Tag Archives: The Martian

Reading Recs for 2014-2015 School Year: 3rd 9 Weeks

I’m finally onto the 3rd and probably my favorite segment of what I read this past year. My 3rd 9 weeks’ reading list began during Christmas Break, which allowed me to squeeze an extra two weeks of reading onto my reading log. I read some of my favorite books during this 11 weeks, and it’s also when this blog was spoken into existence. I believe during this time I became more intentional about what I was reading, giving my literary life purpose and spontaneity at the same time. From January to March I read more pages, began seriously reading comics, read a couple classics, and read what is now my all-time favorite book, which I will post about at the end of this list of recommendations. Take notes and enjoy!

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)  The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)  The Death Cure (Maze Runner, #3)

The Maze Runner series is one that gained publicity this year by earning its own movie. The cover art for the series was appealing to a young audience, and the plot was intriguing to students who desired adventure with a little mystery attached. This series was so popular in my classroom I couldn’t get my hands on it long enough to see what I thought about it. No one checked it out for Christmas break, so it made its way to the top of my list. It was a quick and enjoyable read despite some of my issues with Dashner’s writing style. It was fast-paced, which is great for young readers, but the plot’s intensity and shocking events are what drove the novel. The writing is slightly jarring, and at times it’s way too obvious it was written with kids in mind, which makes it hard for older readers to enjoy it, too. The first book was the best in the series, although I haven’t read The Kill Order yet. The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure seemed to both lag at times with frustrating plot twists and character choices. Regardless of the problems I had with the series, it was a fun read, and I found I was unable to put it down once I’d started.

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)  The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2)

The 5th Wave took me all of 24 hours to read and left me of the edge on my seat all the while. I was entranced by its cover art and more and more curious about what the 5th wave actually was the more I read it. The series opens up with Cassie Walker alone in her tent clutching her gun, thinking about her little brother, who she willingly sent away with Them. Earth has been invaded by Them, who sent several different waves down in rapid succession to take over the planet. The first three waves were easy to understand, but these last few waves have left the remaining human inhabitants alone, able to trust no one. Cassie is haunted by the lives she’s been forced to take and the knowledge her brother’s rescue may be impossible. She finds herself injured and in the care of Evan Walker, and although she can no longer be trusting of anyone, she finds she must trust him to survive. The series is told from many perspectives, giving the story a wholeness and a certain omniscience about it that is encapsulating. Both Cassie and the reader discover what the 5th wave is together, forcing them to survive through the shock and continue on Yancey’s thoughtfully designed journey. The first book has been my favorite so far because of the perspective we get to experience, but both have earned a deserved 4 stars or higher on Goodreads and in my gradebook. The third book is set to come out May 2016, and I will be preordering it. I’ve recommended this book to anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi read, and although it a Young Adult book, it is targeted for a more mature audience (early 20s).

Batgirl #35

Batgirl, like many other DC heroes, got herself a fun and modern reboot last year. I have loved reading Barbara Gordon’s story so far and will likely keep up with it for a long time. Her outfit, lifestyle, and the technological aspect of Batgirl’s crime fighting is relatable to my generation, and the first volume of the new Batgirl of Burnside has a despicable villain that came as a shock to me and many other readers. If you haven’t kept up with Batgirl until issue 35, no worries. Cameron Stewart has completely remade Barbara. She has flaws, personality, and flair, and I can’t wait to read more of her this year.

Winger (Winger, #1)

Ryan Dean’s life at private school is for mature readers only. Because he is two years younger than his fellow classmates, he is picked on and envied by others for his intelligence and constantly being placed in the friend zone by his best friend, Annie. As a junior in a private school for rich kids, Ryan Dean finds himself in trouble most of the time, and although he/s often extremely witty despite his unfortunate situations, the novel ends on an unexpectedly sad note. Andrew Smith has written many other wonderful books, and Winger’s sequel will soon be published. It’s titled Stand-off and is expected to be available this September. Despite its size, it’s a fast read, and you will find yourself in tears from laughing and from its shocking conclusion.

