Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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I saw this book recommended by Regan on YouTube (PersureProject) and didn’t really pay much attention to it, as I am not a huge fan of science fiction. I mean, I have read books in this genre and I quite enjoyed some of them, but I prefer watching the movies (like Star Wars and Star Trek) rather than reading it. Later I found out that there is a movie based on this book and it is coming to TIFF this year, so I, naturally, decided to read the book first. The wait time for the library copy was going to be insane (over 300 holds for about 30 copies), so I bought my own copy at Indigo.

I started reading it and immediately realized two things: a) I was enjoying it way more than I had expected, and b) it is going to be a terrific movie. The book was such an easy read, it was difficult to put it down! I read it in 2 or 3 days.

The main character Mark is one of the members of Ares 3, a Martian expedition, which gets aborted, and he is left behind, as his crew members believe him to be dead. Equipped with only his knowledge (he is an engineer and botanist) and whatever was left by the expedition, he is set to survive on Mars. His main goal is to find a way to let his crew or Earth know that he is still alive. Whether and how he could possibly be saved, considering the fact that the next mission is set to arrive in a couple of years, and the resources at hand were provided only for 30 days is the central point of the book. That and the whole fact that he is stranded on a very unfriendly planet.

This book is mostly narrated in the form of logs made by Mark (that is ,in the first point of view). There are also chapters showing what is happening with the rest of the crew and also the mission centre on Earth. I found Mark’s voice to be very believable and extremely funny. The book is filled with astronomy, physics and chemistry stuff which made me, as an absolutely not scientific type, a bit confused at times, as it was hard for me to visualize some of the things that Mark was talking about (like an oxygenator). I think it all will be way easier to comprehend on screen.

I watched the trailer, by the way, and it looks very grand and epic and very Hollywood style. The book is not like that. It is way more personal, way less glamorous, so I would really suggest that you read the book first. I also have a feeling that they will make the movie way more dramatic, than the book itself. There is drama, don’t get me wrong, but the way people deal with it, out of necessity and/or due to their character (like Mark), was way more lighthearted than one could think giving the circumstances.

The book is a celebration of human mind, resourcefulness and will to live. There is a very true to the point paragraph at the end of the book (which is actually used in the trailer, so, spoiler alert) that says that people are always willing to get together for a cause and help each other. I think it is very true and it is part of human nature. We just sometimes forget about it.

It is a funny and touching book and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

August TBR // July 31, 2015

So here is my TBR list for August! Some of these books I have already started reading, so I am hoping that I will get through this list no problem:

  • Andy Weir “The Martian” (I bought this book 2 days ago and I am already half through it! The movie based on this book is premiering at TIFF in September this year and I am SO pumped to see it!)
  • Charles Bukowski “Absence of The Hero: Uncollected Stories and Essays Vol.2 1946-1992” (I got it from the library and I have read the half of the book although I admit that it is a slow progress, as I do not enjoy it as much as vol.1.)
  • Margaret Atwood “Moral Disorder And Other Stories” (I had it on my July TBR and I didn’t read it, so I am adding it again)
  • Maggie Stiefvater “Shiver” (I plan to start this series in August)
  • John Green “The Fault in Our Stars” (I haven’t seen the movie and I don’t think I would, so I’d rather read the book)
  • Vera Brosgol “Anya’s Ghost” (I saw it mentioned on booktube and got it from the library; it is a graphic novel)
  • Andrew Smith “Grasshopper Jungle” (It was recommened by Regan at “peruseproject” on YouTube and it sounds fantastic, so I am really excited about reading it – also a library book)

In July I got 4 ARCs from the authors on GoodReads (one is a hard copy with a gorgeous cover, and three are ebooks). I started one of ebooks and I really like it so far. I hope I will finish it as well in August.

Seeing as it is the last day of July and I am already half way through two of the books on my list, I have very high hopes for this month! I am trying to balance the types of genres I am reading, so I have YA, fantasy, contemporary, a graphic novel, a collection of short stories, sci-fi and a dystopia. I am VERY excited! 😀

p.s. I need to stop buying books. And stop requesting books at the library too.

