The Summer Cottage by Viola Shipman



The Summer Cottage by Viola Shipman

416 pages

3.5/5 stars

The Summer Cottage follows Adie Lou, a middle aged woman who is finalizing her divorce, watching her son go through collage, and missing her parents deeply. Her parents have always been the source of her happiness and the family summer cottage holds a special place in her heart because of all the great memories she had there. But when the cottage and boat that her parents left her are brought into Adie Lou’s divorce deal and her husband convinced her to sell it, Adie Lou is reminded of how much her family has sacrificed to the next generation to make those memories and happiness. Adie Lou has a change of heart and decides she wants to turn the old summer cottage into a B&B and continue the family’s vacation rules.

Rules of the summer cottage:
1. Leave your troubles at the door
2. Soak up the sun
3. Nap often
4. Wake up smiling
5. Build a bonfire
6. Go rock hunting
7. Dinner is a family activity
8. Ice cream is required
9. Be grateful for each day
10. Go jump in the lake!
11. Build a sandcastle
12. Boats are a shore thing
13. Everyone must be present for sunset!
14. Shake the sand from your feet, but never shake the memories of out summer cottage. It is family!

The Summer Cottage is a light book that left me a bit surprised at having enjoyed it. It was a book club pick and I have never read what some would call “chick-lit” before*, so I was taken off guard at how much the simplicity of the story and characters didn’t bother me. The underlying themes of building ones self-confidence, following ones dreams, and ignoring the haters was strong enough to overcome the conflicts I had with the novel.

I love that the book was broken down to follow the summer cottage family rules. The story didn’t feel forced into the confines of them and I enjoyed the creative interpretation of “go jump in a lake.” While the story was predictable in that I knew it was going to have a happy ending and that the protagonist was going to get what she wanted despite the massive amount of money her undertaking would have been, the luck she had in everyone hired by her being laze-fair about getting paid, that her life and divorce was privileged with enough wealth to have a summer cottage and take on the challenge of transforming it, and the unrealistic accomplishment of making money on her first summer opening, I somehow still enjoyed the book. Even as I type this, I’m confused at the positive reading experience despite the numerous negatives I mentioned–things that have turned me away from other books in the past.

The side characters felt fleshed out just enough to have believe-ability in the simple roles they played, though I wholly did not believe the change-of-heart behavior of Nate at the end. I also didn’t relate to Adie Lou in her privilege, but the aspiration to follow your dreams is, I believe, a universal human quality. I was particularly drawn to Adie Lou’s desire to empower more women who have suffered and given up a lot in order to put their husbands or family first. Women who have been used by the patriarchy and discarded or who have to work twice as hard and prove their worth against men who do not. This was such a small piece of the larger story, but I really liked that this was part of her drive. To raise women up.

There is something to be said to reading a novel that has charming qualities, especially when you are someone who tends to be a realist. The book spoke to the optimist in me–the dreamer that wants to see everyone happy and treated fairly and who gets to follow their own dreams. Stories like that can be overly saccharine and quickly leave a bad taste in my mouth. The Summer Cottage managed to skirt the line of improbability with just enough conflict to move the story along.

*I do not buy into the labels of “chick-lit” and “women’s fiction” because I feel they are demeaning and underrate both female authors and writing in general. Just because a woman writes a book about women’s issues or that a woman writes at all does not mean her audience is immediately halved to encompass only female readers. I especially dislike the term “women’s fiction” because it is solely a marketing term that is laden with inequality and implied sexism–only women will like it, women only read these kinds of books, men should not read this and will not be interested in this because it is supposed to be for women, women can’t handle deep reading (which also implies that fiction, especially fiction written by women, isn’t as profound as non-fiction), women don’t like non-fiction. It is the reason we have issues with women’s literature being pushed into young adult categories against their will and shows that yet another industry continues to have sexist double standards while profiting off of the backs of underpaid women. Magnify this issue if you are a female minority.

