Book chat: ‘We’re All Damaged’ by Matthew Norman

We're All DamagedIt’s been a year since Andy Carter’s safe suburban life collapsed. His marriage explodes when his wife leaves him for a neighbor; his ultra-conservative mother has changed completely in her quest to take her talk-radio show to the next level, casting his father in the background. Andy loses his job, then acts a fool at his best friend — and former brother-in-law’s — wedding.

Skipping town seems wise — until the need to see his dying grandfather brings him back to Nebraska. It’s there that he meets Daisy, a young “friend” of his grandfather’s. Daisy has her own complicated background, but she takes a shine to Andy as she took a shine to his granddad. In the midst of this, the Carter family is targeted after his mother makes outlandish and homophobic remarks . . . just before marriage equality is achieved in the U.S. Some unseemly family information is released in the process, leading to further scrutiny.

Is that a light at the far end of the tunnel . . . or just a train?

Having loved Norman’s debut novel in 2011, I went into We’re All Damaged looking for that same sensational spark. The story started out promisingly, what with Andy getting dumped at an Applebee’s (!) and all. Our narrator was obviously going to be down on his luck, maybe a bit of a ne’er-do-well, but hopefully one with a heart?

Something about We’re All Damaged failed to click with me. It felt extremely current, tackling issues like gay rights, the conservative/liberal media, internet ethics . . . and I could appreciate the intent. But it just felt a bit full to me. Full of too many issues, too many characters, too much chaos for me to really lose myself in the story. If we’d had fewer hot-button topics to address, I might have enjoyed focusing more on Andy’s evolution. As it stood, I never broke past the surface.

Andy’s brokenness was endearing at first, but quickly became frustrating — especially as Daisy enters the scene. Daisy is totally a manic pixie dream girl — one I could never figure out, given we knew next-to-nothing about her (aside from her many tattoos, which are addressed constantly). She seems to be a nymph designed solely to help shove Andy out of his post-divorce funk. And that was boring.

Matthew Norman’s sly, biting humor peeks out occasionally, but isn’t used to best effect. I did like the nod to Curtis Violet, famed author/father in his first book, as well as the hilarious passages about Andy’s dad’s paintball assault on the squirrels smuggling goods from his bird feeders. His obsession and description of that battle felt just a little heartbreakingly human to me.

We needed more of that.

Though We’re All Damaged wasn’t memorable for me, I do look forward to meeting up with Norman — a perceptive, skillful writer — again someday.

3 out of 5

Pub: 2016 • GoodreadsAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher/TLC Book Tours for critical consideration

Book chat: ‘Year of Yes’ by Shonda Rhimes

Year of YesI enjoyed the hell out of this book.

I’ll say it again, complete with cursing (and I don’t take that lightly): I enjoyed the hell out of this book.

As a woman. As a writer. As a mother. As a working mother. As a person that struggles with eating. As a human being with thoughts and hopes and feelings.

At the risk of sounding completely cliche, Shonda Rhimes? My spirit animal.

I’ll preface this review (will it be a review? More like nonsensical gushing, I fear . . .) by stating that, prior to picking up Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person, I knew little about Shonda herself. If you are similarly unfamiliar, she is the powerhouse behind Thursday nights on ABC: creator, head writer and executive producer of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” as well as “Private Practice.” She is also executive producer of “How to Get Away with Murder” and “The Catch,” produced by ShondaLand.

Shonda is, in her own words, an FOD: First Only Different. She is an African-American woman who has achieved tremendous success as a blockbuster writer and producer — doing what she loves and is clearly exceptional at: making TV “look like the rest of the world.”

I tend to go into motivational-type memoirs with a skeptical eye, but had a hunch I would like this one: and I did. I loved it. Shonda is personable, engaging, inspiring — as a person and a writer, of course, but also as a mother. With three daughters looking up to her as well as a powerful job, the pressure of doing everything well would crack anyone. Can we do it all?

To hear Shonda tell it: well, no. In one of my favorite chapters in Year of Yes, Shonda admits that excelling in one area of her life (work) often makes her feel like she’s failing in another (home), and vice versa. Over and over again. She gives a powerful analogy about once obsessing over Whitney Houston, wanting perfect hair like Whitney’s — trying anything and everything to achieve that signature look, but still failing.

Years later, a stylist confides not even Whitney had Whitney hair: it was a wig.

A wig.