The Martian

Soon after it became a bestseller, Andy Weir’s debut novel, The Martian, got itself a movie contract with leading man Matt Damon playing our protagonist Mark Watney. This book is one we’ve already written a full review for earlier on Tome Raiders, but I feel the need to promote it again for good measure. Yes, it has a ton of technical jargon, but it is easy to overlook, and I know this novel will transfer well to the big screen. It’s easily one of my favorite book covers of all time, and the trailer for the movie looks A+. If you’d like to watch the trailer first, here it is for your viewing pleasure: The Martian Movie Trailer

Ready Player One

We’ve finally reached the end of the 3rd 9 weeks’ reading list, and I can’t think of a better way to finish this post than with my favorite, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This is another one we’ve already reviewed here on Tome Raiders. A movie directed by Spielberg is already in the works, and I can promise you you will not be disappointed in this one. It’s futuristic and modern all at once, it has a striking cast of characters, and it explores themes that face the youth of today. Can we be the same people we are online and in real life? Does technology provide us with better opportunities or are we losing ourselves to it? Can the power of goodness and friendship overcome the power of money and corporation? I’ve been tempted to reread this since putting it down, and I am looking forward to Cline’s next novel, Armada, which I think was written with a hint of Ender’s Game in mind. I can’t say enough good things about RPO or Ernest Cline, and my review barely does the book justice. Cline has come up with a piece of perfection that I feel obligated to pass on to everyone I know.

Please let me know which of these reviews you found helpful and what you’d like to see more of on the blog. If you have a recommendation for us here at Tome Raiders, we’d love to hear it. We’re constantly look for new books to read and review.


Book Love: The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mark Watney is abandoned, left for dead on the surface of Mars. He can’t hear his own thoughts over the sound of the oxygen in his blood escaping into the vacuum of space. The antenna embedded in his rib cage drags across the sand violently, his body reeling in pain from each sway of the storm. In the face of crisis, his crew relinquishes his corpse to the barren surface of the planet they traveled so far to reach, and begin their ascent from the planet. After all, they have a long, quiet trip home. They didn’t want to leave him, but it was protocol.

Before I begin this review, let me preface this all by saying that The Martian is a very good book. If that’s all you need to hear, then there it is. Go ahead and get started. It’s a tale dripping with heroics; your heart is going to swell with pride in the human race by the time you get to the end of it. Mark Watney is an incredibly resilient, intelligent, and humorous man. As a whole, his supporting cast does a superb job of bringing out the best in him and enduring their hardships were some of my favorite experiences while reading this book. However, because I liked this book so much, I’m going to be pretty frank. It could have been better. This story has so much potential to be a knock-out-slam-dunk-home-run-5-star-all-day-every-day kind of book, and it falls *just* short. Mark Watney’s story is so good, it pains me to see it miss the mark of perfection by so little.

I hate to say it, but if I had to pick just one reason why I’m suffering so much over this, it would be because of the protagonist. Now you may be thinking, “Joe, what gives? You were just praising the guy one paragraph ago?” The problem is this, I like Mark Watney so much, and I want more of the guy. This isn’t Mark’s fault; he’s trapped on Mars after all. He has bigger fish to fry than to paint me a picture of his life, but I have to fault Andy Weir for making Mark such a one dimensional character. Every interaction with our favorite Martian essentially boils down to this MadLib:

"Well, I almost died again today.  This time it was the _____ that went and _____.  I'm not 
sure what to do.  I'll need some time to think it over"
"I've figured it out!  All I need to do is _____.  (Insert humorous anecdote)."

This is killing me! Andy Weir, you’ve created such a charismatic, lovable character. I just wish you would have shown us the man inside the EVA suit. I wanted a peek into this man’s mind, into his soul. What drives him? What does he miss about Earth? Who does he miss on Earth? His parents barely get a passing mention, let alone a significant other or friends. He laughs off every catastrophic event in the book like a fearless MacGyver. This is a story about a man who is utterly alone and stands face to face with death itself on a daily basis, and I never once felt afraid for him because I felt that he was never afraid for himself.

Now, I perceive that this is partially because the story is told in the form of Watney’s logs left behind to be found by whoever may come across them.
I can’t help but think, though, that Andy Weir kind of threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one. What does the “log” format really bring to the story? Sure, it’s kind of neat to read the very same logs that NASA will eventually see, but that alone does not add enough substance to the story to make up for the loss of hearing Watney’s inner monologue. I feel that if the entire story was told from the narrative point of view, (a log here and there would have been grand) I would have gotten to experience those bits of his character that couldn’t be conveyed through the text of his logs alone.

It seems like I’m really bashing Andy Weir here, but if I ever got to meet the guy, I’d thank him for writing such a powerful and endearing story. Yes, I feel that the characters could have been more fully developed and I wish Watney’s adventure wasn’t so linear and predictable. However, I bet that the first book I ever write won’t be near as good as The Martian.

I warned you, I was going to be critical. Like a concerned parent, I’m only being this way because I love it. This is a story about a man with a will to survive, and a planet full of people who are rooting for him to come back home. It’s impossible not to cheer along. My only wish is to have known more about the man I was rooting for and to feel what he felt; to stand in the boots of the first man destined to die on the Red Planet.

Goodreads Rating: 4.36
Recommended for: Adventurous Aeronauts, Wannabe Walter Mitty’s, The Curiosity Rover

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