 

July Wrap Up // July 31, 2015

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Here is the list of the books that I read in July*:

  • Veronica Roth “Insurgent”, “Allegiant”, “Four” (my review)
  • Malinda Lo “Asha” (my review)
  • Charles Bukowski “Portions from a Wine-Stained Notebook: Uncollected Stories and Essays, 19-44-1990” (it was a library book and sadly I returned it before I took this photo, but it was in my July TBR photo)
  • Jamie Meadows “Against the Odds” (ebook, finished in July)

*I don’t know why I added James’ book to the pile – I finished it in late June… Oops.

My target was to read 5 books in July, which I did, although I didn’t get to reading Margaret Atwood’s books and swapped them for the rest of the Divergent series.

Overall, I am quite happy with myself! I am back on track and I am reading writing reviews! Yay!

August TBR to follow.

Book Review: The Divergent Series // July 29, 2015

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I have been meaning to read Divergent series for years. Never came around to it until last year. Everyone was very hyped about upcoming Insurgent movie and I really wanted to read the books first, so I got Divergent from the library.

I knew next to nothing about the series, except for a) it was a very popular YA series, b) it was a dystopian series, c) the main protagonist was female. I guess, I am extremely lucky not have been spoiled the ending of the series, as it would have been quite easy, as it seems that by the time I picked up the books, everyone had already read them.

I was a bit hesitant to buy the books, so I got the copies of Divergent and Insurgent from the library, but I did end up buying all four books. I admit that Allegiant and Four covers are my favourite. They are so gorgeous!

Now onto the books themselves.

Divergent

I was surprised the that book was written in first point of view and in present tense. Immediately I started comparing the writing style to Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” (which is for me an epitome of literary craftsmanship when it comes to first POV, present tense), which was not a good thing. I felt that the writing was sort of plain, although I was intrigued by the society structure and Tris’ hunt for self-identification.

It was hard for me to believe that a girl would be able to build muscles and become so physically strong in such a short time. Or so fearless. But Tris is a badass and I loved it.

Only by the end of the book I got really engaged and the ending was so good that I wanted to get into Insurgent right away. I got it from the library, then was distracted and didn’t finish the book on time. I couldn’t extend it as it was on the waiting list, so I had to return it, then I ordered it again.

It happened twice and the waiting between those times sort of killed my thrill. Then I went into a huge slump, during which I didn’t really read anything at all.

Insurgent

Six (or so) months later, this July, I finally got ahold of Insurgent again. It was a mistake not to re-read Divergent first, and I regretted it several times while reading Insurgent, as I almost forgot the names of secondary characters, and it made reading a bit confusing.

I think Insurgent is my least favourite book in the series. Tris is suffering from a PTSD and a huge amount of guilt. She is unstable and it is reflected in the writing as the narrative constantly jumps from one thing into another, some scenes are so short they are barely a couple of pages long. It is all jumbled and the relationship between Tris and Tobias is suffering too. Throughout the book I kept thinking, just get into one room together and talk, goddammit!

(Another thing that I kept thinking about while reading it was how come Tris never developed an infection, seeing as she carried a wound for the whole book and it was not really being taken cared of properly. No need to mention, she barely slept or ate. At that point Tris was almost like a superhuman.)

One of my greatest pet peeves was that the author kept killing of secondary characters, pretty much like flies! It was hard to keep track of everything, who was related to whom, who was in love with who, and who was a transfer from which faction.

There was a couple of nice twists in the storyline, and the ending completely made up for any drawbacks in style or plot. I basically marathoned the second half of the book in one day, and I wanted Allegiant RIGHT NOW.

So I went and bought the whole series – all four books.

Allegiant

I read the first 3 pages of Allegiant and had to put it down. I was not ready and very surprised to see that the narration of the book was split into two points of view – Tris’ and Tobias’. I was not ready for Tobias’ point of view. I was very concerned about how he perceives everything that Tris does. When I was reading Divergent, I couldn’t really understand WHY he felt attracted to her. And Insurgent he kept supporting her and loving her, in spite of everything she’s done, all the lies and heading into danger. (I am not saying Tobias is without a fault, but you know what I mean).

I was really relieved to see that Tobias is as genuine and gentle as he was portrayed through Tris’ eyes. I really enjoyed reading chapters written in Tobias’ point of view. Sometimes even more than Tris’, as they gave an amazing perspective into a lot of things that I was only guessing before.