Additionally, I would like to point out that this book was written by a man using his grandmother’s name, which gives you even more to consider.


Review: Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi


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Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

258 pages

2/5 stars

Synopsis: Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (and, according to Wikipedia, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. In fact, the world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend, Gretel Kercheval—a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.

Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value. Endlessly surprising and satisfying, written with Helen Oyeyemi’s inimitable style and imagination, it is a true feast for the reader.

The synopsis makes Gingerbread sound as though it is a Hansel and Gretel remake or retelling, but it is no where close. Gingerbread does tap into the vein of classic fairy tales and morphs them with the help of magical realism into something altogether disturbing and unnatural. Fairy tales just lend their whimsical and occasional dark nature to a rather scattered story line. Unfortunately, this means that the story and meaning get lost in the slack structure and unintelligible ramble.

The bulk of the narrative takes place within a story Harriet tells Perdita after an intentional semi-suicide her daughter attempts in order to get back to Druhástrana and find her mother’s friend Gretel. Told amongst talking hybrid plant-dolls, we learn of Harriet’s youth growing up in Druhástrana, how she met Gretel, left her country, and came to meet the father of her child. Once the reader and Perdita are caught up to the present, we are rushed through an ending that seems like it could have been another book entirely.

I wanted to like this book. I enjoy satire, weird tales, illogical and nonsensical stories, and fairy tales, but there has to be some thread of continuity that provides a path through the maze and I just did not find it here. I appreciated the parallel to the themes of the many fairy tales–food, famine, and feast, the convolution of family and foe, the impermanence of life and death. In a way, Gingerbread is a feast and famine book. You keep consuming it hoping that you will be full by the end, but it is just empty calories. A bag of chips seemingly full before it is opened, but turns out to be mostly filled with air.

For my book club, I read a Q&A interview with Oyeyemi by Vulture and I think her answer to the first question really sums up how unsure this book seems about itself:

I’m always fascinated by where your books go plot-wise, because it’s not always evident in the jacket copy. You pull readers in with a fairy tale premise and then destroy their expectations.
It was actually very difficult to come of up with something for Gingerbread. I just wrote it and then was like, “Oh no, I have to describe what this is.” I was very confidently going along like “this all makes sense” and then at the end being like, “I cannot describe what this is overall.” I think you just have to read it.


I did see Gingerbread through to the end and I did enjoy some of the dark whimsy. I think the writing itself is wonderful and does not lack in evocative play even if it is blurry. Kind of like a watercolor painting. It can be beautiful to look at, but you will never get the details no matter how close you look. The magical realism wasn’t the issue for me, but the amount of fluid surrealism trying to tell a story and then getting wrapped up in its own surrealist ideas was the problem.

I think that adventurous readers may be interested in giving Gingerbread a try, but I would think most may want to skip it. I have White is for Witching on my TBR, but I’m not sure I’m ready for it yet.

Review: Discovering the Mammoth by John J. McKay


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Discovering the Mammoth: A Tale of Giants, Unicorns, Ivory, and the Birth of a New Science by John J. McKay

3.5 stars

264 pages

Discovering the Mammoth is a fascinating look at the evolution of the mammoth in human understanding. It is a specific look at how we have come to identify, categorize, and understand where mammoths and their ancient cohabitants fit into the history of the Earth and with us.

Dwarf elephant skulls were once thought to be the skulls of giants due to the large nasal cavity being mistaken for a singe eye hole. Elephant eyes are small and located on the side of the head.
Image source: American Museum of Natural History

From giants to unicorns, elephants to hippos, the mammoth has had a colorful and lucrative history. Through the book, we learn the cultural, social, and budding scientific context concerning the discoveries of mammoth bones, tusks, and remains. This extensiveness may well be part of the downfall of the book for a casual reader. McKay does a thorough job in detailing the men who would go on to make studies, statements, and conclusions about the mammoth after it became a topic of interest to Western thinkers. There are so many people that were involved with piecing together the mammoth mystery as well as numerous expeditions that either intentionally or accidentally found bones and tusks, that the details (again, to a casual reader) begin to blur towards the end. And, like some works of nonfiction do, there were tangents of side expeditions and stories that were not so crucial to the main story.

