Review – The Martian by Andy Weir

the martianHow much did I love this book?  More than all the sand on Mars.

Mark Watney is part of a Mars expedition that has been on planet for 6 of their 60 scheduled sols (days on Mars).  When a strong sandstorm hits they have to evacuate and get back to their ship in orbit.  Unfortunately, Mark is struck while they are walking to the transport and it appears that he has died.  So the crew leaves.  Meanwhile Mark wakes up – injured and alone on Mars.  Now he has to find a way to survive until the next expedition is scheduled to arrive in several years!  And, his means to communicate with Earth was damaged during the storm so no one even knows he is alive.

Now what?

Listen, this could have been a stressful and sad read.  But it isn’t.  Mark is a resilient guy who has a sarcastic voice that works so well.  The story ends up being one of hope with a lot of laughter along the way.  This was one of my favorite reads this year which surprised the heck out of me.  The science part can be a little overwhelming (unless you are Sheldon Cooper your eyes will probably cross) but it needs the detail so that the reader understands what Mark is dealing with.  And, I have no idea if it’s accurate science but it is impressive!

Wanna get to know Mark?  Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“Little Hab on the Prarie” – referring to his Martian home.

“In your face, Neil Armstrong!” – when he realizes some of the space records he is setting.

“Problem is (follow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated), if I cut a hole in the Hab, the air won’t stay inside anymore.”

“I’m in the middle of a bunch of craters that form a triangle.  I’m calling it the Watney Triangle because after what I’ve been through, stuff on Mars should be named after me.”

I simply adored this book and recommend it to everyone.  5/5 stars.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

the strainHave you ever read a book that was in a genre you enjoy, generally well written and easy to read?  But, you just weren’t feeling it?  That’s the case with me and The Strain.

And it’s very disappointing because it has so many elements that should have made it work.  Vampires, viruses, the CDC, strange old men, swords and more.  Part of the problem is the pacing.  It starts strong with a Boeing 777 going dark at the airport.  It doesn’t make it to the gate and when officials investigate they find all the passengers and crew dead.  The CDC is brought in to determine if it’s a virus or some other agent that killed them.

Man, that sounds great right?  You bet!  Too bad that the story then becomes bursts of action followed by purple and overly descriptive prose.  For example: “Eldritch Palmer sat waiting on an un-cushioned chair on the rooftop patio, bathed in night.  The only direct light was that of an outdoor gas lamp burning in the corner.  The terrace was on the top of the lower of the two adjoining buildings. The floor was made of square clay tiles, aged and blanched by the elements.  One low step preceded a high brick wall at the northern end, with two door-size archways hung with ironwork. Fluted terra-cotta tiling topped the wall and the overhangs on each side. To the left, through wider decorative archways, were oversize doorways to the residence.  Behind Palmer, centered before the southern white cement wall, was a headless statue of a woman in swirling robes, her shoulders and arms darkly weathered.  Ivy slithered up the stone base.  Though a few taller buildings were visible both north and east, the patio was reasonably private, as concealed a rooftop as one might hope to find in lower Manhattan.”

Why in the world do we need all that detail?  Do I care that the floor tiles are square or that the wall was white cement?  Yes, a writer needs to paint a picture but this was just overdone.

Since there were two writers I did think several times that some of this “overwriting” was probably done by only one of them.  I wonder how that works?  If you get pages from your co-writer and they are filled with this, what do you say to them?  That’s gotta be a tough one.

Anyway, a good story full of great ideas but it loses points for execution.  3/5 stars.

Review – Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne

houndedHounded is a solid start to the Iron Druid Chronicles and a new urban fantasy series for me.

From Goodreads: “Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old–when in actuality, he’s twenty-one “centuries” old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power–plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish–to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.”

Even though I am a huge urban fantasy fan and have read tons of them in the recent past, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Hounded.  First of all, it’s written by a man.  Most of my favorite series are penned by women.  And, the main character is a guy as well.  I’m all about girl power and didn’t know if a male could carry a UF.

