The Martian

The Martian
by Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

NOTE: The second book review of the week is a re-share and covers one of my favorite fiction stories! The Martian belongs on the Space theme week as it provides a snapshot of our potential future. It also celebrates the drive for scientific research and the yearn for adventure that propelled the US’ intial space flights. I adore this book. Enjoy!

I admit that I can be a ‘book snob’ because I tend to steer clear of books that become instant hits. You know which books I mean. The novels that, all of a sudden, everyone is talking about. Usually these books just don’t live up to the hype and this is why I avoided reading The Martian for so long.

It was quite stupid because I knew it was my type of book the instant I read the back cover. And yet, I still hesitated! Then I saw the movie trailer and realized that I was just being stubborn. Space exploration and astronomy are favorite subjects of both my dad and my husband (and me!) I’ve watched every documentary and I needed to read The Martian. I purchased my copy the next day and I couldn’t put it down.

The Martian tells the survival story of Mark Watney, a Mars astronaut that is accidentally left behind when his mission is aborted. It is Andy Weir’s debut novel and my favorite novel of the year! I loved the journalistic writing style and the  plot flowed smoothly, keeping me consistently engaged. was great. I enjoy how Weir mixes Watney’s storyline with that of the scientists on Earth, his crew, and the backstory of the equipment. I even enjoyed the science and had no problem understanding the application.

Many might consider the technical and straight-forward writing style too dull but I loved it. I’m a blunt, literal person so I t worked for me. The secondary characters are cookie cutter and underdeveloped but the only one that really annoyed me was Annie, the PR rep. I’m pretty sure Weir can’t stand media people from his descriptions of her. I also doubt Weir will be able to write any other novels in this style with the same level of success. I don’t see him as a one hit wonder but I do hope to continues to grow as a writer and expands his character development skills.

So many reviewers have complained that the book is trying too hard to be funny. I personally loved the corny humor of the novel. Watney’s goofy attempts to lighten the mood kept me reading and for those who wanted to see someone struggling to deal with the trauma of being left on Mars? You got it! Humor is one way many people deal with a bad situation (we all have been to a funeral where one person won’t stop laughing). Read a YA romance novel or modern women’s lit story if you need 300-400 pages of angst and tension. The humor is obviously Watney’s way of coping with the boredom and stress of being stuck alone for over a year. Go back and read the parts where our plucky astronaut is actually dealing with a life or death situation. You’ll realize that he’s not making jokes in the heat of the moment. They come afterwards. Plus, the journal is what Watney wants other people to know. He mentions that MANY times, so it may be a window in to his personality and experience but it’s edited. Sheesh!

I definitely recommend The Martian but I also understand that it might not be the book for everyone. Let me know if you have any questions or please share all the things you love about this story! I can’t wait until October 2nd because I NEED to see this movie!

Lindsay

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The Diamond Formula

The Diamond Formula
by Alina Simone

A possible genius, a smidgen of madness, a twist of science, and an invention that very nearly changed the world—all collide in a giddy, unbelievably true mystery set in turn-of-the-century Paris.

In 1905, inventor Henri Lemoine claimed that he’d uncovered the secret to a coveted alchemy: creating diamonds in a laboratory. It intrigued a host of investors, and it soon made Lemoine an international celebrity. Then he disappeared.

The Diamond Formula is part of Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era, a collection of incredible true stories from the belle epoque, an age of innovation, daring, bluster, and beauty when anything seemed possible. Each piece can be read, listened to, and marveled at in a single sitting.

Amazon’s Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era collection may be my favorite discovery of 2019. It consists of three nonfiction novellas covering the inventions and discoveries of the early 1900s. I listened to the audiobook versions which were an interesting mix of audiobook and podcast. Actually, I often felt as if I was listening to a radio broadcast of the events. I enjoyed the format as a nonfiction lover and I feel it will make nonfiction more accessible for those new to the genre.

