Summer Reading

Saturday, July 5, 2014

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The Martian by Andy Weir
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there. It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission 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 get 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. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?(from Goodreads)

It's been a very long time since I "surprise-discovered" a great read. I tend to read literary fiction, historical fiction and non-fiction and this was completely out of my wheelhouse. I gave it a shot and almost stopped reading after the first three chapters - what is up with all this math? I was terrible at math in school and this seemed like a bad flashback. But I kept with the book and all of a sudden I could not stop reading. I'm serious - the details, the switches back between Earth and Mars, the humor!!! I devoured the rest of the book in less than a day. I will be recommending this book to everyone - especially those who think that they don't "get" science and math. "The Martian" is an old-fashioned adventure that is a better thrill ride than any ticket to an action flick!

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy from the publisher for review. 

We Were Liars by e. Lockhart
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. (from Goodreads)

Oh boy - this book has seriously discouraged me from going out of my comfort zone to read different genres of books. Other than The Hunger Games, I've never read any Young Adult books. After all of the buzz in the publishing industry and the debate online about adults reading Young Adult books, I wanted to try one and see what all the fuss was about. I chose this book because its gotten a huge amount of buzz - and now that I've read it, I'm not entirely sure why. The writing is super-earnest and self-indulgent. The characters are paper-thin and the whole book is predicated on a plot twist that is fairly easy to guess about half-way through. I'm actually pretty disappointed that I spent any of my reading time on this one.

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were at the ready at Halderson’s Drug Store soda counter, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a summer in which death assumed many forms. When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.(from Goodreads)

Everything about this book is familiar - from the Stand by Me meets To Kill A Mockingbird vibe to the big plot "twists" at the end. I put that in quotes because I can't imagine a reader not being able to figure out these twists several chapters ahead of time. But you don't read this kind of book for plot - this is the kind of book that's all about setting and theme. You read it for characters like Gus, the decent emotionally wounded veteran who hangs around the soda fountain dispensing advice and the forbidden railroad tracks at the edge of the town that attract the young narrator and his little brother into all sorts of trouble. Looking back forty years later, the narrator does a lot of telling instead of showing. There was some potentially powerful moments that lose some of their oomph due to this decision but somehow I still could not stop reading. I sped through the book in about a day and a half and I think that's a credit to the world Krueger creates - you immediately feel at home in that small town with all of its secrets. 

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