Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

The first couple of chapters were a little difficult for me to get interested in because of the detailed explanations and math equations by the main character Mark Watney. Once past that, the story fell into place as it brought in the rest of the characters. Astronaut Mark Watney was left for dead on the surface of Mars – only he wasn’t dead, and a frantic attempt at a rescue effort was quickly put together. Most of the book is written diary style with Mark entering his actions, duties, and thoughts as log entries. The story is a very detailed description of the successes and failures of each step as they attempt to communicate with Mark and launch a rescue attempt. I really enjoyed The Martian and thought it was an interesting story. However, I thought that the character of Mark was a bit too flippant of his situation and too much of a jokester. I never really felt any desperation or real fear as he faced an almost certain death. The other characters in the book were not developed as much as I like, but this is a first novel. The story was good enough that I could overlook the drawbacks and just enjoy the read. I will also give it a light language warning to those who don’t appreciate the F-bombs and other various indelicacies.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.



A Conversation with SpaceGeek and Science Fanatic
Andy Weir
author of THE MARTIAN
(Crown Publishers, On Sale: February 11, 2014)
Q) So it seems you’re a bit of a science geek. You list space travel, orbital dynamics,
relativistic physics, astronomy, and the history of manned spaceflight among your interests.
How did you incorporate these passions into your debut novel THE MARTIAN?

A) Those interests allowed me to come up with the story in the first place. I love reading up on
current space research. At some point I came up with the idea of an astronaut stranded on Mars.
The more I worked on it, the more I realized I had accidentally spent my life researching for this
story. Early on, I decided that I would be as scientifically accurate as possible. To a nerd like me,
working out all the math and physics for Mark’s problems and solutions was fun.

Q) In one sentence, tell us what your novel is all about.
A) It’s the story of an astronaut trying to survive after being accidentally left behind on Mars.

Q) Explain how the science in THE MARTIAN is true to life.
A) The basic structure of the Mars program in the book is very similar to a plan called “Mars
Direct” (though I made changes here and there). It’s the most likely way that we will have our
first Mars mission in real life. All the facts about Mars are accurate, as well as the physics of
space travel the story presents. I even calculated the various orbital paths involved in the story,
which required me to write my own software to track constant-thrust trajectories.

Q) What inspired you to write THE MARTIAN?
A) I was thinking about how best to do a manned Mars mission (because that’s the sort of dork I
am). As the plan got more detailed, I started imagining what it would be like for the astronauts.
Naturally, when designing a mission, you think up disaster scenarios and how likely the crew
would be to survive. That’s when I started to realize this had real story potential.

Q) Are you an advocate for a manned mission to Mars? Are you hopeful we’ll actually
make it out there sometime soon?
A) Of course I’m a huge fan of space travel, manned and unmanned. I would love to see people
land on Mars in my lifetime. However, do I think it will actually happen? I’m not sure. Unlike
the 1960s, we’re not in a race with anyone to get there, so it’s not a priority. Also, computer and
robotics technologies are leaps and bounds better than they were during the days of Apollo. So
logically, you have to ask why we would risk human lives rather than just make better robots.
Still, it would be awesome, and maybe that’s reason enough.

Q) Do you have anything in common with your wise-cracking hero Mark Watney?
A) I’m the same level of smart-ass as he is. It was a really easy book to write; I just had him say
what I would say. However, he’s smarter than I am and considerably more brave. I guess he’s
who I wish I were.

Q) In THE MARTIAN, Watney has access to his crewmates digital entertainment on Mars,
including TV episodes of Three’s Company, a variety of Beatles songs, and digital books
including The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Any reason you chose to work those specific
examples into the novel?
A) It’s a selection of things I loved when I was growing up.

Q) You’re stranded on Mars and you can only take one book with you. What is it?
A) It’s always hard to pick one “favorite book.” Growing up, I loved early Heinlein books most
of all. So if I had to pick one, I’d go with Tunnel in the Sky. I do love a good survival story.

Q) How long do you think you’d last if you were left in Mark Watney’s position?
A) Not long at all. I don’t know how to grow crops, nor how to jury-rig the solutions he came up
with. It’s a lot easier to write about an ordeal than it is to experience it.