The Diamond Formula was the second story I read in the Inventions series; it was also my least favorite. Now, that doesn’t mean this review is going to be negative. I just don’t typically enjoy stories about con-men and that is probably the nicest way to describe Henri Lemoine. I just couldn’t make myself care about his life or the outcome of his actions. And well, it is hard to get past that when the audiobook is only an hour long.

The Diamond Formula discusses the initial attempts to create artificial diamonds and covers the development of the De Beers diamond dynasty. So in this story, readers are exposed to the blood diamond trade, often questionable acquisition techniques used by big business to control the competition, and the implications that basic lying has on the scientific community. So it was kinda a rough read guys. I love how this series doesn’t attempt to lessen the good and bad effects of actions but instead focuses on how this moment in time resulted in eventual positive developments for society/art/science/safety/technology…and Simone does a wonderful job with this. I still struggled with finishing the book in a positive frame of mind.

The good thing is this story reminded me of perusing the gem stone section of Natural History Museums visited in my childhood. Thinking about museums always makes me happy! And The Diamond Formula pushed me to realize there are aspects of history I still need to explore, no matter how tough the content. Read it, and then go dance in the rain just for the sheer joy of doing so.

Lindsay

Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell
by Ashley Weaver

Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim. 

Murder at the Brightwell is a delicious mystery in which murder invades polite society and romance springs in unexpected places. Weaver has penned a debut in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear. 

NOTE: This is the first review for Vacation Mystery Week! It is a re-post from 2017 and I consider Murder at the Brightwell a full length novel. Now for the review…

I discovered Amory Ames through Olive at A Book Olive. (She’s also responsible for introducing me to the Iris Cooper series) She has only great things to say about the Amory Ames mystery series and I was in need of a new historical read featuring a snarky female detective. The first book, Murder at the Brightwell, was the perfect choice for my cruise vacation last March!

Amory is unhappy. She’s bored, and depressed at her rapidly deteriorating marriage to socialite Milo Ames. A welcome distraction arrives with Gil, the fiancé she jilted to marry Milo. Gil begs her to join him on holiday to help persuade his sister from jumping into a bad marriage. Amory agrees to help. She desperately needs an adventure and a chance at a different future. And then someone gets murdered!

I am hooked on Weaver’s Amory Ames series. Our heroine is smart, sharp tongued, and gloriously flawed. I immediately connected with her tendency to overthink everything and her stubborn refusal to backdown from a fight. She begins her investigation with the best intentions, to help a friend, but her quest quickly becomes one of selfish needs as she is desperate to find her own sense of purpose in the world. Thank you Ashley Weaver for not sugar coating Amory’s motives! (Seriously..isn’t this why we mystery lovers enjoy a good whodunnit?!)

I would recommend Murder at the Brightwell just because Amory is so well written. But…all the main characters are just as fantastically developed! The Brightwell Hotel is the perfect setting with its picturesque beach local. And I found myself guessing at the culprit’s identity right up until the big reveal!

Now is Murder at the Brightwell the perfect novel? No. You can tell the historic British story is written by a modern American due to the overall tone. It is what it is. I will also admit to not being a fan of Milo. Don’t take this to mean that he was poorly written because that’s not the case; his personality isn’t one that would mesh with mine. I liked him well enough, just not enough to really root for him to win Amory’s affections. I didn’t really root for Gil either for that fact. I didn’t find the romantic element of the story necessarily engaging. I enjoyed Murder at the Brightwell because of Amory and her murder investigation.

Murder at the Brightwell is the perfect summer read. I definitely recommend the story if you enjoy a strong willed female detective! Let me know if you’re also a fan of Amory Ames!

