The Martian

June 24, 2015 at 10:09 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


Title: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Genre: Science Fiction

The Martian is freaking amazing.  Just as amazing, it seems, is the author Andy Weir, as I was just as entertained by his essay and interview in the back of the Broadway Books edition I was reading.

In addition to being clever and snarky, the book has a fun history.  Originally it was self-published on a website.  It got such a following that it was then released for kindles… and was so popular there that Weir got a book and a movie deal practically at the same time.

Oh, and, Weir loves Doctor Who, so there’s that.

I’m a little late to the game, I wish I had discovered him sooner so I could say something original and exciting about The Martian (I would have loved to interview him) – so this review will be short and void of spoilers.  But if you’re in the mood for some suspenseful comedy set in space, all MacGyver style with the science, you need some Andy Weir in your life.

I can’t wait to see what he writes next.  If you’ve already read The Martian, you might also want to check out the work of Heinlein and/or George Wright Padgett.

In case you haven’t seen it yet – here’s the movie trailer:

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A Remarkable Portrait

June 30, 2014 at 5:14 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

barabbas book coverTitle: Barabbas

Author: Par Lagerkvist

Genre: Fiction/ Literature

I’m pretty terrible about not investigating books before reading them, even more terrible about not investigating them before buying them (or bringing them home).   Something moves me and immediately on impulse I add it to my collection.  You never know when it might come in handy.  It looks like it could be interesting on a rainy day in summer when I have no internet my daughter suddenly finds herself in a nap and my brain is somewhere between writing historical fiction and flying away in a space ship.  Oh, and look, that possible moment in theoretical time happened this week.

So I picked up Barabbas, a short novel that had some vague ties to an author who had won the Nobel Prize for literature.  A thin slip of a thing that might find itself in the donate pile if it didn’t prove itself worthy in an hour and a half.

It proved itself.  Of course it did.  The concept is too fascinating to not earn itself at least 4 stars in my very critical book.

Matthew 27: 11-26

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood;[a] see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged[b] Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

barabbas book cover 2Unnecessary Summary: Barabbas was the criminal released instead of Jesus.  Jesus was then crucified, the very moment that determined once and for all who would die that day.

Of course that’s a little factoid that almost every Christian knows.  Many non-Christians probably know it too… Barabbas evil criminal let loose and poor Jesus killed.

I never thought about what that would mean.  Not just in the grand scheme of things, but in the small ways that are epic to one and often meaningless to the masses.  Barabbas – how did Barabbas feel? I never thought of it until Lagerkvist made me think about it.  I picked up the book, understanding who the title referenced, but not imagining that it would be a historical piece on the person referenced – on his life, on his feelings, on his thoughts after Jesus took his place on the cross.  Literally, not just in the spiritual salvation way, but physically died in his stead.

So many times we are encouraged to ruminate on Thomas (who doubted) and Peter (who denied).  The thief who was admitted into paradise at the last minute, hanging on the cross next to Jesus, he’s a really big deal in the church.  But Barabbas?  Barabbas was just a bad dude who should have hung and died instead of our innocent savior… Really?  What does that look like?

Lagerkvist tells us his version of what that looks like.

barabbas(If you’re not quite as oblivious as me, you probably already know this by the numerous film productions that have been done based on Lagerkvist’s work.  You probably also know about the Marie Corelli book which inspired its own film versions.  You probably know all sorts of cool things about Barabbas that I don’t.  But if you don’t know anything about it all – keep reading and I’ll tell you what I think.)

This is a fascinating tale documenting the evolution of a person’s heart, the confusion of their mind as they try to sort out philosophical things in the midst of chaos and history being made.  I’m startled by such a remarkable portrait.

It came out of left field.  It’s been sitting on my shelf for God knows how long.  And it was stunning.

It would seem that I am stunned by everything lately.  The truth is, as much as I read and review here, there are four times as many books that I pick up and discard without even making it through the first chapter.  (Those are either returned to the library because I borrowed them in the first place, or are delivered to the library because I am bewildered they made it across my threshold at all.)

The moral of this story: Lagerkvist is a keeper.  There’s a reason he’s an award winning author.  There’s a reason his book appears on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list.  He’s pretty incredible.

