Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Martian Book Review

The_Martian_2014If I had to limit this book review to one word, it would be HILARIOUS. I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard or so often while reading. But, thankfully the internet does not limit our opinions and encourages us to ramble.

Things I Loved:

  • The story. Its unique, fun, and intriguing.
  • The suspense is constant and lasts until the very end. 
  • The intelligence mixed with imagination. Andy Weir’s mix of talents and interests is not common. The amount of scientific research that must be behind this novel is overwhelming to think about. His ability to balance humor, suspense, science, plot, and character is exceptional. v58E6SgE
  • Mark Watney. He’s hilarious, light-hearted, optimistic, vulnerable, tough, smart, resourceful, independent. He laughs at himself, makes 3rd-grade boobie jokes with the whole world watching him, figures out a way to grow food on a planet where nothing grows, and sometimes despises the little amount of help he actually receives. In literary terms, he is round.
  • The story behind the story. The Martian was originally self-published in 2011, then Crown Publishing bought the rights in 2014 and now in 2015, the story is being made into a major motion picture!
  • The first chapter immediately hooks the reader. I don’t know how anyone could read the first page and not want to buy this book! Future blog post to come on this topic! If Weir even tried to publish through normal channels in 2011, I’m shocked someone didn’t pick it up based on the first chapter alone!
  • Puns.  A novel about a man left alone on Mars is territory that has never before been explored.

Things That Bored Me:

Maybe the title is a little harsh, but there were certainly moments I was glad to be listening to The Martian on audiobook so I could fade away for a bit.

  • The science was too much at times, very necessary, but sometimes boring and over my head. I’m sure science geeks loved it!
  • Predictable. Three-fourths of the way through the novel, I felt like the same thing kept happening over and over. Watney found himself in a horrible, life-threatening situation and then he worked his way out of it with scientific creativity. The hurdles he had to jump over were very unique, but I began to loose the intensity of the danger because he was always turning out okay.
    • At one point I told two coworkers that I hoped Watney would die, simply because I wanted to be surprised. Both of their jaws dropped and several wide-eyed seconds of silence followed.

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4.5…maybe 5 Stars

I loved the novel and will recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest. I’m not a science person, yet I loved it. The humor alone is worth the read! And I look forward to going to the movie this weekend!

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Zoo Book Review

zooI haven’t read many James Patterson novels but whenever I do, I learn something new. His books are intelligent and thought-provoking. Zoo is no exception. Its filled with facts about animal behavior and zoology and it will force you to take a second look at how the actions of humans are effecting our environment.

Plot and Timeline

Animals all over the world start attacking human beings, literally turning the world into a zoo. This James Patterson novel, which has recently been adapted into a TV series on CBS, is a short but thrilling novel.

The novel begins in a very detailed, day-by-day structure. Fast-paced and action packed. Animals escape from a zoo in LA, lions attack and kill entire villages in Africa, loving pets turn into vicious monsters, attacking the same people they have lived with for years.

Then halfway through the novel the plot suddenly jumps ahead 5 years. Patterson explains that not much development of the animal epidemic happens during those 5 years, but a lot has happened with our main character. He has fallen in love, got married, and had a son.

Although this 5-year jump makes a lot of sense for the plot, I don’t like it from a character perspective. Falling in love and becoming a father can completely change a person and I didn’t feel like those changes got the attention they deserved. Zoo is definitely a plot-based action novel but a novel will never feel complete without a solid, realistic character in my eyes.

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Writing

Smooth, descriptive writing makes Zoo an easy read. Here is an example of a memorable character description.

“The big boisterous fool is squatting against the truck of a tree, wheezing like a concertina from the exertion of the morning’s uphill march. Kahlil is fat as a swine and smokes like a broken truck. And as slow moving as sap in January.”

TV Show

I have watched the first few episodes of Zoo on CBS and think the show is interesting but I don’t expect it to get renewed for a second season.

I would recommend the TV show over the book, but neither are at the top of my list.

Overall

2.5 stars. A good action-based thriller. The exact kind of novel that makes a best-seller list, as this surely did, but it lacked character development.

Writing Prompt based on The Martian

Here’s a Monday morning writing prompt to get your week started off right! 

Based on The Martian

Create a story outline (or heck, write the whole thing!) about a character exploring territory that has never before been touched by humans. 

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All the Light We Cannot See Book Review

all-the-light-we-cannot-seeThe Washington Post book review praises All the Light We Cannot See to the extreme, stating it is “enthrallingly told, beautifully written and so emotionally plangent that some passages bring tears..” The Post’s review also describes “unbearable suspense.”

I wish I felt the same way, and apparently many people do because it spent 58 weeks on the best-sellers list, won the Pulitzer Prize, and the Andrew Carnegie Prize for fiction.

Too Slow

Unfortunately, I thought the novel moved too slow. 530 pages of slow.