Lindsay

Running Like a Girl

Running Like a Girl
by Alexandra Heminsley

In her twenties, Alexandra Heminsley spent more time at the bar than she did in pursuit of athletic excellence. When she decided to take up running in her thirties, she had grand hopes for a blissful runner’s high and immediate physical transformation. After eating three slices of toast with honey and spending ninety minutes on iTunes creating the perfect playlist, she hit the streets—and failed miserably. The stories of her first runs turn the common notion that we are all “born to run” on its head—and expose the truth about starting to run: it can be brutal.

Running Like a Girl tells the story of how Alexandra gets beyond the brutal part, makes running a part of her life, and reaps the rewards: not just the obvious things, like weight loss, health, and glowing skin, but self-confidence and immeasurable daily pleasure, along with a new closeness to her father—a marathon runner—and her brother, with whom she ultimately runs her first marathon.

But before that, she has to figure out the logistics of running: the intimidating questions from a young and arrogant sales assistant when she goes to buy her first running shoes, where to get decent bras for the larger bust, how not to freeze or get sunstroke, and what (and when) to eat before a run. She’s figured out what’s important (pockets) and what isn’t (appearance), and more.

For any woman who has ever run, wanted to run, tried to run, or failed to run (even if just around the block), Heminsley’s funny, warm, and motivational personal journey from nonathlete extraordinaire to someone who has completed five marathons is inspiring, entertaining, practical, and fun.

Are you wanting a kick-start to a healthier lifestyle? Are you wanting confirmation that you aren’t alone in those awkward first steps? Are you constantly waiting for next Monday to start on your goals? READ THIS BOOK!

I am trying to run more and dream of eventually completing a marathon. I struggle with maintaining motivation, especially when life gets super stressful or busy. As such, I like to read running books to remind me that I am not alone and that there are others out there who have completed the seemingly impossible. (Feel free to peruse my reviews of How to Lose a Marathon, My Year of Running Dangerously, and Life’s Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow)

I discovered Alexandra Heminsley via an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, The Adventure Sports Podcast. She talked about her running and open water swimming journey during the interview. Her frank honesty had me interested in Running Like a Girl; so I picked up the audiobook. (Sadly Audible doesn’t have the UK version where Heminsley reads her own work but it was still well narrated.)

The format is incredibly easy to follow. The first part of Running Like a Girl details Heminsley’s often hilarious running journey. The second shorter part provides a summary of tips on how to pick shoes, run for charity, and just general running tips. Heminsley’s work is honest. She is bluntly open about her experiences, both the good and the bad. She shares her fears of running in front of people, her horribly demeaning first experience buying running shoes, her elation at successfully wrangling her boobs during runs, and the emotional rollercoaster she experienced during every race.

Heminsley doesn’t sugar coat anything. She openly mocks herself for her stubborn refusal to ask for advice. But she also shares the joy of finding strength and confidence with each completed run. My favorite parts are when she talks about meeting new people while running, and talking to runners who have to overcome great physically difficulties just to run. Her experiences provide a glimpse at a positive perspective most modern adults are too self-centered to realize. 

The few complaints I’ve seen can be summed up under the following topics: Heminsley self-focused narrative, her lack of scientific information on running, and the section on running makeup. Yep. There is a section on running makeup. So I am going to address these one at a time.

1.       The summary of the novel tells readers this is the author’s personal running story. Heminsley is blatantly open about her faults and trying to improve them. She berates herself for her own stubbornness, lack of confidence, and fluctuating emotions. This is her story about learning to run and how to be a better version of herself. Get off your preachy soapbox ya negative Nancys.

2.       There are plenty of books out there on the science of running. Running Like a Girl never pretends to be one. Go pick up Born to Run if that’s what you are looking for.

3.       I don’t really wear makeup but I put on mascara every day. I wear mascara to group workouts. And there is nothing wrong with people using makeup to boost their confidence during a race. She shared what had worked for her just in case someone out there could use the information.