The writing style in Allegiant is way better than in the previous books. It is more consistent, the narrative is more paced. It is obvious that after the first two books Veronica Roth really grew as a writer. Overall, it was a way more pleasurable read than the first two.

The ending. Oh my god, the ending! I am not going to say anything, except for it is an epic ending, the one that I applaud Veronica for – because you need guts as a writer to pull something like that off! I feel that this ending is the reason for the lower ratings of this book on GoodReads. Which sort of makes sense in my head, as undoubtedly the hardcore fans expected something different. But for me it was a very real and fitting, albeit very unpredictable, ending. And I am okay with this ending. I am very okay with it!

There are some paragraphs at the end, which are very philosophical and very touching.

Sadly, some of my favourite characters didn’t survive this book, but I am still happy to see that my absolutely favourite made it out alive.

To me the ending, the way it is, does not diminish anything that has happened in the series before it. On the other hand, it is what life is. It is the most realistic and the most believable ending. Do I wish for a different ending? Yes, in a way. Would I change this ending if I had a power to do so? Probably, no.

I was experiencing an Allegiant withdrawal, so even though I wanted to wait and pace myself out a bit, I picked up the last book, the collection of stories, right away.

Four

I loved this book. It gives a very interesting point of view on major things that happened in Divergent book, that is being the attack on Abnegation faction, the initiation process and training, all those things that happened with Tris during it. I found it very fascinating to read the same scenes but from Tobias’ perspective. The collection consists of 4 stories, two of which took place before Tobias met Tris, and two – after that. There were also extra scenes from Divergent book told from Tobias’ POV.

After reading this collection some things that happened in Divergent are making way more sense to me now (and some things mentioned in Insurgent and Allegiant too)! Now I am overwhelmed by the want to re-read Divergent, which I probably won’t do so soon after finishing the series, but I am looking forward to watching the movies!

Tobias is my favourite character from the books, so I couldn’t have asked for the better finish of the series.

And More Books! // July 23, 2015

And this is exactly why I should not be allowed into book stores.  Bought three more books this week. Which means that I bought, hmm, about 30 books this month? THAT’S INSANE. (My only excuse is that all of them were on sale/cheap.)

June/July Book Haul // July 19, 2015

I have been buying books like crazy for the past 3 days (and also the past few weeks). Mostly because some of them were on sale, then Indigo had this 2 books for $15 promotion.

I decided to put together all the books I bought within past month (starting from late June) because I have been posting pictures of them rather randomly. And when I did, I was shocked. I bought a total of 26 books! I clearly have a problem.

June purchases:

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I mentioned those books before, but I don’t think I posted the pictures of all of them. (Crossed out the ones I’ve already read.)

  • “The Queen of Tearling” by Erika Johansen
  • “Instrumental” by James Rhodes
  • “Shiver”, “Linger” by Maggie Siefvater
  • “Scorpio Races” by Maggie Stiefvater
  • “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson
  • “The Maze Runner” and “The Scorch Trials” by James Dashner

July purchases:

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  • “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard
  • “Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo
  • “Ash” by Malinda Lo
  • “Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • “Notes of a Dirty Old Man” by Charles Bukowski
  • “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir
  • “Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
  • “On Writers and Writing” by Margaret Atwood (non-fiction)
  • “Moral Disorder and other stories” by Margaret Atwood (collection)

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  • “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey”
  • “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
  • “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer
  • “Throne of Glass” by Srah J. Maas
  • “Collected Stories” by Garcia Marqueez
  • “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

Almost all of these books were either on promotion (2 for $15) or I got them from the bargain store.

But today I bought another set of books. Just because I have just finished “Insurgent” and needed to get my hands on “Allegiant” as soon as possible, I got myself all four books.

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  • “Divergent” by Veronica Roth
  • “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth
  • “Allegiant” by Veronica Roth
  • “Four” by Veronica Roth

Also from the bargain store. The books are in mint condition, only the box has some scrapes and tears and it even had a (half-torn) plastic wrap. The books are 100% new and it is a far cry from the state that the library copy of “Insurgent” is. I felt disgusted handling it.

So here we go.  26 books. It’s insane! But I am pumped to be reading them! All in due time though.