A pet peeve of mine in nonfiction is that with a book that relies heavily on descriptions and location, photos and maps should always accompany the text for a better understanding. While this book does have a few images situated in the middle of the book, there are no indicators as you read that an example is provided for you to see. The images are labeled on their central pages as “figure X,” but nothing in the text prompts you to stop and see for yourself. My other issue with the text itself is that there are numerous missing or incorrect words such as “the” instead of “they” and small pieces of sentence structure (“a”, “an,” “the,” “from,” etc.). They are quite distracting which leaves you with a sense that the book was rushed. It would have done well to have a careful reading to catch these.

Despite the issues I had with the text and physical book itself, I did enjoy the read for the most part. While the names that appear may lose their specific individuality in the sea of numerous other people, the work makes it clear that this book’s information is coming from a knowledgeable person with a passion for the subject. The in-depth nature of the content such as the evolution of the ideas on why the bones were found in such an uninhabitable place, or the change in thinking from scala naturae to Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae and taxonomy were fascinating to me. I enjoyed reading the changing views and ideas on the mammoth mystery.

Discovering the Mammoth may sound like it is a book that focuses on the mammoth itself. However, the mammoth is the tapestry that pulls a larger picture together. It is one of human curiosity, scientific evolution, and the pitfalls of authority and position. This book seeks to look at this bigger picture, rather than the end result. I think it would appeal to anyone interested in science, history, or paleontology.

Review: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbu


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Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbu

3.5/5 stars

400 pages

Synopsis: “Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.”

Behold the Dreamers, like life itself, had its ups and downs. While Jende often is the focus of the narrative, there are several threads that make up the whole story. Set within the backdrop of the early US financial crisis and focusing on issues of immigration, the book builds on sensitive and emotional events for both the rich and the poor. What starts as a story about two very different people and families turns into an interesting look at what makes us all so similar. The dichotomy-turned-parallel character (and even cultural) study was something I could see being built and initially felt indifferent to. However, as the story moved along, the emotional depth it took worked very well to change my mind.

While character development was present in one character, Neni, I missed that no one else had the opportunity to grow. I understand that this is true of people in general–some grow and others do not, but I felt like some characters were directed in sudden ways that didn’t fit their previous behavior. The novel had some intense and well crafted moments, but it took a long time to get to.

With all the layers of social, economical, and familial strata that Behold the Dreamers is situated in, I was still left with a dissatisfaction as I closed the book. Perhaps it is due to the circumstances themselves; that I hated that so many of the characters didn’t get to have even a piece of their dream. Maybe it was the irony that despite the adults claiming that everything they do is for their children, the children are the ones who seemed to suffer the most because of their parents’ actions (Liomi is essentially just a name that has no role whatsoever in the story other than being a child to be acted upon).

The writing was wonderful. It was descriptive without being overbearing. The characters, especially the Jongas, offer fresh (to me) perspectives and culture. The actions characters take throughout the novel are pivotal to their own threads of the story and, again, like life, can seem both common and crucial at the same time. What was lacking was the development that seemed true to character, but could be argued as a true to life movement. Sometimes we can seem unpredictable even to those closest to us. For me, all the main characters making uncharacteristic choices was a little too much to believe.

Pick up Behold the Dreamers if you are looking for a story that touches on contemporary issues such as immigration and culture or enjoy literary fiction.

Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate



Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

342 pages

3/5 stars

Synopsis: Before We Were Yours starts out slowly introducing Rill and her family in 1939 Memphis, Tennessee. They are a well-meaning and unconventional family, with a number of children living with their unwed parents outside of society on a small shanty boat anchored on the Mississippi River. When the soon-to-be newest member of the family causes difficulties and threatens to take mother and child in the labor process, the father is forced to leave his children to take her to the hospital. Shortly after, their lives will all be dramatically changed.