Q) You have the chance to meet any astronaut living or dead: Who is it and why?
A) John Young. He is the quintessential astronaut. Competent, fearless, highly intelligent, and seemingly immune to stress. When Apollo 16 launched, his heart rate never got higher than 70.
Most astronauts spike to at least 120 during launches.

Q) Watney seems to be able to maneuver his way around some pretty major problems with
a little duct tape and ingenuity! So he’s a bit like MacGyver in that way. Did you watch the
show as a kid? Any favorite episodes?
A) Indeed I did! I loved that show. My favorite episode was the one where engineering students
had a barricade contest.

Q) Star Wars or Star Trek?
A) Doctor Who.

Q) Your idea of the perfect day . . .
A) Sleep in. Meet Buzz Aldrin for brunch. Head over to Jet Propulsion Lab and watch them
control the Curiosity Mars rover. Dinner with the writing staff of Doctor Who.

Q) How did you feel when your original, self-published version of THE MARTIAN became
a phenomenon online? Were you expecting the overwhelmingly positive reception the book
received?
A) I had no idea it was going to do so well. The story had been available for free on my website
for months and I assumed anyone who wanted to read it had already read it. A few readers had
requested I post a Kindle version because it’s easier to download that way. So I went ahead and
did it, setting the price to the minimum Amazon would allow. As it sold more and more copies I
just watched in awe.

Q) Film rights to THE MARTIAN were sold to writer-producer Simon Kinberg (Mr. &
Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: First Class). What was your first reaction? Who
should play the part of Mark Watney?

A) Of course I’m thrilled to have a movie in the works. The movie deal and print publishing deal
came within a week of each other, so I was a little shell-shocked. In fact, it was such a sudden
launch into the big leagues that I literally had a difficult time believing it. I actually worried it
could all be an elaborate scam. So I guess that was my first reaction: “Is this really happening!?”
As for who could play Watney, I think some good candidates would be Aaron Paul and Chris
Evans.

Q) What’s next for you?
A) I have a few irons in the fire. There’s a long-running sc i-fi story I’ve been poking at here and
there for a while. Though based on the response from The Martian, I might go with a different
story idea I have in mind: a “science-crime” novel. Lots of problem-solving as technically savvy
criminals match wits with an equally savvy FBI agent trying to track them down.

Monday, July 14, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in…Portugal – an Introduction to Learning About Other Cultures by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in…Portugal – an Introduction to Learning About Other Cultures by Carole P. Roman is another in this educational series for children Pre-K to age eight.  This series teaches children about their peers around the world.  It answers questions that children would ask. What do you play with? What do you like to eat? What do you call your parents? Where would you go for fun? What kind of holidays do you celebrate?

The illustrations are bright and colorful and portray the story well.  There is a two-page pronunciation guide in the back of the book for words and phrases.  

What fun this would be for preschools or early grades for learning about the world! I can see it being used in a classroom setting with children dressing up, learning about a specific country, and then giving a presentation to the class using the words learned in the book.


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Hanging Tree by Michael Philip Cash


The Hanging Tree is an interesting novella that involves a bitter curse, an old tree, a black cat, ghosts, and the lives of two teenagers.  The story goes back and forth in time so that you not only understand the teens, but also the spirits that meet them at the tree.    

I enjoyed the story very much especially exploring the relationship with the teen girl, Arielle, and her parents as she gains independence and has to make important decisions.  The bitterness and hatred that has carried over generations takes this story to fascinating places.   I thought that The Hanging Tree came full circle and ended with a satisfying conclusion.


This is a quick and fun read and would also be a great starter book if you haven’t read any of the other Michael Philip Cash book.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Crew Goes Coconuts A Captain No Beard Story by Carole P. Roman

The pirate gang is back in Volume 6 of the Captain No Beard stories.  Polly, Fribbit, Cayla, Hallie, Linus, Mongo, and of course, Capt. No Beard are all here. This time we also meet Matie the goat.

The story is about teasing, hurt feelings, and with the guidance of Captain No Beard they learn more about each other and why teasing can be hurtful. Once again, this is a fun, interesting, and entertaining book that children will love, and with an important message.  The illustrations are colorful and fun.  The text is well-spaced for easy reading.


