The Martian, by Andy Weir

The_Martian_2014

Rating: 4/5

Paperback: 387 pages

Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (October 28, 2014)

Reading Sara Review: I feel a little behind in this review, not only did I finish the book over a month ago, but the movie is already out and I am guessing that many of my readers have already read the book or seen the movie, if not both. Even so, I enjoyed the book – and want to give it its fair share of spotlight.

I especially want to do this because The Martian is such a great underdog story. Weir originally just published it on his blog, chapter by chapter. Then, when it got more views he self-published it and was selling it for 99 cents. Then, because the book is great, Random House got ahold of it – and then Hollywood heard about it too. Well, the rest is history, Weir can quit his day-job and become one of our generations next great science-fiction writers.

The Martian is full of smart people. Like, super ridiculously smart people. To write something like this, you have to be pretty smart yourself. Mr. Weir did a smart thing, when he published his book on his blog, he took feedback from readers. His readers happened to also be smart and into general science and chemistry, so they helped him make the story even better. How amazing is that? And it just makes everything that much more exciting to know that it is possible (if you are super, ridiculously smart). Weir himself admits that not everything is actually possible (such as the sandstorm that leaves our protagonist stuck on Mars in the first place), but it’s still fun.

The research and science that went into this book cannot be under-stated. To make this type of book is a life’s work, which Weir did while he worked his day job as a computer-programmer.  As Weir has said in many interviews, he wanted science-fiction with more real science in it. Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t disappoint the science fans. I will be the first to admit, I did not understand half to a majority of the science-y parts. But knowing the work that went into it, the research and collaboration makes it enjoyable. And, most of all, it’s funny. Some of it was laugh out loud funny. To write a character that is smart and funny, especially while he is mostly by himself, it a true test of great writing.

I have not seen the starring-Matt Damon movie yet, and probably will not in the theaters. It isn’t that I think seeing it on a big screen would not be impressive, or that I did not like the story (I did! I gave it 4 stars!). Simply, I’m not ready to let the images out of my imagination be taken just yet. I thought it was fun to imagine what these characters looked like, how they solved problems, and most importantly – what it was like on Mars. I will see the movie eventually, when my self-created images subside. Weir is a fan of the movie, so I will trust him on it and I promise to see it. Just not yet.

Reading Sara Review: Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont

Among The Ten Thousand Things, by Julia Pierpont

Among the Ten Thousand Things

Rating: 3/5

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (July 7, 2015)

Reading Sara Review: I give this book credit for its development into the story of a family after something bad happens to them.

Jack is an artist who has an affair. Unfortunately for him, he picked a vindictive young girl to have the affair with. She mails a box of their love letters to Jack’s wife Deb. Unfortunately for Deb, Jack, and the girl, the box gets delivered to Jack and Deb’s children. As can be imagined, anger, resentment, fighting and angst for all of the characters begins to ensue quickly. The characters are shallow and they let their secrets and lies absorb them.

The writing is good, I would read more of Pierpont’s future literature. She is young (only 28) but gives a great account of a family torn and still held together. Her writing was for the most part, really well done. But I was not moved by the narrative and plot of this book. We follow the characters after all of this drama goes down – and it is a moving story of a family, and in general, I tend to enjoy those books.

I did not like the way that the book jumped around. In the middle, it begins to tell you what happens in the end. I appreciated this at first, because I thought we were going to jump ahead – to the long term repercussions. But then it just went back to present day. By that time, I didn’t care anymore – I knew how it ended, what did it matter what these kids were getting into now?

Unfortunately, I did not love the book overall. I do not think that the characters will stay with me, as I have already forgotten what some of their names are.  There are better books that have come out this year, so at a minimum, wait for the paperback, but I would skip it all together. But keep this author on your radar, I suspect we’ll be seeing more from her.

Reading Sara Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the Rage, by Courtney Summers

all the rage

Rating: 4/5
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (April 14, 2015)

Amazon Book Description: The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything-friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time-and they certainly won’t now-but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

Reading Sara Review: Whoa. This book is heavy. Not literally. But seriously heavy in context. This is the story that we read too often in the news, hear about more than we should – young girls being taken advantage of, not believed when they tell the truth, the boys getting away with their crimes because of who their parents are or how they were raised. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO START BELIEVING THESE GIRLS?? WHY IS IT SO HARD?

Sorry. Had to get that out. This is a work of fiction, so I will try not to get too fired up. It’s an important young adult book, because I hope that it teaches teenagers empathy to each other.  I hope it teaches parents to love unconditionally, even when the kids do not seem to want it. I hope it helps girls stop bullying each other.