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The Color Purple… aka Slit My Wrist Blood Red

July 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

color_purpleTitle:The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Length: 288 pages, of which I only read about 75

It is quite possible that if I were to finish this book in it’s entirety without skimming, I might feel like slitting my wrist by the time I made it to the end.  So though I only made it 75 pages in, I’m finished reading The Color Purple.  I’m weak, or whatever, I can’t handle it.

Regardless of the fact that it is by far one of the most depressing topics out there, I cannot stand reading the dialect.  And I’m from the South.  Is this how Brits feel when they read Cockney?

I mean, I get it, they spoke that way then.  And some people still do. Whatever.  But I can’t handle 288 pages of it, on top of all the incest and baby drama.

So while Celie is praying for God to save her from this horrible life, I’m praying for that saving to involve some kind of literacy that will iron out all the times she says “ast” instead of “ask” and turn all the “dats” into “thats.”

God forbid I say this, being that I am a huge fan of reading and I’ve yet to see either of my examples in production – but maybe some stories are better absorbed via a Broadway musical than in a book.  (Hearing dialect and reading dialect are very different things to me.) Some things like: The Color Purple and Wicked, for example.

So, since I can’t stomach the book, I’m going to break a rule of mine and attempt the movie or musical soon.  I think a story can be important and still not feel the need to suffer through it in certain formats.

Color Purple movie

What about you guys? Anyone read or seen The Color Purple? Share your thoughts.

Maybe if I can survive the movie, I’ll try again.

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The Hunger Games Series

May 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

The-Hunger-Games-TrilogyTitle: The Hunger Games Trilogy

1. The Hunger Games

2. Catching Fire


Author: Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games movie came out on Netflix and my husband really wanted to watch it.  But I have a rule in my house about watching movies before I read the books, which goes like this: I don’t.  I did want to see the movie, but I feared the series a little bit.  I didn’t want to read something out of obligation to curiosity and book pop culture and then feel let down like I had with Twilight.

I enjoyed Twilight, but I felt as though I had killed off more than a few brain cells by suffering through the commitment of all four books… but Twilight was a paranormal romance adventure… The Hunger Games is a dystopian society… there, there it is again “dystopian society” that little phrase that sucks me in every time!

the-hunger-gamesSo this week began project Hunger Games.  I wanted to at least get through a chunk of the first book before movie date night, and I did get through a bit, but I did not have the book completed when I watched the movie.  I tell you what though, I went through the movie and all three books in three days and I’m blown away.  It was pretty awesome considering what I was expecting.  The series is more comparable to Harry Potter than Twilight, in my opinion.

When I finished Mockingjay, I closed the book with a shake and had to go take a shower to wash the invisible grime off my skin and bask in the happiness of the epilogue.  It was perfect.

A lot of people say the third book wasn’t good.  I admit I was thoroughly disheartened about halfway through, and the emotional disconnect of some of the primary characters lasted way too long.  But it was appropriate.  It made the end that much sweeter.

On to the highlight of the purpose of my post:

triangleThis is the most intelligently written young adult love triangle ever.

Love triangles in young adult novels are pretty much a staple plot line.  Everyone has them.  They are always melodramatic, fitting considering the angst of being a teenager.  But Collins wrote a tip of an iceberg beauty that I will actually be proud to share with my daughter.


Love is presented very clearly as a choice.  In a world that is completely out of Katniss Everdeen’s control, in times when her family’s safety is based on how she behaves towards others, in a time when the choices don’t seem to be hers at all but a manipulation tactic from the authorities in her life… who she loves and how she loves them is still her choice.

I’m so exhausted of whirlwind romances in young adult novels that are out of the teen’s control.  They fell in love… they were destined… they were fated…. blah, blah, blah.

ÀμâI believe that everything happens for a reason, I do.  I believe that God has a plan, I do.  But I also believe that loving others and how we show them that is a choice every step of the way.  What I like about Collins’ book is the importance one simple choice leads to another choice to another and another and steam rolls into larger choices.  The whole book is about the importance of weighing consequences, realities, and feelings within the scales of logic, need, and want.  Sure, events out of the characters’ control changes circumstances, but given new circumstances what is the new ‘right’ choice.

I love it.

If you haven’t read the books, I tried to write this in such a way so I would not overwhelm you with blatant spoilers.  I hope you understand my meaning without clear cut examples.  Maybe when the dust settles I’ll write a spoiler alert review.