Luckily, I absolutely adored the voice of Atticus.  He is just what you want in a UF hero – talented, powerful, funny and a little off (but in a good way).  Here are some of my favorite quotes from Atticus:

“Tell you what: Let’s debate the meaning of honor and see who lives longer.”

“I really, really wanted to flirt, but seeing as I was the guy who widowed her, I thought perhaps there was a line somewhere I shouldn’t cross.”

“I was kind of like Yoda chilling out in the Dagobah system.”

Plus, we have the added bonus of his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon, who quickly became a favorite for me.  His doggie voice is funny and poignant.  Every Druid needs a sidekick and Oberon fits the bill perfectly.

4/5 stars for a fun, engaging and well written story.  I can’t wait to get to the next one.

Review – Archangel’s Consort (Guild Hunter #3) by Nalini Singh

consortAh, the Guild Hunter Series.  By my favorite paranormal romance author.

From Goodreads: Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux and her lover, the lethally beautiful archangel Raphael, have returned home to New York only to face an uncompromising new evil…A vampire has attacked a girls’ school—the assault one of sheer, vicious madness—and it is only the first act. Rampant bloodlust takes vampire after vampire, threatening to make the streets run with blood. Then Raphael himself begins to show signs of an uncontrolled rage, as inexplicable storms darken the city skyline and the earth itself shudders. The omens are suddenly terrifyingly clear.  An ancient and malevolent immortal is rising. The violent winds whisper her name: Caliane. She has returned to reclaim her son, Raphael. Only one thing stands in her way: Elena, the consort who must be destroyed.”

It’s hard to describe what is so good about this series.  Elena kicks butt.  Raphael is a dreamy alpha.  The supporting characters are superbly written.  Everything just works.

Why does this installment get only 4/5 stars?  Well, I tend to like my Paranormal Romances to be more like Urban Fantasies.  This one was a little too heavy on the PNR.  It almost seemed that the story was written around the sex scenes.  I need the story to take center stage and, sadly, it didn’t here.

But it’s impossible to give this less than 4 stars.  The writing is impeccable, the characters are relatable and it leaves you wanting more.

Highly recommended but be prepared for a lot of lovin’.

 

 

Review – Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana Gabaldon

mobyOch!

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood is the 8th installment in the Outlander series.  At this point, readers are either fully invested in the lives of these characters or they have given up.  I am ALL IN!  No synopsis needed.  It’s the continuing story of Claire, Jamie, Roger, Brianna, et al.

If you are a Sassenach reader like me, then you know there are certain things you have to accept to truly love this series.

Number One: prepare to spend some time with the books.  MOBY (as Gabaldon refers to this installment) is 814 hardback pages of fairly small print.  If you don’t enjoy big books, then these aren’t for you.

Number Two: you are going to get detailed descriptions of things you never thought you wanted to know.  Claire is a physician.  In one scene, she is treating someone who has been punched in the eye.  The eyeball is stuck in the socket and she has to maneuver it around to get it back in place properly.  I couldn’t sit still while reading and right now I fairly feel like I could vomit just thinking about it.  Enjoyable, not really.  But, you have to love a writer who can paint a picture that makes you so uncomfortable but unwilling to stop reading for anything.

Number Three: the characters you love are going to go through horrible, horrible things and sometimes they will make very foolish decisions.  They will do more in a day than you can in a month.  And, a married couple in their 60s will continue to have sex like rabbits.

Number Four: while you try to read slowly so that you can savor everything, you will get through these 814 pages faster than you expect.  And, then you wait.  Years.  Seriously, like 5 years for the next installment.  And, Gabaldon will keep you on the hook by occasionally posting daily lines from her work in progress.

Number Five: you will start to believe you can speak Gaelic and in everyday life you will use sayings like “Dinna Fash”, “ye ken?” or “Tulach Ard”.  Just roll with it.