Moving forward to present day Aiken, South Carolina, Avery is being groomed to take over her father’s place in politics following her successful career as a federal prosecutor. She is engaged to a man from a respectable family, if only they just had a chance to see each other every now and then and pin down the date for their mothers. But when Avery visits a senior center for publicity and sees a photograph of what appears to be her grandmother in the room of an elderly lady, Avery can’t shake the feeling that there is more to her grandmother than she thought.

The story is told within the historical context of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. From the 1920’s through the 1950’s, Tann organized and saw to the abduction, trafficking, and sale of thousands of children within her network of “foster homes.” Children, especially blonds, were targeted by “spotters” and snatched from porches, while walking to school, or otherwise unattended. Mothers still under sedation from delivery were tricked into signing paperwork that gave their children over to the Society. They were told a manner of lies to get their signature: that their baby had died during delivery and the signature would provide a burial for the child. Other fabrications insisted that in order to get the child medical treatment, they needed to turn over custody temporarily.*

Before We Were Yours starts slow, especially in getting to the main historical content. Chapters alternate between Rill’s story in 1939 and Avery’s in the present. While I eventually became interested in Rill’s story, I never grew attached to Avery’s character or her story. Despite ending the book firmly not liking Avery, I did appreciate that the author tried to addressed Avery’s white, rich privilege and had her question her assumptions and beliefs about herself and her family. Unfortunately, it felt like they were only superficial insights as it doesn’t change her much. I also found Avery to be incredibly naïve, especially for someone who is from the legal world and going into politics. Her belief that her family is squeaky clean, un-reproachable, and surely would never lie about their past to make them look better became tiresome and annoying. While I try not to let characters that I have soured to dictate my enjoyment of the novel, it is precisely that Avery didn’t grow in a meaningful way from her insights that made the ending fall flat for me. 

I wavered between 2.5 and 3 stars. I chose an average rating for a few reasons. The ending didn’t really explain why the sisters chose to keep their secret. The build up of the story doesn’t deliver. Instead, it circumnavigates around giving answers in order to wrap up with a happily-ever-after and a distraction of a romance sub-subplot. This gave it a feeling of being rushed and incomplete. The writing was another issue with overly puffed-up sentences and unnecessary and sometimes odd similes. Finally, I failed to see the way Rill’s character transitions from the past to the present. Her present self was written more like Camellia–with a bit of an attitude and snark. It doesn’t match the development and realizations that Rill goes through.

What Before We Were Yours lacked in clean structure and clarity of character development, it made up for in the emotional and mental revelations that came with learning about this piece of history. I was unaware of Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society before I pick this book and it spurred me to read more about it. Readers who enjoy historical fiction, non-linear or multiple timelines, or family-driven stories would enjoy Before We Were Yours.

* More information on Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover


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Verity by Colleen Hoover

333 pages

3/5 stars

It does not spoil the ending.

Verity is a famous and successful writer with a series focusing on the villain’s perspective. Lowen is a struggling writer coming back into the world after caring for her dying mother. When Lowen is offered a job to finish the last two books in Verity’s series, it is an opportunity of a lifetime. Lowen can keep Verity’s accident and paralyzed state a secret per the agreement. She can hide the growing feelings she has for Verity’s husband Jeremy to herself, too. And she is definitely going to hide Verity’s autobiography confessing more and more horrendous things she has done in the name of her love for Jeremy. But is the manuscript getting to Lowen? Why does it seem like Verity is always watching her? Is it really fair to Jeremy to have to take care of a wife he doesn’t really know? Wouldn’t it just be easier on them all if he knew the truth?

Right away, Verity starts out on a surprising note. The first sentence sets us up for a violent scene of a man run over by a car. Looking back after finishing the book, this event still feels as forced as it did when I first started reading it, but it is our early introduction of the man who is about to give Lowen a rare job offer and kick start the real story.