I am not good at estimating the age groups that would be interesting in these books, but my 3 year old granddaughter loves them and I know young readers will also enjoy them.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in Australia by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in Australia is another informative book about the people and places around the world written for young readers. What kind of money would I use to buy something?  Where would I visit, and what would I see? What would I eat, and what games would I play.  Children will love to learn that they have so much in common with other children around the world, and still have many fun differences.


All of the books in this series are entertaining and will appeal to a wide age range. The recommended is age 3 to age 8.  They are written in simple language, but with enough challenging material to appeal to older readers.  I highly recommend this and all of the books in this series.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe Van Beuren

I was so please to receive this cookbook for review, and even more please when I realized it was much more than a cookbook. B.T.C. is a story of real people, and a real small town grocer. Their story, both struggles and success, is beautifully written in a just a few pages sprinkled through the book. You will learn about their family, the town, their small-town newspaper, and their employees.  You just can’t help but love this place and these people.

BTC is an old-fashioned grocery store in Water Valley, Mississippi that also provides sandwiches, soups, homemade mayonnaise, and much more. The recipes in the cookbook are by Dixie Grimes, and present an interesting mix of down-home simplicity and rich sophistication.  The recipes are categorized by Breakfast, Soups for Every Season, Salads, Spreads and Sandwich Fixings, Casseroles, Mains, Sides and Southern Sweet Thangs. The recipes that immediately caught my eye are Vetra’s Three-bean Salad, Broccoli Salad, Artichoke and English Pea Au Gratin, and just about all of the soups!


This is not only a wonderful addition to my cookbook shelf, but an interesting story that brought to life the story of Water Valley Mississippi.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Collision, The Battle for Darracia by Michael Phillip Cash

Book Description: The Darracia saga continues with all the key players spread out and searching for answers throughout the solar system. Prince V'sair struggles to hold his fractured kingdom together without help from his family. His stepbrother Zayden is on a vengeful hunt for his evil uncle Staf Nuen. Tulani navigates her two worlds trying to bring them together. Staf Nuen, the orchestrator of the original coup, is making unholy alliances with nefarious new allies. Like the comet zipping across the horizon, all the different factions are heading for a collision course that will test both their faith and power.

My review:

Collision, The Battle for Darracia is a well-written science fiction story that moves quickly and flows smoothly. I will confess I usually don’t read science fiction, so I think that and the fact that I didn’t read the first book, Schism: The Battle For Darracia, may have hindered my enjoyment slightly. I would recommend reading the first book so that you are introduced to all of the main characters and who or what they are! That said, I enjoyed the story and the way it was told. The characters are interesting and the story held my interest all the way to the thrilling end.  Honor, war, families, spirituality, love, and hate are all themes woven into a sailcloth that carries you through this story.

The Flip but Michael Phillip Cash

The Flip, by Michael Phillip Cash, is the story of a young couple, Julie and Brad, trying to supplement their income by flipping houses.  Brad is also a little lost following his military service and isn’t sure what he wants to do with his future. The latest flip is a house that is a little more work than usual due to the age of the house and its invisible inhabitants, two Civil War era ghosts.  There were also some other entities in the home that weren’t very well explained, but they seemed to be more in control of the two ghosts, Gerald and Tessa.

The story does go back in time to explain the lives of the two before they became ghosts.   Tessa was a woman of low moral character in life, and her aggressive attentions toward men continue in her afterlife.  The interaction of the ghosts and the real life couple cause even more strife in their relationship.

This isn’t a terrifying ghost story because it relies heavily on relationships rather than an intense paranormal story. It is a quick and enjoyable read with interesting characters, both alive and dead.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Deadly Distractions, A Stan Turner Mystery by William Manchee

Deadly Distractions is an interesting legal thriller that held my interest to the end. It is an easy read and nothing too deep, but with some interesting characters. 

Each chapter is dedicated to the point of view of two of the main characters, Stan or Paula. Stan is a likeable character, but some of his actions and decisions are terribly na├»ve and frustrating to the reader.  While Stan is likeable, Paula isn’t quite so nice, but the two together create an interesting story. Stan seems to be in over his head in the legal issues, but he manages to make it all work.

