  17. Please please please read Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr...or for that matter anything by Melissa Marr if you haven't already. I am just over 80% and I am mildly obsessed!!! Daimons, witches, secrets, it is super awesome if a tiny bit graphic for a YA book.

  18. I have the audiobook version of "Red Shirts" and although I love the fact that it's read by Will Wheaton - it's a little clunky when read out loud. The first dialog between the main characters has so many lines of "xxx" he said, "xxx" she said, "xxxx" he said, "xxxx" she said, that my husband made me turn it off. I may end up getting the kindle version instead because the story itself sounds great.

  19. I'm not sure if these have been mentioned before put they're favorites of mine worth sharing.

    The Parasol Protectorate is a five book series by Gail Carriger. A little more adult than young adult but hilariously written with very interesting twists on the vampire/werewolf/ghost thing. Plus my artsy focused brain was actually able to keep up with the occasional science bit. Woohoo!

    If you enjoy mythology outside of the ever popular Greek pantheon, The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne are a highly entertaining jaunt among the Celts, Norse, and other deities. Four books are currently available with book 5 set to release in late November.

    I have a bookshelf full of recommendations but I'll leave it at those two series for now. Happy reading, all!

  20. I just read one I think you'd like: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. It's a dystopian/sci-fi/mildly steampunkish version od Jane Austen's Persuasion. Really well written, I thought (I'm sure the plot guidance offered by the original didn't hurt).

    Also, Night Circus was terrific! I've recommended it to several YA readers.


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