I really became interested after the secret autobiography was found. Things start to pick up and even get quite creepy once we start to absorb and share Lowen’s paranoia. It moves from an awkward set up into a engrossing quick burn. The ending offered a surprise that I did not see coming, which adds to the depth of the mental roller coaster the book builds on.

Hating the main character worked for me in this story. Lowen is judgmental with flat, simple, bland, and naïve thinking. As we work our way through Verity’s manuscript, I felt for her at first. She didn’t want children but, as many women unfortunately do, she decided to keep them for the sake of her marriage and her husband’s happiness. Her struggle was with her version of happiness not lining up with Jeremy’s and I felt bad that she gave in to his. For Lowen to believe that every mother loves her child is quite a childish notion to have. Verity sacrificed her own happiness for Jeremy’s and that shows the strength of her love for him. Unfortunately, I found Jeremy to be dense and unaware. His selfishness doesn’t let him recognize how miserable Verity is nor does it allow her to share her feelings. If she even hints to Jeremy that she does not feel the same way about their children that he does, he immediately makes her seem like she has made a grave error. I felt this fed directly into her delusions and attempt to harm her child. While it was horrible to read and think someone could do that to a child, it sounded like postpartum psychosis to me. This does not excuse her actions, but I felt like there was a depth to Verity’s mental instability that was glossed over for the sake of Lowen’s judgement and justifications.

The writing, while engrossing and easy to get through, was occasionally problematic. Awkward wording such as “spent the past over a decade” was very jarring at times. Repetition slowed down the pace and flow, especially the numerous times it was mentioned that Verity wrote from the villain’s perspective.

I picked Verity for one of my book club reads as a new-to-us genre because we were looking to delve into some romance while still using a familiar genre to ease us in. Hoover’s novel is billed as both romance and thriller, so I thought this would be a good choice. I don’t agree that this is a romance book. I don’t agree that just because there is sex in a book written by a woman that it automatically should get called labeled as such either–even if that author has wrote in that genre in the past.

While I took issue with many aspects of the characters, I think it allowed for the story to come together under those flaws. People are flawed. If you are looking for a suspenseful story that leaves a creepy aftertaste, pick Verity up.

Review: The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa


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The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel (Translator)

288 pages

4/5 stars

Synopsis: Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he’s going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru’s old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There’s even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species.
But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won’t say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break…

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a beautiful book that looks at the relationships we build with people, animals, and our environment throughout our lives. The book starts with Nana and the careful approach of a human with a silver van. The beginning is simple, but right away you experience the emotion of connection between cat and human; witnessing the start of Nana and Satoru’s relationship and seeing it blossom into a loving companionship.

While Nana is not aware, the cause for the road trip to visit friends is subtly laid out. It was nothing surprising, but that is part of what made this book work. The gentleness of Satoru is a breath of fresh air and in the end, you feel as though he has also touched your life with a short-yet-deep relationship of your own.

While the end was sad, it was also so very touching. I’m not drawn to stories that make you cry, but the connections that The Travelling Cat Chronicles explores are so personal and identifiable that the beauty of them can be empathized with. I cried. Hard. I’m crying now just thinking about it again. But it was the meaningful, loving relationship that makes it all worth it. I can’t help but to think of my own fur babies and how much I love them when I think about this story. It makes you appreciate them that much more.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles isn’t just for cat lovers or even animal lovers, though they will certainly take the book to heart. The friends that Satoru visits also share their stories of how they met and how Satoru has affected their lives. Pick this up if you are looking for a tender look at love, relationships, and loss with a good helping of animal perspective. Just bring some tissues.