If y’all could only see the eyerolls over here! Also, it should be obvious Running Like a Girl is specifically written for a female audience; however, this book is for anyone who has trepidations towards getting out the door on that first run. Sure, guys probably won’t get much from the section on sports bras, but this definitely isn’t a ‘dude bashing’ story. Heminsley talks about all her supporters, both male and female. The best takeaway for anyone reading this book….you can run; all you need to do is get yourself out the door.

This book is the perfect boost for anyone wanting to run, or tackle any exercise. Heminsley quickly points out that it doesn’t just have to be about losing weight but instead promotes exercise as a way to meet new people, potentially help others, and live your best life. Make today your last ‘I’ll wait until next Monday.” Pick up this story and get a needed kick in the butt to do more with your life. Have a great week and happy reading!

Lindsay

Summer Reading!

Summer is here! And is there really a better way to spend a day at the beach than with a good book?

Here is my Summer reading recommendations. I have read, or am in the process of reading, each book. Let me know if any of these are one your list!

Mystery

Cozy Mystery

Nonfiction

Classic

Pirates

Historical Fiction

Island of the Sequined Love Nun

Island of the Sequined Love Nun

by Christopher Moore

2

Take a wonderfully crazed excursion into the demented heart of a tropical paradise—a world of cargo cults, cannibals, mad scientists, ninjas, and talking fruit bats. Our bumbling hero is Tucker Case, a hopeless geek trapped in a cool guy’s body, who makes a living as a pilot for the Mary Jean Cosmetics Corporation. But when he demolishes his boss’s pink plane during a drunken airborne liaison, Tuck must run for his life from Mary Jean’s goons. Now there’s only one employment opportunity left for him: piloting shady secret missions for an unscrupulous medical missionary and a sexy blond high priestess on the remotest of Micronesian hells. Here is a brazen, ingenious, irreverent, and wickedly funny novel from a modern master of the outrageous.

Here is the setting: I am standing in the airport waiting for my flight on a bleak January evening. The pit of my stomach aches with the unnecessary stress that always accompanies the holidays and, thankfully, the airport bar is open. I shoot a whiny text to my best friend expressing my despair of not having a funny tropical book to get me through family vacation. She’s a gem and readily suggests Island of the Sequined Love Nun. I curse spotty wifi and download the book (I didn’t even read the book blurb) while sitting at the airport bar waiting for a shot of tequila. Guys….it turned out to be the perfect read to pull me out of my grumpy slump!

I am not providing a summary; the one above is perfectly vague and tantalizing. We are just going to jump into the review. I loved it. I mean…WWII flight exploits, Cargo Cults, live nose art, and perfectly detailed flight scenes…is there any question why I enjoyed this story?

drunk independence day GIF

It helps Island of the Sequined Love Nun also provides a complex plot, well developed characters, and tons of laughs. First: the characters are well rounded with each having individual flaws, positive qualities, and obvious personal growth. (Well. Except for the villains; however, they are delightfully crappy). Second: the setting is so effortlessly perfect. One minute you’re reading about Tucker traipsing through the jungle and the next you can taste the island grog and feel a bead of sweet roll its way down your butt crack. Moore is a quirky master of his craft.

HOWEVER….this is definitely the type of book you have to be in a specific mood to read. That is really going to be the only negative comment I have about the story. I mean there is a talking fruit bat and a holy poker game. It’s hilarious; it’s wacky. I picked up Island of the Sequined Love Nun because I desperately needed an easy laugh and it immediately delivered. But, I didn’t finish the book in one reading. I put it down and read something else when I experienced a change in mood. I picked it back up when I was ready to laugh again. And I enjoyed it!

This is the story I would recommend for those needing a funny, laugh-out-loud read to start off a beach vacation. It helped me get through the stress of a family vacation and frustrating time at work. I turned that last page (figuratively since I read it on my Kindle) while at the beach enjoying the perfect Florida spring weather. It was equally enjoyable on a sunny beach and gloomy airport. So read it!

Let me know if you’re a Christopher Moore fan and please share your summer reading list! Happy Reading!