Shonda talks about how, in acting like we have it all together and not discussing our struggles, we’re doing a disservice to other women. That’s a wig. It’s OK to admit we need help. Shonda’s comes in the form of one Jenny McCarthy: not the actress, but her wonderful nanny by the same name. She freely admits that, without Jenny, she could never keep all the plates spinning.

Yes of Yes arrived at the perfect time for me. Almost a year into motherhood, I’ve struggled with my quick return to work and how to similarly stay afloat with so many responsibilities pulling at me from all sides. After one poorly-timed (but not malicious) question about whether I “feel bad” dropping off my son at daycare each day, I needed Shonda. I needed Shonda to tell me I can do this. That I’m already doing it.

Not perfectly — because no one does, regardless of what they’ll tell you. But I’m trying, and that’s enough.

As a writer, I related deeply to Shonda’s stories of life “in the pantry”: when she was perfectly content to sit amongst the canned goods, staging elaborate battles between the vegetables and sealing herself off from the world. The youngest of six children, Shonda grew up in a loving family outside Chicago and has a close relationship with her siblings: especially sister Delores.

It’s a comment by Delores that sparks Shonda journey: “You never say ‘yes’ to anything.” It was muttered on a Thanksgiving morning, setting off a series of changes that resulted in saying “yes” to the things that would normally scare her. Public speaking was on the list, of course, but so was considering her diet. Morbidly obese at the start of the “Year of Yes,” Shonda realizes she had been putting food on top of feelings: saying “yes” to “fatness,” trying to ease her unhappiness by eating.

She doesn’t play up the weight loss as instrumental to her evolution, but shedding more than 100 pounds will certainly do that to a person. But far more than the physical weight, she says, was the weight of all the difficult conversations she hadn’t wanted to have: with a boyfriend about why she didn’t want to get married (ever, to anyone); to toxic friends she didn’t realize only wanted to see her unhappy. It’s only when begins asking hard questions — of others, but also herself — that she truly transforms.

By the end of Year of Yes, I felt altered with her. I thought of the ways I’d been mistreating myself, both through overindulgence and misplaced guilt about motherhood. About why I write and why I need to write, and why it’s OK to say I want to work and be a working mother.

Maybe I don’t need Shonda to validate my feelings, validate my choices, but I sure feel better having her as a part of my tribe. She mentions her “ride-or-dies” quite frequently — the people she can count on for anything. And she admits that one is technically fictitious, but very real to her: Cristina Yang of “Grey’s Anatomy,” a character written by Shonda and portrayed by Sandra Oh.

So Shonda, if I may be so bold, I’d like to add you to my ride-or-die list: a friend I feel I can always look to for support, guidance and motivation. Your Year of Yes found me at the moment I most needed to hear it, and listening to this book on audio — read, of course, by the author — was an amazing experience. Thank you.

5 out of 5

Pub: 2016 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Audio book borrowed from my local library

Book chat: ‘The Ramblers’ by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

The RamblersAs readers, we’re all looking for that magic.

The spark. The recognition. The connection. Whatever the special ingredient is that pulls us close, that makes it impossible to let go of a story and its characters . . . well, Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s The Ramblers has it.

I’ve been an ardent fan of Rowley’s since Life After Yes, her 2010 debut, and followed the progress of The Ramblers through the author’s Instagram feed. When I learned her sophomore novel was ready to be released in the wild? Er, I might have shrieked a bit. And then it arrived, I petted it, and we got down to business.

Set over the course of one autumn week in New York City, The Ramblers tells the stories of Clio Marsh and Smith Anderson — longtime best friends both set adrift by lovers, family and circumstances, clinging to each other through life’s changes before finally realizing they’re ready to inch into whatever comes next.

Smith and Clio are flawed. They’re struggling. Leaving her roots with a mentally ill mother and distant father, Clio is now a successful ornithologist who also leads bird walks through Central Park in New York City. Smith is Clio’s college cohort, a life organizer — a fixer — who grew up in a blue-blood family . . . but her advantages come with many costs.

Clio is in love with Henry, a hotelier who desperately wants her to move forward — and in — with him; Smith is still smarting from the cataclysmic break-up of her engagement to a doctor her father didn’t deem “suitable.” Clio believes it’s time to confront her grief at her mother’s recent death, but it’s actually her life — their shared lives, disrupted and distorted — that she’s mourning. And Smith has to learn how to snap the gilded strings her parents wrapped around her wrists . . . just in time to attend her younger sister’s wedding.