Review: Men at Sea by Riff Reb’s


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Men at Sea by Riff Reb’s (Illustrations)

120 pages

5/5 stars

Synopsis: Men of the Sea is an opus of eight spectacularly drawn dark poetic stories adapted by Riff Reb’s. This collection offers: “A Smile of Fortune” from Joseph Conrad; “The Sea Horses” and “The Shamraken Homeward Bound” from William Hope Hodgson; “The Galley Slaves” and “The Far South” from Pierre Mac Orlan; “A Descent into the Maelstrom” from Edgar Allan Poe; “The Three Customs Officers” from Marcel Schwob; “The Shipwreck” from Robert Louis Stevenson.These eight tales themselves interspersed by seven double-page spreads dedicated to extracts from illustrated classics deliver a rich poetic and masterfully crafted work.

Men at Sea is a spectacularly illustrated graphic novel that features eight short stories and samples seven more. They are as dark and turbulent as the sea that binds them all together. The illustrations are heavy and dark, which gives off an ominous tone that takes the forefront of the collection. The short stories are made even more pronounced by the single color tones used to highlight each tale. Excerpts of other stories are done in single cell black and white, which are laid out between each of the short stories.

While I understand this is a precise and condensed collection of stories meant to show the remarkable illustrations, I really would love to see more! The stories and images work well with each other and are executed masterfully. If it were possible to give the works of Poe and all the other authors an even more macabre, Gothic, and haunting tone, Men at Sea has done it and has done it very well.

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir


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The Martian (The Martian #1) by Andy Weir

5/5 stars

369 pages

Synopsis: 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?

So I’m late to the party on this one! I picked up The Martian because a patron recommended it to me. I was telling her that I need to read more science fiction, but my problem is that I need it to be as scientifically plausible/accurate as possible. Hard Sci Fi. I loved the amount of work Michael Crichton put into Jurassic Park and, as always, I’m trying to read more broadly. If you Google best hard sci fi lists, The Martian is usually always on there. It has also been on my radar since before it became a movie (which I watched and thought was alright). So, I picked up our second copy and dove in. And then I couldn’t put it down.

Mark Watney’s character is just hilarious. Much of the text is written in the form of prompts that he is using to record his life stranded on Mars. We get to see his strokes of brilliance and ingenuity as well as his tantrums and panic–which is what I think makes the book so easy to get in to. He is very relatable. Not so much in the rocket science, mechanical engineer, botanist smarts (thought that was great fun for me to read, understand, and learn), but in the humanity that he brings to his isolation. He probably would find that hilarious. Me bringing up his humanity as the sole resident martian. A dual-citizenship of two planets.

As for the science part, it fascinated me. I’m a science geek, so when Mark talks about bacterial reproduction for martian soil fertilizing, I’m hooked. (Okay, so don’t let that sentence fool you. Weir really does a great job of making the processes funny and understandable.) Only towards the end of the book did some of the science go over my head and kind of left me glossy-eyed. But I still got the gist of what was happening and it wasn’t really necessary that I understand the mechanics, it just adds a nice description of Mark’s thoughts and the reasoning behind his actions.

I also liked seeing the Earth-side of things. How an people from across the planet ended up working together to bring a single man back home. We also get to see the bureaucratic and tight-pursed side of things. People wondering if the millions upon millions of dollars that are going into the project to bring that one single person home is worth it. How these costs will effect future space operations. What information gets spun or withheld and why. These things are a reality. There will always be someone to say that it isn’t worth it to spend a lot of money to rescue a person. To question the worth of science. To say that science and knowledge are dangerous, so we shouldn’t attempt to learn and understand more. What has space and NASA ever done for us?

We also see the effects that isolation has on Mark. How he handles the most intense and extreme difficulties and the constant facing of near-death. He is the ultimate example of resilience and overcoming your difficulties. What Would Watney Do? He’d love to see that on a bumper sticker. So would I, for that matter.

The Martian is a fantastic novel and has achieved my rare 5 star approval. I would recommend it to anyone, whether you are a science fiction junkie or a picky reader like me. Ignore the movie. Read this book.