The Martian

I first heard about The Martian about two years ago when a friend of mine downloaded the audiobook. He was raving about it at a party, and it sounded like the nerdiest thing ever. So of course I was intrigued! But…while I love space and science…books about it are not my strongest subject, and it sounded like this one had a LOT of math.

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And so I put it off. Every once in awhile I’d here someone mention it, but it kind of fell to the background of my TBR.

Until they announced the movie. As things usually go–whenever a book is being made into a movie, the book is an immediate hit, even if it wasn’t originally. And WOW has The Martian been a hit. EVERYONE is reading it now, and so up it went to the top of my TBR! It was even one of the books AdultBooklr read for August…so I just barely made it in.

Again, just like with Armada, I got super lucky and got this one from Blogging for Books. (Seriously guys, if you have a book blog, sign yourself up for Klout and try to get on with them. Fantastic site.) I literally jumped for joy when I saw The Martian was available, because I’ve been waiting for three months for the hold list at the library. Now it’s mine. Yay!

Almost everyone knows about this one by now, but short summary, just in case–Mark Watney gets injured in a massive dust storm on Mars, and his team, thinking he has died, leaves him when they escape to safety. When he comes to and finds himself alone, he formulates a plan to get stay alive until the next Ares mission…4 years in the future.

I was right about the math and the science. There is a LOT of math and science. But, it doesn’t really overwhelm the story, unless you are super into that sort of thing (which I am not). I just took it at face value and moved on. Instead, what moves the plot is the snark and sarcasm that Watney provides through the log-based storyline.

And guys, there is SO.MUCH.SNARK. It’s amazingly fantastic. Aside from him being obviously above my intelligence level, I would love to have a beer with this guy. I feel like we would be friends on snarkiness alone.

This is a book where a man is alone on a foreign planet for a year and a half and has no one to talk to but himself. But there is nothing boring about it. Andy Weir has encased so much emotion and action and hilarity into such a small, sand-encrusted space–I would never have expected it to be this good. By the end, I was so invested that I was basically screaming on the AdultBooklr chat. I was ready to throw the book at the wall. I promise, you will be so invested in this by the last 10 pages, that you will completely understand what I mean.

Two random, funny thoughts that I had before I go:

  1. I couldn’t stop reading this book in Hank Green’s voice. I think I’ve listened to too many Dear Hank & John Podcasts with “News From Mars.” Every single Log was read in Hank’s unique cadence.
  2. I’d be interested to know how many terrorist watch lists Andy Weir was on while researching this book, or if he had to get special permission to do certain research. I mean, Plutonium as a heat source is a major part of the story…that isn’t something you can just google…right? I’m not going to try it to find out.

 

If you haven’t read The Martian, move it to the top of your list immediately. DO IT NOW.

 

Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

 

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Armada

There’s no getting around it. I am a HUGE geek. We all know this. Ready Player One appealed to that part of me 100%. It was such a fantastic first book for Ernest Cline that everyone I know has been talking nonstop about the release of his second book, Armada. It’s been one of the loudest releases I’ve seen in recent history–maybe because it not only spanned Booklr, but also most of Nerddom.

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I knew I wasn’t going to be able to wait to get my hands on this one. No way. And, as luck would have it, I didn’t even have to buy it. The wonderful folks at Blogging for Books put it on their list of availables. Thank you BfB! This is certainly one of the most beautiful books I will have in my collection this year (the only one beating it is the Bloomsbury UK Harry Potter Collection, and well…nothing is going to top that). I couldn’t wait to tear into this thing.

And then I started seeing the reviews. The very lackluster, unenthusiastic reviews.

Oh no.

Oh…no…

Maybe it’ll be ok. Maybe it’s just because Ready Player One was just SO good, this sophomore book isn’t quite living up to that standard. I’ll try to keep an open mind and go into it not comparing it to the first.

I quickly learned that 1) It’s impossible to not compare it to Ready Player One. and 2)…

…I really want to just post this as my review and walk away:

But, I owe you more than that. So brace yourselves.

The key difference between the two books, is that in RP1, you’re actually in the game, you’re living the action. It’s extremely dynamic and you can almost feel the bright color and warmth of the digital world. But Armada isn’t like that. It’s just a sad, ambitionless, video game obsessed high school kid stuck in front of a screen. It’s not dynamic. There’s no action. Picture yourself on a hot, summer Saturday, laid out on your buddy’s bed eating Cheetos while he plays XBOX for hours…and you watch with nothing to do. That’s about what this book is like compared to RP1.