Here’s the thing about Rowley: her writing is gorgeous, lyrical, intentional. Each word is carefully selected; nothing is left to chance. This could come across as stilted, even condescending — but it doesn’t. The result is a novel of fully-formed characters that endear and irritate. They make an impression.

Described in the publisher copy as a “love letter to New York City,” the setting certainly has a starring role in this story. I knew nothing about the Ramble before diving in, but found myself picturing it beautifully as we moved along. I actually didn’t do any research until after I’d finished; I wanted to save my own mental pictures. They were pretty accurate, it turns out: the Ramble is a 36-acre “‘wild garden'” within Central Park where more than 40 species of birds perch year-round.

Clio’s occupation — and preoccupation — with birds was unique, interesting and never overdone. It’s her choice to lead birdwatching groups through the Ramble that brings her to Henry, crying quietly on a bench — a man who is also a little broken, a little scuffed . . . and the perfect match for her.

This is a love story, but it is not a love story. Though it could get steamy, even sexy, this is really a modern story of two women choosing to unshackle themselves from the past — and prior selves. There is growth, and when you finish? You feel like you’ve really gone somewhere. You’ve arrived.

Recently-separated Tate’s storyline was, in my opinion, the least interesting of the three — but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy getting to know him and how his life would come to intersect, however briefly, with Smith’s.

Fans of thoughtful fiction, lush New York settings and lyrical writing will find much to adore in The Ramblers. There is much more I could discuss, but it’s a novel best enjoyed on its own merits. And after adoring Rowley’s first work so much? Well, it was more than worth the wait.

4.5 out of 5

Pub: 2016 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher/TLC Book Tours for critical consideration

Book chat: ‘Food Whore’ by Jessica Tom

Food WhoreTia Monroe knows food.

That passion is what propelled her into New York’s fashionable, dirty, complicated, cutthroat culinary world. A young critic and baker once featured in the New York Times, Tia now hopes to gain an internship with a famed foodie at work on her next cook book. . . until that opportunity crumbles like a days-old cookie.

Left starting in the coat check (!) at an upscale restaurant, Tia makes the acquaintance of Michael Saltz: the Times critic known for making and breaking the city’s top establishments. Michael giveth, and Michael taketh away — until a strange medical issue threatens to take everything away from him.

Rich, powerful and well-connected, Michael Saltz needs Tia’s perspective — and her palate — to uphold the lavish life to which he’s accustomed. And Tia? She’s wooed by the promise of Michael finally connecting her to the mentor she wanted in the first place. (The pricey meals, expense account and hot chefs are a bonus.)

But can she get out from Michael’s grasp without getting burned?

Jessica Tom’s Food Whore was fast-paced, light and entertaining — everything I love in good chick lit. Comparisons to a foodie version of The Devil Wears Prada are pretty spot-on, but I liked Tia’s persistence and willingness to step out to reach her goals.

Even if that meant getting stepped on.

As a narrator, Tia could be frustrating, though. She’s frequently gullible, though I can’t pretend I would know better. The plot line with her college sweetheart was a little irritating, given dude was as interesting as plain vanilla ice cream (let him go, lady), but I liked the push-and-pull Jessica Tom established in Tia’s conscience: settle for the old, or strive for the new?

Though Tia is our main squeeze, Michael Saltz — and his creepiness — seep between every crack in the story. He presents himself as Tia’s savior, a one-man ticket to a better life, but I had the sense he was all bluster from the beginning. We know his intentions aren’t romantic (he’s gay), but his obsession with Tia as the one remaining tether to his lifestyle and prestige is . . . unsettling, to say the least.

Food Whore moves quickly — so fast I finished it in a few days, which is a record for this new mama who rarely reads more than a few pages at a clip. It often kept me up past my bedtime, and I found myself thinking about Tia and her madcap adventures throughout the day.

Fans of women’s fiction, tantalizing food descriptions, New York settings and speedy reads will enjoy Food Whore. I really liked slipping into Tia’s stylish shoes for this adventure through New York’s culinary culture — and I would return in a heartbeat.

4 out of 5

Pub: 2015 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided for critical consideration

A tale of four audiobooks

Most of my reading these days is actually . . . listening.

If I hadn’t discovered audio books (with a helpful push from book bloggers) a few years back, I’m pretty sure my reading total for the year would be about, oh, five.

Wish I were joking.