Book Review: “Ash” by Malinda Lo

I picked this book at the book store from the shelf marked as “lgbt teens”. I had never heard about this writer, but both the cover (which is pretty) and the blurbs (“Cinderella retold” and “It’s not the fairy tale you remember”) got me curious.  So, I dived into the book with rather high expectations.

The book is said to be a retold story of Cinderella, but to be honest the only connection to the original is in the fact that Ash’s parents die and she has to live with her stepmother and stepsisters who are mean to hear and treat her like a servant, and later she meets the fairy who grants her wishes and she goes to a ball. This is it. These are the all connections. Otherwise the story is quite different.

Sadly, I was a bit disappointed. The book is raw and not in a good way. The style is quoted to be dreamy and enchanting, but it rather cliched and uneven at times jumping from rather trite to more exciting passages. I loved the main character, but often her actions didn’t resonate with me as she seemed to be very confused about what she wanted. I wanted intense emotions and conflict, but sadly the emotions felts washed out to me. I felt that the ending was a bit rushed too (and too easily resolved).

I had an issue with the world building as well. There are several paragraphs at the beginning of the book explaining how there were people who believed in fairy folk and witchcraft/magic and how there were philosophers who thought that it was fiction. Ash’s mother used to be an apprentice to a greenwitch and she believed in fairies, while Ash’s father did not. There was a potential for the conflict between other characters in the book who followed one or another beliefs, but it was really never addressed again in the book (except for few very feeble mentions that didn’t influence the plot whatsoever).

The book is split into two parts: The Fairy and The Huntress. That division didn’t make much sense to me as both the fairy and the huntress are throughout the book. I think the author wanted to mark the role those characters played in Ash’s life, but it was not very reflective in the narrative itself – at least not to the extent that would require it to be marked in the book.

I had a feeling that it was a debut novel (which I confirmed later visiting the author’s page) which would explain the weak narrative and some style blunders. Those small things, like, for example, the mix of theme and rheme (“She wrapped her arms around herself and felt the chill of the early morning.”), and an abundance of colons. Seriously, Malinda has a thing for colons. I don’t mind it. On the contrary, I like when writers use colons and semi-colons. Unfortunately, in “Ash” I found the use of long sentences and colons and semi-colons to be a bit unnecessary. More so, either Malinda (or her editors) are not particularly sure about whether the first word in the clause following the colon should be capitalized or not – I saw both. So let me tell you: it is not necessary because those sentences are connected in meaning.

While reading “Ash” I kept thinking that I really want to give this book at least 4 stars out 5, because the idea was very interesting and I liked the fact that it was not a usual romance, but a queer romance. There are quite interesting fairy tales in it, and overall the book has a lot of potential, which was not realized. It is a very easy read though and it is pretty short, so it may be attractive to some of you.

It is a lgbt young adult book written by a female author (or colour), so I feel that it should be praised just for the diversity of it (I really need more books like that in my life!), but the style didn’t work for me. I am sorry, but I found it hard to fall in love with the story as I was trying to ignore the weak language. I will definitely check out “Huntress” by the same author though, as I have a feeling it will be set in the same world, and I am excited to learn more about the huntresses and their hunt and fairies. I am also hoping that Malinda’s style has improved with years.

This book is a solid 3 out of 5 stars. Wish I could give it more, but alas. If you like fairy tales and if you are not as particular about the writing as I am – check it out. You might love it. I was slightly disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

July TBR, Books // July 2015

I have no shame when it comes to books. Once I start buying, I can’t stop.

Books bought in July: 

  • “Ash” by Malinda Lo
  • “Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • “On Writers and Writing” by Margaret Atwood (non-fiction)
  • “Moral Disorder and other stories” by Margaret Atwood (collection)
  • “Notes of a Dirty Old Man” by Charles Bukowski

July TBR:

  • “Portions from a wine-stained notebook” by Charles Bukowski – collection of short stories and essays (already done, skipped a couple of essays, but the short stories were great)
  • “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth (I have been trying to finish this one since last year; it’s my 3rd attempt)
  • “Moral Disorder and other stories” by Margaret Atwood (collection)
  • “On Writers and Writing” by Margaret Atwood (non-fiction)
  • “Ash” by Malinda Lo (already started)

I admit that I ordered 2 more books online today. This needs to stop.