The Martian ~ Andy Weir

The Martian Buch von Andy Weir portofrei bestellen - Weltbild.de

Date Completed : 8/6/2016
Rating: 8/10

I LOVED The Martian. I had watched the movie and expected the book to be well-written and interesting, but it exceeded my expectations by far. Weir’s use of first person was so beautifully executed, very personable and believable. Mark’s character was so well-rounded.

I don’t know much about space travel or science things, as I believe is true for the general American public. I found myself learning tidbits and renewing my passion for chemistry, a long lost love of mine, even though Mark’s main areas of expertise did not include chemistry.

I found the ending to be much more abrupt than that of the movie. I believe the movie tried to draw out the family component of the tale to give viewers more of an epilogue. In the movie, Mark is seen teaching classes and talking about his experience on Mars. However, this alternate ending is not necessary. The book still felt complete without the additional closure provided in the movie version.

Mark’s sense of humor is priceless and showcased throughout the first person account. “I thought a laptop would be fine outside. It’s just electronics, right? It’ll keep warm enough to operate in the short term, and it doesn’t need air for anything. It died instantly. The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the “L” in LCD stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.” He’s often very sarcastic and dry, but I personally love that style and Weir times this form of humor perfectly, making light of often terrible situations.

Andy Weir works as a software engineer and has been a lifelong space nerd. The Martian was his first novel – amazing! I can’t wait to hear more from him. You can check out his website here.

The Kingdom ~ Fuminori Nakamura

The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakamura, Translated from the Japanese by ...

Date Completed: 8/4/2016
Rating: 4/10

This book was really weird. Probably one of the weirdest books I’ve read. No, definitely one of the weirdest books I’ve read. Yurika takes us on a journey through her life where she works as a freelancer posing as a prostitute to blackmail important men. That isn’t even the strangest bit, because what’s truly strange is the descriptions of the enjoyment she gets out of having power over these powerful men. I feel no sympathy for Yurika because she has no sense of empathy whatsoever, except for perhaps one past relationship that’s a little unclear. She lives alone and has no friends, and eventually she ends up getting blackmailed by two powerful men on two sides of a war, and eventually finds herself trapped in a life or death situation. These two men also have no emotions or empathy. Finally, one of them cuts her a break for no known reason and her life spirals away. There is no real ending, just more psychological thriller and speculation.

Psychological thrillers, as I’ve mentioned before, walk a fine line between making you feel emotions, and making you concerned that another person or thing cares so little about emotions that everyone is in danger. This book didn’t create any emotional investment for me as the reader, nor did I feel like the characters displayed enough emotion to be twisted. They didn’t quite feel real. I think that’s where this book fell short in the end.

Fuminori Nakamura has won several awards and prizes for his books. They have been translated into several languages.

Outlander ~ Diana Gabaldon

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Date Completed: 8/2/2016
Rating: 7/10

This book took me forever to finish. I liked the characters, I liked the romance, I liked the premise, but I didn’t love any of it. And six hundred pages in, it gets a little hard to keep going through a story that you only like, not love. However, after a brief break in which I read five other books, I finished! It was good. I’ll probably read the next one, and maybe even keep reading through the series.

I’ve certainly never read a book like this before. I tend to stick to more realistic stories, memoirs are my favorites after all. I’ve never read a romance novel, and while the romance wasn’t the main plot, it was a big component. For those of you who don’t know the Outlander plot, and for some reason I was among you until a few weeks ago, it’s a time travel story that starts in the 1940s and goes back to the 1700s. It’s weird. I do love a good historical fiction, though, and getting a better idea of Scotland in the 1700s is always a good time. Gabaldon certainly does a good job of exploring language and character traits that would be likely to occur back then, or at least believable to someone who is not a historian.

I really enjoyed that Claire is a medical professional in the 1940’s and also that she is very feminine. When she goes back in time her worth as a doctor increases even more. Her whole character is very feminist; she enjoys her independence, has a solid work ethic, and maintains her femininity – Claire successfully embodies a woman who makes her own choices about how she portrays her gender despite very gendered roles being thrust upon her.

Gabaldon uses time travel effectively to not only combine WWII perspective with 1600s knowledge, but also to create the primary romantic conflict in the story. Without giving anything away, I will say that Gabaldon’s tactic, while at times irking-ly overdiscussed, feels like a very realistic internal dilemma for Claire to face.

This is the first of eight currently written books in the series by Diana Gabaldon. Gabaldon has been writing this series for 25 years and the show finally came out, it’s become pretty popular.

Binge ~ Tyler Oakley

Date Completed: 7/22/2016

Rating: 8/10

I’m not a tried and true Tyler Oakley fan. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever watched one of his videos. I had heard of him before I picked this book up, but I hadn’t developed much of an opinion on him. All that being said, I found I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I loved Oakley’s childhood stories, and stories from his career are hilarious! He also turns out to be a lot more socially conscious than I had expected, which is a welcome surprise when reading books written by men these days.