Sounds fun, right? Yeah, I almost didn’t make it past the first 40 pages because of that. To be honest, the only reason I kept going, was because on page 45, Ernest Cline made a Leeroy Jenkins reference that finally made me laugh.

The good news–the plot does strengthen after awhile. A bit. There’s a super secret government agency tasked to save the world from an alien invasion, and has been training the world’s teenagers to fight via video games. It’s now finally time for the war to begin.

(What I found really amusing in all this is that I’m pretty sure I had a few of these exact conspiracy conversations with my ex and his friends. Even more amusing…that’s where my love of the Leeroy Jenkins meme came from.)

Maybe it’s just too soon after RP1, or maybe RP1 was just that great–but Armada just seems forced. My head was ready to explode from all the space game references that were packed in like Skywalker twins in a trash compactor. It reads like a publisher said, “Quick! We need another book!” And Cline ran off with all of this geeky obsessionness and just threw together every space reference he had. It was that first, plot second, character development last. Don’t get me wrong, I love geeky obsessions, but we need more plot points and sentence structure, before being bombarded by lasers.

I had a conversation with a new friend of mine the other night about books with unlikely characters, or unbelievable plots, and how they will ruin a book. Now, I read a lot of fantasy and some science fiction. My mind is stretchable, I have quite a big imagination. Whether I believe in aliens or not, it is the author’s job to MAKE me believe in his aliens for the span of 300 pages. In RP1, Ernest Cline made me believe that I was inside of a computerized AI system. Unfortunately, his sophomore book fell way short of that. In his epilogue, his narrator says, “This human understands enough to know when he’s being messed with.” And that is exactly how I felt the entire time I was reading Armada. I could not suspend my disbelief, and so the book never resonated with me. And when the end hit, well, it’s just a good thing the book is so pretty, or there would be a dent in the wall.

Also…understand that I’m sitting here cringing because this is probably one of my most brutal reviews given to someone still living. I’m not sure I could have done it if he wouldn’t have written such a strong first book. I’m just so disappointed in this second book…and I don’t think I’m the only one. Ernest Cline, if you’re out there…keep writing. Keep being your damn geeky self, and bring us more! We will wait!

Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

Fear Nothing

Wow I am just on a roll here, aren’t I? My friends from the Adult Booklr Chat have been talking about book slumps and how they can’t find anything interesting to read…and I sure hope they aren’t rubbing off on me!

Another mediocre book, dammit. This was one that we had on our shelves. I’m not sure who’s collection it came from, but it’s one we’ve had since we got together. I’ve not read much from Dean Koontz–I think one of his Odd Thomas collection, but that was years and years ago. People have told me I’d like him, due to my love affair with the edge of my seat.

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Fear Nothing just didn’t do much for me. I felt like it was a story I had heard before–genetics experiment gone wrong and ruins town. Scientists destroy themselves and try to cover up the evidence.

I did like the main character, Chris Snow, or Snowman, a young man with a rare genetic disorder who recently lost both of his parents and is stuck living in the dark. However, I feel that the backstory is insufficiently built. I think we need a prologue maybe–something where his other introduces Orson, his beloved, but slightly extraordinary, black lab. Or perhaps the day she has her accident. SOMETHING to lead up to what is happening in the down. I just feel that is severely lacking and may help to provide some OOMPH to the plot.

Hopefully I can find something interesting in the next one. Please don’t let this be a slump! Not during Readathon Week!

Ready Player One

My husband and I are both geeks in our own rights, but we don’t geek in the same way. I am books, he is movies. I grew up in the 90s, and he is all 80s. Needless to say, our references just do not match up most of the time. We do a lot of side cocked glances at each other.

Every other day there is another movie he is referencing, then despairing because I have not seen it. Not only was I not born for most of his favorites–I also grew up in an all girl house, so even the 90s movies I really didn’t watch. We watched Disney movies and chick flicks, instead of the cult/geek classics.

However, my love of all things geek pushes me to absorb as much pop culture as possible. And so, the longer we are together, the more of his movies I am taking in. I watched the Ghostbusters a few weeks ago, that was interesting. Jurassic Park happened for obvious reasons (mmmm Jeff Goldblum). Jaws is next on the list. The references are coming!

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I need to get him to read Ready Player One. This is exactly the kind of book R would love. It has every single 80s reference imaginable–movies, music, games–ESPECIALLY games. The whole thing is set in a futuristic MMO world. I didn’t get most of the references made, but the way everything was set up, I just loved the geek. I understand why this book is making the rounds!