The girl to girl bullying that occurs today (and when I was in middle school) is horrible. I was bullied in middle school by a group of girls – I could not even tell you anymore what the situation was, why they didn’t like me, and it honestly doesn’t matter. I remember getting a horrible note in my locker once (I do not still have the note, and even if I did, I would not need to share the more colorful pieces of it). I showed it to my parents when I got home that day. They supported me. They took that note to the school. And the bullying (at least via mean notes) stopped eventually – yes, I got teased more for showing it to my parents, but eventually it died down. Eventually I made different friends that I could trust. Then high school came, and it was better. Then college came, and it was even better. And then life after college came, and it is amazing. 20 years later, I still remember how hurtful and awful that note was. But I also know that girls can just be mean.  I can’t even imagine today with social media what these kids go through, I luckily had a note that I could throw away, and had parents that I could trust and would listen to me and be on my side.

I do feel like I need to admit here that there are things I did as an adolescent that I sincerely regret and think about often. Bullying was not necessarily a term used when I was that age, like it is now. But I am sure some of the things that I did were out of anger and confusion – and I regret that I hurt other people and there are many moments I think back to often and would do anything to take back. I don’t know if the girl who wrote me that letter remembers it at all, or regrets it, but I think that forgiveness and letting go, and learning from those mistakes, is the best that we can do. And we can hopefully teach our daughters and the next generation ways that will make them better to each other. Girls need friends that they can trust.

Back to this book – this is a well told story of a girl who was not believed by her peers or her community. The writing is lovely. There is some mystery, and the book jumps around a little, so stick with it, you will understand soon. Romy, our protagonist, built up her own armor through lipstick, nail polish, and trying to become invisible. Romy is too young to deal with these big issues – the loss of friends over boys, the bullying and the secrets that she has to hold so close to her chest. Romy is strong though, she has been through a lifetime already, and she sees things that others might miss because of that. She forgives when it is time – and in the end, she makes a big decision to be strong and help others.

This book is not an easy book to read, because it deals with things that I hate thinking about – hate knowing that these things occur in our society. But until we start believing these girls (women too), we need to talk about it and find ways to help girls stay safe and know that they will be heard. Being a girl is tough, people, lets love each other even more every day.

Reading Sara Review: After You by JoJo Moyes

After You, by JoJo Moyes

after you

Rating: 4/5
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (September 29, 2015)

Reading Sara Review: If you have ever talked to me about books, I probably mentioned Me Before You and my love for the characters, the way that a heartbreaking love story was told, and how you absolutely had to read it. So, I was in line when JoJo Moyes came to Denver for a reading and signing of the sequel to Me Before You, and couldn’t wait to get back to these people, their lives and what happened next.

I liked this book because I wanted to like it. As a stand-alone book, I’m not sure what I would rate it. But, lucky for us, the first book exists and I can give After You a 4/5 stars because it allowed me back into the lives of these people, watch their grief, recovery and friendship.

Moyes writing is brilliant – I would love to take a character writing class from her. She develops them into interesting and real people that could appear anywhere in our lives. She makes me care about them when reading – making faces at what they are doing, or telling them what to do or what not to do.

In After You, we pick up with Louisa – and she has a few surprises in store for her throughout the book. We meet her grief group, which is a cast of incredible characters that I would have loved to learn more about. While she never admits that a grief group helps her, it clearly does, as we watch her grow, become more patient and take the advice of those around her. I would have loved/still would love a book just about this group and their backstories. They were funny, insightful and making progress in their lives as well.

In the end, I thought there were a few too many plots occurring at once. A few of them could have been the entire book, but crazy things just kept happening. It made for quick reading, but because of my love for Louisa as a character, I just wanted her to find peace without all of the complications.

I miss Louisa and Will, and probably always will. As I recover the loss of them as characters in my life, I really enjoyed a night with JoJo Moyes!

Author readings are really fun, and I highly recommend going to them. JoJo Moyes is smart, funny and British, so my friends and I absolutely loved her. And we got a chance to briefly meet her while she signed our books!

This is my friend Paula, getting her book signed! Today happens to be Paula’s birthday, so a great opportunity to feature her in her excitement of meeting JoJo Moyes!

paula signing

Fun fact, when she was signing my book, she let me know that Sara is her middle name – spelled without an h. As you can imagine, it made my night even greater, but then I was honestly too star-struck to say anything meaningful at all to her except that I am a big fan.

signed copy

I thought that answering questions from the audience was a priority for her, and seemed to be her favorite part. She was approachable, and really seemed happy to be there – even though I’m sure she was exhausted from traveling to promote this book. And, as can be seen by the photo below, she likes wine, so…I think we can be best friends now.

jo jo moyes