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Happy Birthday Pride & Prejudice

January 28, 2013 at 11:24 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )


“[…] Jane Austen is the greatest writer ever – because she was the first storyteller to make me care about an old-fashioned love story.”

Adam Jones

I have to say, I think Jane Austen is one of the greatest writers ever, but not because she was the first to make me care about old-fashioned love stories.  I always liked those.

In fact, the first time I read Pride & Prejudice I was too young to catch all the subtle things that make Austen great, I think.  I read the book because I thought Emma was funny. It’s easier to recognize the humor in Emma, P&P takes a few more reading years under your belt. At least it did for me.

What is so awesome about Jane Austen is that shallow readers may enjoy the romantic notions of it all (hence loving the books in elementary school when I was devouring them along side Anne of Green Gables) and still have more to offer as you age.  The greatest of writers can be enjoyed by the young and reveal themselves over time with multiple readings. I think I was twelve or thirteen before I realized that most of Austen’s work is pure satire and subtle hilarity.

The first sentence in the book- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”- proves to be a reversal of the truth (Austen 1). Instead, it is the women who seek a husband of good fortune, and attempt to gain his favor. These small reversals show Austen’s mastery of the language, and imply that what is often generally accepted and thought of is simply a fantasy.  – Jackson Pollock

Even though I adore the Bronte sisters, the mastery of language and social fantasy Pollock talks about is what makes Austen’s work accessible to a much wider audience. Wuthering Heights is all dark secrets and emotion, whereas Pride & Prejudice is social commentary, comedy, romance, and more.

Look at Darcy, the most introverted socially awkward geek of all time. The only reason he is considered desirable by such a wide array of women is because he has money and a pretty face.  Without those two things, he would be Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. At least, that’s how I read him. Apparently, I’m not the only one or the movie made in 2005 starring Keira Knightley would have been a bit exasperating.  Instead, it has become a favorite on rainy sick days.

So Happy 200th Birthday Pride & Prejudice and well done, Jane.


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Jean Valjean

December 22, 2012 at 4:18 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Whether you have read the book or not, most people are familiar with this image:


The story has been a Broadway sensation for ages, the book itself has been a classic for even longer.  And with Hugh Jackman acting the lead role of Jean Valjean in the movie production being released on Christmas Day, more people than ever are going to have the story of Les Miserables running through their heads.

That’s why earlier this year I committed to spending 2012 reading the classic tome along with Kate’s Library.  It was amazing, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember 2012 as the year that I met Jean Valjean.


Ok, I know, I know, that fellow on the left there is not a depiction of Jean Valjean, it’s a picture of Victor Hugo; but despite my encounters with other works by Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), bringing up Hugo will forever remind me of Valjean, not Quasimodo.

Valjean has a beautiful, though depressing story.  A convict running from the law, early in the novel he is changed for life by a man called the Bishop, learns the importance of love and learning and becomes a new man.  As his life progresses, he becomes someone altogether different and even assumes a new name.  With a new name and some money, he finds himself in charge of a town and in a position to help a poor prostitute named Fantine who is dying and has left her only child to be raised by some hooligans elsewhere.  Valjean, now a saint and model citizen, promises to care for the child and goes to retrieve her.

That’s when Valjean and Cosette (the large-eyed little child in the musical posters and book covers) join forces and run away together as father and daughter.

So many adventures, so many trials, life in a nunnery, life hiding out, life raising a child, a love story between Cosette and Marius… but Jean Valjean lives a great life under much mystery, oppression, and misery, and still somehow he finds joy in his little Cosette.  Valjean is a prime example of a life changed, and a life found despite what the world and the government tries to throw at you.

The paragraph above is much too simple of a description of Hugo’s Valjean.  There is a reason Hugo’s novel is 1260 pages long, and not a moment of it is to be missed.  Les Miserables is a story of compassion, love, redemption, and a quest for freedom.  Both the novel and the musical focus on these themes in a powerful way, though they differ in how they address them, typical of a novel to a musical.  In the end, both forms of the story are about Valjean and the idea that if he can learn to love and be charitable after all he has suffered, who is there that cannot learn these things too?  Who could possibly have suffered more?

If you have not read Les Miserables, I urge you to do so, it could change your life.  If you have not seen the musical, watch the movie trailer and then tell me it won’t be epic:

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