It’s a little Big Brotherish, with the IOI swooping in to take over everything. However, I really liked some of the concepts–especially the online school set up. The enthusiasm of the teachers, and the technology-based curriculum just sounded really amazing. One thing I do want to question here though–Parzival’s schooling just kind of drops off. At the beginning he’s worried about the consequences of being expelled, and then after the game starts ramping up, he just stops showing up. There are no repercussions, and no one from school seems to miss him. We just forget that he left in the middle of the school year.

This isn’t the first book I’ve read in this type of MMO situation. I read James Dashner’s The Eye of Minds and was not impressed at all. It had a similar concept–teenage boy hacking/moving around in a computer simulation and trying to beat the evil corporation. Ready Player One, published two years previous, is definitely the stronger book. Maybe it is just more fun, with the gaming concept and geek references. It’s a bit more lighthearted of a YA novel, than Dashner’s conspiracy dystopia. There is definitely a comparison to be drawn though.

Have you read them both? Do you have a preference?

Fairest

With the release of the new Winter cover, and all the controversy that caused yesterday, what a better time to read the 4th book from The Lunar Chronicles.

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I’ll be honest, when I first saw the new cover, I thought WOW! How striking! And someone posted a picture of it on their tablet, and I think the glowing apple and the purply pink color was made for an iPad or Kindle Fire. It looked fierce and really shined on that tablet. However, after I read some of the breakdowns and discussions, I do agree that next to the other four, darker hardcovers, it is going to look weird. It is not as ethereal as the others, and the hand is definitely Levana…not Winter. Which ok–except Levana had her time to shine in Fairest.

So…striking cover for a tablet…just not quite right to mesh with the other books. Ok, assessment over.

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As far as Fairest goes–it was a decent prequel. It did fill in a few of the details from how Levana became the evil witch we know her to be. However, some of it seemed a little too quickly written or edited or something. I had to reread a few parts to see if I had just misunderstood a tense or a phrase or a queue, and it just didn’t quite make sense. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong, other than it just didn’t seem to fit.

One last thing. If you’re looking to start this series, keep in mind that Fairest is a prequel, but do not start there. Start with Cinder. Don’t read this one until after Cress or things won’t quite make sense and you will be spoiled.

 

Fulfills Popsugar #16:  A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet

Cress

So what do you get when you combine Firefly with fairy tales, and add in a bit of Star Wars for flavor?

You get The Lunar Chronicles. Specifically, Cress. 

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The drama really picks up in this third book, and it is so freaking cool. I’m not kidding about the Firefly angle either. So much awesome space nerdness going on–I kept expecting Malcolm and crew to pop up somewhere and cause mischief. Thorne reminds me a lot of Mal, actually.

This is the longest book in the series, but I couldn’t put it down. The crew is running around pretty much nonstop the whole time, so it is very fast-paced. You never know what crazy plan is going to come up next, or what is, of course, going to go wrong with that plan.

Meyer is leading up to the eventual Lunar Wars, so there’s a pretty big cliffhanger at the end of this. I’m interested to see whether Fairest is a continuation/fourth book, or if it’s a prequel, companion book, or how it fits in. I know she’s working on Winter currently as an end to everything. I’ll be reading Fairest in a week or so, so I’ll let you know! (And yes, I could just look it up, but that’s no fun!)

Fulfills PopSugar #32:  A trilogy

Scarlet

There are a lot of series out there who suffer from “Second Book Syndrome.” That sophomore part of the set just always seems to be mundane, usually because it’s a means to the end. The scene was set and characters introduced in the first book, and all the major drama and climaxes will happen in the third book. But in the second, all of the details are given. This is where all the real meat of the plot happens, and often a lot of the dialogue. Unfortunately, though, this can often make the second book very dull.

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When I started hearing about Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, the most common theme was:  “The second book is better than the first!” “The series just keeps getting better!” “The first book was just ok, but the second book is going to blow you away!”

And then I read Cinder, and loved it. I mean, hello, futuristic badass cyborg Cinderella? Yes, please. So how was Meyer going to top that?!

Oh, only with a gardening pilot Red Riding Hood who falls in love with a secret agent Wolfman. That’s one way of doing it.

If you haven’t read these souped up fairy tales yet, what are you waiting for? I just ordered the whole series (or what I could…the last book hasn’t been published yet), and I am going to gobble them up like breakfast.

 

Fulfills PopSugar #35:  A book set in the future