I didn’t feel the strong emotions described in the Washington Post book review and suspense did not exist for me. Although the writing and the characters were enthralling, the story as a whole fell flat for me.

Writing

Anthony Doerr has an exceptional ability to turn a phrase. His writing, descriptions in particular, are extraordinary.

Because one of the main characters is blind, Doerr is forced to use the other senses to describe was she experiences. This inspired some truly great and unique descriptions.

Read my previous post, Sounds and Smells from All The Light We Cannot See, for more quotes. Here are my favorites:

“From outside comes a light tinkling, fragments of glass, perhaps, falling into the streets. It sounds both beautiful and strange, as though gemstones were raining from the sky.”

“Madame Ruelle, the baker’s wife–a pretty-voiced woman who smells mostly of yeast but also sometimes of face powder or the sweet perfume of sliced apples–…”

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Does this picture trigger your sense of smell?

Characters and Setting

The characters were round, interesting, and memorable. The differing characters worked beautifully to tell different sides of the story.

I became fond of both of the main characters, a blind girl in France and a teenage boy in Germany. Even though they were opponents, fighting for different sides of the war, I wanted the best for both of them. I believed both of them were good people caught in a horrible situation, and that always makes for a good story. 

Historical Fiction is no where near my favorite genre but I did enjoy the realistic, foreign setting and the 1930s/40s time period. I enjoy learning while reading fiction. 

Overall

3 stars. Beautiful descriptions, lovely characters, but the story was just too darn slow for me.

Sounds and Smells in All the Light We Cannot See + Writing Prompts

all-the-light-we-cannot-seeIts always a bit of a challenge to include all 5 senses in my writing. Personally, I am always heavy on sight and slacking in taste, scent, and sound. Even with that knowledge of myself, the senses still slip my mind when I’m writing.

All the Light We Cannot See has opened my ears in a way no other fiction has. One of the main characters is deaf, forcing the author, Anthony Doerr, to rely on the other senses for description. Instead of physical features to describe a character, Doerr describes the quality of their voice or their typical scent.

Read a few quotes from the book and then challenge yourself with the writing prompts below!

Smell Quotes

“Madame Ruelle, the baker’s wife–a pretty-voiced woman who smells mostly of yeast but also sometimes of face powder or the sweet perfume of sliced apples–…”

“They smell of stale bread, of stuffy living rooms crammed with dark titanic Breton furnishings.”

“The cross a seething thoroughfare, then go up an alley that smells like a muddy ditch.”

Sound Quotes

“Always there is the muted rattling of her father’s tools inside his rucksack and the distant and incessant honking of automobile horns.”

“From outside comes a light tinkling, fragments of glass, perhaps, falling into the streets. It sounds both beautiful and strange, as though gemstones were raining from the sky.”

“Marie-Laure hears the fsst of her father lighting another match.”

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Writing Prompts

2) Write a few sentences including as many senses as possible. Sight. Sound. Smell. Touch. Taste.

My Examples:

With an ice cold glass of bitter lemonade freezing my hand, I close my eyes, sink into the cushioned lawn chair, and smell my neighbor’s freshly-washed bedsheets that look like ghosts unafraid of the sun.

I scrape the heels of my once-white tennis shoes along the pavement, sending echoes of clattering pebbles up and down the dark, rancid alley.

The musty closet smell that lingered around her like smoke didn’t help her olive-corduroy-and-faded-t-shirt look that alone made me want to gag on my first bite of grilled cheese.

As piano music drifted into the room from somewhere far, far away, he took in the shine of her lipgloss that tasted like cheery pie, the familiar scent of a perfume he would never know the name of, and ran his finger along the thin scar on her wrist.

2) Create a character description using NO visuals.

My Example:

I kept my eyes focused on the book in my lap as I heard the whisper of swishing pant legs and the quiet crunch of shoes on gravel approaching. My bench gave a gentle jerk as the stranger sat on the bench back to back with mine. Deep, soft grunts accompanied the thud of a dropped bag on the ground and the sinking into the bench. The stench that followed sent a lump into my throat that I forced back down with a swallow. I held my breath until I was able to open my mouth again, refusing to breath through my nose. When I was in high school, my dad bought brussels sprouts in attempt to add variety to our diet; they sat in the back of the fridge for weeks until my friends and I decided to fill a pizza box with the most disgusting things we could find and leave it on a friends doorstep as we rang their bell and ran. The smell of the rotten brussels sprouts and the green face of my friend as she opened the pizza box has never left my mind. I have never smelled anything as horrid as those rotten brussels sprouts but the stranger who sat on the bench behind me came in a close second. As I continued to read my book, the smell became palpable; I began to breath through my nose again because the stench began settling on my tongue with a texture like honey. As the sun beat down on our shoulders, the stranger began to snore. Quick, growling snores that came irregularly and without warning. I slipped my book into my canvas bag and rose from the bench, trying and failing not to look over my shoulder as I walked away.

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