I liked that his memoir was interspersed with short essays that were, generally speaking, hilarious. His descriptions were outstandingly funny, and I couldn’t help but read several sections out loud to my roommate, who also broke out laughing. His writing is definitely in the same vein as David Sedaris, except he’s much more socially conscious and for that I find his writing even more enjoyable. He knows how to make a joke without it being at the expense of someone else’s identity.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Tyler Oakley, he is a Youtuber, celebrity, comedian, and gay rights activist. I would definitely recommend reading his book, and although I can’t recommend any of his other media presences, I can say that after reading this I’m going to be checking him out for sure. Here’s his book website and of course you can just google him, he’s everywhere.

 

The GrownUp ~ Gillian Flynn

... excerpt from Gillian Flynn's award-winning short story, The Grownup

Date Completed: 7/16/2016

Rating: 5/10

I listened to the e-book audio version, so for starters let me say that I didn’t like the narrator’s voice. I found it grating. I’m not sure if it was the same person who did the voice-over for Orange is the New Black or not, but she makes everyone sound like they don’t know what they’re talking about except the main character, who sounds very blaise about it all.

The story itself was somewhat interesting but also kind of grotesque feeling, like Albert Camus almost, or Reinaldo Arenas, a Cuban novelist/memoir-ist. The main character works at a psychic shop where she starts out giving handjobs in the backroom, which is indeed as strange as it sounds. Flynn goes over that in more detail than I would have liked. Our protagonist eventually works on palm readings, where she continues her blaise description of human nature, comparing and contrasting the similarities between her handjob clients and her palm reading clients. Eventually the story comes to its peak when she meets Susan, a palm reading client who is so filled with grief and fear that she opts to continue palm reading sessions in an effort to fix her problem, which we soon learn involves her son.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what makes Flynn’s writing style good, but the stories she chooses to portray are somewhat sickening while the writing flows through descriptions like water over sand. Flynn’s writing never feels jolting, but the stories that she writes are often full of jolting realizations and obstructions that the characters must overcome in one way or another. This combined with her dark commentary on society is probably what makes her such a popular writer. However, much like how I felt when I read Koch’s The Dinner, I did not ever feel invested in the main character.

Despite this being such a short novella, I actually wasn’t able to finish this book. I think this was due partially to the e-book being returned automatically to the library and partially due to my apathy around the whole story. I was unwilling to spend weeks on hold to finish the last twenty minutes of the audio.

Flynn is most known for her novel Gone Girl, although almost all of her other books are also popular. For more about The Grownup, you can read about it on Flynn’s website.

Tina’s Mouth ~ Keshni Kashyap, illustrated by Mari Araki

Date Completed: 7/12/2016
Rating: 9/10

Yet another excellent book, this graphic novel captivated my creative brain and inspired my own journalistic pursuits, even though it is fictional! At first I thought the cover looked a little too teenager-y for my tastes, but I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of both Araki’s drawings and Kashyap’s story line.

This is the existential comic diary of a girl named Tina, and although she has the usual drama of high school life, Tina’s diary is very thoughtful from this existential point of view. I felt very connected to her goals and desires and rooted for her on every level of my being. I spent a great deal more time going over Camus than Sartre in high school, so it was fun to get a bit of a high schooler’s perspective on Sartre as well.

I again really appreciated the real-life approach to stereotypes and how they affect everyone, including and especially high school age people. Tina’s observations, while not always astute, helped me feel more in tune with the frustration that comes with being racially stereotyped.

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko ~ Scott Stambach

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Date Completed: 7/12/2016
Rating: 7/10

This is an absolute whirlwind of a book! Ivan starts off narrating his rather abject lifestyle in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children, where he has spent the entirety of his short life. Ivan has only one arm and three nubs, and he lives among many other children with much more difficult conditions, many of whom are dying from one thing or another. Being surrounded by dying people all the time, Ivan has developed a very sarcastic-bordering-on-asshole way of talking with everyone else there, but more often than talking he simply fakes comas while in the presence of others. This book had me laughing out loud at every turn, whether from shock or from feeling overwhelmingly appalled at everything that was coming out of Ivan’s mouth.

“There were several moments when my head already decided to give up. But then my mother would show up for a moment to tell me stories of pregnant women lifting cars up off their trapped babies, which inspired me to summon the pissed-off pregnant mother inside of me, who I truly believe lives in all of us.”

Although I found myself growing disinterested and disgusted by Ivan’s cyclical reviews of the other children and his own habits by the end of the first part of the book, the second part of the book quickly turned my mind around and renewed my interest in the characters. In fact, he introduction of Polina into the story proved the best possible decision for Stambach. Polina is everything Ivan lacks in the story, and Ivan’s emotions towards her are what make this story so compelling in the end. My roommate, who I was reading this book aloud to, was even moved to the verge of tears, or at least little whiny sad noises. Ivan was brilliant because at first I hated him and then I loved him so deeply.

“How do you even start a book you know is going to be your last?”

It was great fun to read about what little there was about Belarusian culture. The interjections of Russian and Belarusian words and phrases were also quite enjoyable. I can’t say I’ve ever read a book about a small hidden children’s hospital in Belarus, fictional or not,  and this book took me for a wild ride that I thoroughly enjoyed. I recommend reading it as soon as it’s published in August, as long as you can stomach a little blood and guts.

This is to be Scott Stambach’s first novel, although he’s been published in several literary journals. You can find his website  here. His books will never be the norm, and for that I will keep him in my radar as an author to read again in the future.

I picked up this ARC from my local bookstore Malaprop’s, which exchanges ARC’s free of charge.