Lindsay

Murder on the Home Front

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries During the London Blitz

by Molly Lefebure

mothf

It is 1941. While the “war of chaos” rages in the skies above London, an unending fight against violence, murder and the criminal underworld continues on the streets below.

One ordinary day, in an ordinary courtroom, forensic pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson asks a keen young journalist to be his secretary. Although the “horrors of secretarial work” don’t appeal to Molly Lefebure, she’s intrigued to know exactly what goes on behind a mortuary door.

Capable and curious, “Miss Molly” quickly becomes indispensable to Dr. Simpson as he meticulously pursues the truth. Accompanying him from somber morgues to London’s most gruesome crime scenes, Molly observes and assists as he uncovers the dark secrets that all murder victims keep.

With a sharp sense of humor and a rebellious spirit, Molly tells her own remarkable true story here with warmth and wit, painting a vivid portrait of wartime London.

Murder of the Home Front is my first nonfiction of 2019! It is also my first book from my 2018 Leftover List. (the full list is on my 2019 Goals post)

Molly Lefebure is working as a journalist when she is approached by famous pathologist C Keith Simpson in a courtroom. He needs assistance and hopes she is willing to be his secretary. Molly has no intention of being stuck behind a desk taking notes but she can’t say no to the chance of working in the mortuary. Murder on the Home Front is Molly’s account of her years working as CKS’ secretary during World War II.

First, my negative comments. It took me over five months to finish Murder on the Home Front! I typically breeze through audiobooks, but the narrator’s voice was just a tad too lilting for my taste. It still took me a solid third of the book to become invested in Molly’s life primarily because of the high-brow tone of the audio. The layout of the story didn’t help either. The individual stories are presented in a quick sequential orderand they read like mini-chapters within each chapter. This style is awesome for the amount of information presented but these easy stopping points meant I stopped. Frequently.

That’s it for my personal negative thoughts but I noticed some reoccurring complaints from other reviewers and decided to address them too. First: readers need to remember the book was initially published in the mid-50s. I love the tone because it is written from Molly’s youthful view. Her memories haven’t been influenced by subsequent decades of life and life lessons. However, many people considered her flighty because of her nonchalant tone. Look. She is writing about her job; it’s an amazingly cool job but still just a job. She talks about her days the same way any of us would talk about our boring jobs. Second: many people claim Molly comes across as victim blaming. I feel it’s a personal choice to read this view point into Murder on the Home Front. Look, Molly bluntly states that people wouldn’t have been murdered if they hadn’t been wandering around dark streets alone at night or spending time with violent people. That’s true. Her approach is very factual and somewhat devoid of sympathy for the people laying on CKS’ table. Come on true crime fans….you should know this the typical reaction of people who handle this gruesome stuff on a regular basis. 🙄

Murder on the Home Front is an interesting read. I liked Molly. She is a smart, strong willed, confident woman who quickly adapted to her somewhat gruesome position. Her story gives a lighthearted approach to post mortem examinations, a unique view of wartime London, and a personable experience with the changing social roles of the 1940s. Murder on the Home Front needs to be on every true crime buff’s TBR. It’s a fantastic work detailing the ‘back office’ aspect of investigations and the implementation of forensics.

Let me know what you think and happy reading!

Lindsay

Dress Her in Indigo

Dress Her in Indigo

by John D MacDonald

3

A wealthy old man laid up in the hospital is desperate to understand the last months of his daughter’s life before she was killed in a car crash in Mexico. It was puzzling. She’d cleaned out her considerable bank account, left Miami and hadn’t been heard from again. Travis McGee ventures into the steep hills and strange backwoods of Oaxaca through a bizarre world of dropouts, drug freaks, and kinky rich people–and begins to suspect the beautiful girl’s death was no accident….