This series is in my blood and I am in for the long haul.  I know it won’t continue forever but I will read every installment as it comes out along with all the side novels (e.g. Lord John) and novellas.

5/5 stars for a book that isn’t perfect but is, still, perfection.

Review – The Boleyn Reckoning (The Boleyn Trilogy #3) by Laura Anderson

boleyn reckoningWell, here we are with the conclusion of the Boleyn trilogy.  Am I glad it’s over?  Yes, in many ways.  The Tudors are STRESSFUL!  Was it worth that stress? Absolutely.

Review will contain spoilers for books 1-2.

From Goodreads: “Elizabeth Tudor is at a crossroads. After a disastrous winter, the Duke of Northumberland has been executed for treason while his son, Robert Dudley, claims from the Tower that the true traitor has not yet been caught. And though her brother, William, has survived smallpox, scars linger in the king’s body and mind and his patience is at an end. As English ships and soldiers arm themselves against the threat of invasion, William marches to the drumbeat of his own desires rather than his country’s welfare. Wary of this changed royal brother, Elizabeth assembles her own shadow court to protect England as best she can. But William, able to command armies and navies, cannot command hearts. Minuette and Dominic have married in secret, and after an ill-timed pregnancy, they take to flight. Faced with betrayal by the two he loved most, William’s need for vengeance pushes England to the brink of civil war and in the end, Elizabeth must choose: her brother, or her country?

Like father, like son.  Unfortunately.

Where do we start?  The writing is wonderful as ever with a good pace, strong characters and a storyline that provides a great backbone.  For writing alone this would be a 5-star read.  But, I am an emotional reader.  And, the character’s decisions, while realistic, cause a lot of grief.  Seriously, what were Dominic and Minuette thinking?  Ummm…if you are part of the king’s court and you get secretly married to his best friend while allowing him to believe he is engaged to you, Minuette, then you are probably going to come to a reckoning.  (See what I did there?  Ha!)  Your best friend is Elizabeth and she could have helped.  But, oh no, you kept it all to yourself and then tried to play royal games.

William is a disappointment.  In book one he is a loyal friend, good brother and all around likeable guy.  By book three he has turned into his father.  And, yeah, that’s not a good thing.

Elizabeth is the star of the show.  She remains true to herself and is the one thing the reader can count on.  We needed her.  Trust me.

Overall, this is a great trilogy.  Creative, interesting and well worth it.  4/5 stars and highly recommended.  Just keep the Tums handy.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad #2) by Tana French

the likeness

The Likeness, 2nd in the Dublin Murder Squad series, is almost a 5-star favorite.

Tana French is undeniably talented.  Page after page just flows so smoothly that you don’t want it to stop.  Words become pictures and those pictures become a riveting story that keeps you glued to your seat.

The Likeness focuses on Cassie Maddox from book one.  She’s still recovering from those events and is pulled into an undercover assignment that becomes very personal.

Cassie is a strong protagonist because she is so believable.  Smart, tough, loyal.  Afraid of commitment, secretive, bad decision maker.  She’s a real person.

There are a few other supporting characters from book one that make appearances.  Sam, murder detective and boyfriend, is as solid as ever.  But it was the new additions who really drove this story home.  Frank as Cassie’s former undercover boss is someone you kind of love to hate.  He’s not a bad person but has that underlying sneakiness that makes him interesting.  The quartet of Daniel, Abby, Rafe and Justin will keep you guessing until the end.

The Likeness is almost a 5-star favorite.

Almost.

Here’s the deal – the main premise that you have to buy into for this story to REALLY work is just, well, ridiculous.  I can believe a lot of things in the name of a story but this could never play out in real life.

I’m not going to spoil anything but you will know pretty early on the issue at hand.  And, my suggestion is to just let it go.  Forget that it isn’t plausible and go with it.  Trust me, the book is worth it.

4/5 stars.  And, yes, still highly recommended.