Although Deadly Distractions is my first Stan Turner mystery I never thought I was missing out on some of the story, so it is definitely a stand alone book.  It will, however, make you want to read some of the others.



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

VeggieTales: Pirates, Mess Detectives, and a Superhero, (I Can Read #1)

This book is actually three books in one, Pirate in Training, Larry Boy and the Mudslingers, and Listen Up, Larry.  This is a wonderful book for reading to a young child or for early readers. The illustrations are colorful and have a variety of their fun Veggie friends to identify.  There are bible verses from the New International Readers Version at the beginning of each story that reflect the theme of that story.  The themes are learning, forgiveness, and listening.

In Pirate In Training, Junior Asparagus decides that school is too hard and he wants to be a pirate. Larry, Mr. Lunt, and Pa explain specifically how they use reading and math to be good pirates and how he will learn about other things he may want to be when he grows up.

All three stories have character messages that are very important for this age group. 

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Distortion by Terri Blackstock

Distortion starts out a little confusing.  Being part of a series, there are a number of people who need to be reintroduced, and I had trouble keeping them straight. Once I figured out who they were, I then had to remember their relationships as they were all related.  I don’t think I can recommend this as a standalone book. If you have read the others in the series then you will be much more able to keep it straight. 

There is another facet to the story that is a little different. Usually the reader has little connection to the victim and their family. We usually grow close to the detective and other law enforcement as they investigate the case.  Distortion is different in that the victim’s wife and family become the main characters and investigators. This can make dealing with the constant grief a little more difficult to take.


I did enjoy the story overall and appreciate the matters of faith that are dealt with throughout the book.  I especially found the ending of the book representative of a strong display of faith.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I want to do Yoga Too by Carole Roman


When mom goes to her yoga class, her daughter Hallie wants to do yoga too. Hallie goes with Robin, who is caring for the children. Through a series of pretend games Hallie learns four different yoga poses without even realizing that she is learning yoga.

This is a cute little book to introduce children to another form of exercise and to get them up and active. Mom, Dad,  Grandma or Grandpa can get involved too for a fun and healthy playtime.   Very cute and I highly recommend it for family use or gifts.

Whaley’s Big Adventure by Carole P. Roman and Alexander Luke

Whaley’s Big Adventure was written and illustrated by 5 year old Alexander Luke and presented by his grandmother Carole P. Roman.

Whaley is a blue whale and he sets off on an adventure to explore the oceans. He meets Owen the Orca, Harold the Humpback whale, Gary the Gray whale, Brody the Beluga, Sammy the Sperm whale, and Walter the Whale shark and learns a little bit about each new friend.
The book is educational, entertaining, and down right cute. The watercolor art by Alexander Luke is perfect for the story.

I love the book and so does my granddaughter.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson and GIVEAWAY


When a man’s body is found by abandoned railroad tracks near his home, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks investigates the murder. The victim, Gavin Miller, was a former college lecturer dismissed for misconduct and has been living as a recluse since.

As with Peter Robinson’s previous books, this is a very detailed police procedural.  Each detail and suspect is carefully examined, and the trails in this story lead far into the victim’s past.


I enjoy this type of carefully examined case and the complete explanation of the evidence.  It does move slowly at times, but I have also found this in other of his books.  Often when I read books by British authors, I find quite a few words unfamiliar to US readers, but fortunately this author spends his time in both the U.K. and North America so there were few times I needed to look up a word.   

Another good book by Peter Robinson.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in India by Carole P. Roman

Next stop – India as we travel around the world with Carol P. Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived in… series. This is another exciting book introducing children to other cultures.  As with the others in this series, this book covers what children would want to know about if they lived in another country. It answers what children call their parents, what they eat, what games they play, what they do for fun, interesting places to visit, and celebrations.


The full-page illustrations are colorful and very descriptive of the text. The text is large for early readers.  Some of the words are challenging, but there is also a pronunciation guide in each of the books. I highly recommend this and all of the others in this series for home, preschools, and elementary schools.  
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