I have spent most of this year reading books that have a beachy/tropical setting in an attempt to enjoy the miserably cold Florida winter (yes I know it is now spring. I’m behind). Tropical setting plus a thrilling mystery always equals a Travis Magee novel! I am slowly collecting the series thanks to my local book store and I picked up Dress Her in Indigo as it had Travis and Meyer traipsing across Mexico.

Whew.

season 2 ugh GIF by IFC

Don’t get me wrong; I loved it. I love every Travis Magee novel, but Dress Her in Indigo was a tough read. Let’s go ahead and get the Spoilers/Trigger Warning out of the way. Be prepared for extensive descriptions of substance and sexual abuse. Nothing is sugar coated (in typical JDM fashion) but you don’t have to worry about gratuitous gore. It is what it is and that is exactly how JDM lays it down on the page. Dress Her in Indigo does not have a happy ending; it ends the only way it can. Just…whew. End of Spoilers.

Meyer and Magee are hired to go to Mexico and discover the details of a lost life. An old friend of Meyer’s has recently buried his daughter and wishes to know how she lived while in Mexico. Travis knows that nothing good will come this venture but Meyer insists on doing the favor for a friend. This scene between the three men introduced me to my favorite quote:

“But don’t fault him. He believes he is really in the midst of life and always has been. He doesn’t know any better, because he’s never known anything else. What a limited man believes is emotional reality is indeed his emotional reality.” Meyer (John D MacDonald)

So, Travis takes this job against his better judgement and heads south with Meyer. What follows is a twisted tale of drugs, hard living, and the loss of innocence. It was an amazing story; it was a rough story.

I don’t want my promise of a rough time to dissuade you from reading Dress Her in Indigo. The novel was initially published in 1969 and tackles a number of social issues. Unsurprisingly, JDM’s opinions/suggestions are just as applicable today. He discussed the lack of communication between the young and old, the stark contrast of the materialistic and idealistic, the difference between sexual conquest and intimacy, and the affects of war and violence on mental health. He takes a very candid approach on the struggles of those with same sex sexual orientation (remember it was published in 1969). But most importantly, Dress Her in Indigo highlights the loss of innocence and how to adjust to a new reality.

I especially enjoyed the aforementioned quote because it hit me at the right time in my life. I needed to read that statement. I needed to know that some people are incapable of understanding a life outside their own small reality. To understand this isn’t necessarily because they are mentally incapable of such a feat (though that can be the case) but often they have no idea there is so much more out there.

Do I suggest Dress Her in Indigo? Yup. But like all John D MacDonald books…that recommendation comes with a caveat. This book is going to make you think. It’s going to make you cringe; make you wish beyond anything that you can jump into the pages and hug poor Meyer. This book isn’t a light holiday read, but it is perfect for those longing for more of a thrill as they soak up the sun.

Let me know what you think! Happy Reading

Lindsay

2019 Goals

I am going to keep it simple. I am participating in the Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge and I would like to focus on reading more nonfiction this year.  I have two personal goals, which just so happen to be the same as last year’s!

Total: 50

Nonfiction: 12

I’d like to finish all the books I started but didn’t finish in 2018….there are sooooooo many.

It looks like 2019 is going to be a fun reading year! Please tell me all about your personal reading goals.
Lindsay
 

2018 Reading Review

I fell quite short of my reading goals in 2018. You may ask…am I disappointed in my reading performance? No 🙂

See…2018 was a good year. A year that found me struggling to take on new hobbies, rediscover old passions, and push myself through some rather strenuous personal growth. Sadly, my reading volume just didn’t keep up with the rest of the year. The good new is I read some fun books and am looking forward to 2019’s reading list! So without further ado……here is my 2018 Reading Review.

Total Books Read

Goal: 50       Read: 22

Nonfiction Books Read

Goal: 12      Read: 6

 

Mystery: 12

NonFiction: 7

 

Historical Fiction: 3

Paranormal: 1

mphpc

ReRead: 3

Do Not Finish: 1

fk