Over the years, I’ve gone from someone casually aware of audiobooks as a form of recreation, entertainment and education to a listener who is never without one — or three — from the library. I now have favorite authors I will only ever “read” this way, including David Sedaris. (He’ll get his own post later on. I’m kind of obsessed.)

I know my book reviews have been pretty absent these last few months. To be honest, my focus has been off lately. Between the lingering exhaustion inherent with having an infant (even one who sleeps through the night) and the fact that I can never stay up past 9 p.m., very little holds my attention these days.

I’m trying to fix that — and have been making progress. As I type, I’m nearing the end of Natalie Meg Evan’s The Milliner’s Secret and will be desperate to talk about it with someone soon. It’s easily the most engrossing story I’ve read in ages: historical fiction done right and extremely well. It has everything: a strong heroine who cobbles together a new life in Paris; a salacious, forbidden love affair between two people who really shouldn’t be together, yet are magnetized to one another; the dramatic, tragic backdrop of Nazi-occupied France.

But, you know, this isn’t about The Milliner’s Secret. We’ll return another day.

This? This is about audiobooks. Between my triangle trips to day care, work, home and back again, I average an hour in the car each day. Plenty of time to get through an audiobook every week or so.

Here’s what I’ve had cranked up lately:

Beautiful DayBeautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand
Published in 2013; 3/5 stars

Knowing she won’t be able to see her daughter get married, Beth leaves behind “The Notebook”: her guide to how she envisions her youngest child’s wedding day, right down to the menu and napkins. Jenna chooses to follow her mother’s wishes to the letter — right down to the menu, napkins and tent suggestions. It’s the least she can do, she thinks.

As her extended family descends on the family estate on Nantucket, the Grahams and Carmichaels must find a way to get along as new details about their own relationships come to light. Will everything come together to form the perfect day Beth imagined for Jenna?

Filled with enough characters to fill a train car, Beautiful Day would have been a simple, pleasant enough read if I’d been able to keep track of who all these people were. We have two large families — the bride’s and the groom’s — with a trunk full of issues each.

While it was entertaining, I was lost in the midst of this ensemble and unable to connect to anyone in particular. Jenna was pretty annoying, honestly. Beth’s words in The Notebook open each chapter, and I eventually found the extremely specific details to be grating. It just all felt . . . very melodramatic. I mean, we’re talking about a posthumous wedding guide, though, so I guess that’s to be expected?

Regardless, I enjoyed Hilderbrand’s easy-breezy setting and writing style — nothing too taxing; easy listening for my drives. My lukewarm reception to this one didn’t stop me from picking up another novel. In fact . . .

Winter StrollWinter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand
Published in 2015; 3/5 stars

Christmas with a side of major baggage.

It’s December in Nantucket, and the Quinn family has gathered for the annual Christmas Stroll on the island. Patriarch Kelley Quinn was recently left by his wife, Mitzi, as the pair struggle with the disappearance of their Marine son in the Middle East. Kelley’s first wife, Margaret, returns with her doctor boyfriend as their children, spouses, grandchildren and extended clan arrive to celebrate the baptism of the first Quinn granddaughter.

There’s Ava and Scott, Patrick and Jennifer, Isabelle and Kevin and Genevieve. Then we have Margaret, Drake, Bart, Norah and the Quinn grandsons, most of whom are misbehaving.

Sense a pattern here?

Like Hilderbrand’s Beautiful Day, I struggled to find my footing with this large and complicated family — but enjoyed Winter Stroll for its holiday setting and more-than-meets-the-eye subplot for several characters (the perfect mom addicted to painkillers; the not-so-evil first wife who is a famous news anchor). Some of the storylines worked better than others, like Kelley and Mitzi’s attempts at reconnection over Ava’s bizarre, flat “love triangle” with two cardboard cut-out dudes.

Though no one felt fully-formed to me, fleshed out and messy and real, I found Winter Stroll to be a nice diversion getting closer to the holidays myself. This is the second book in a series, but I read it as a stand-alone. The extremely abrupt ending is an obvious precursor to another installment . . . and I would have liked more resolution. That was a downer.

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published in 2014; 3.5/5 stars

Spoiled teens behaving badly. We’ve read this story before — but definitely not like this.

This novel came to my attention last year when everyone was freaking out about it, but it somehow slipped from my radar again until recently. Other readers (correctly!) point out that it’s best not to know much about the plot going in, so perhaps this will suffice: a rich extended family converges on their private island off Cape Cod each summer, the teen cousins growing up together as their mothers squabble with their aging grandfather over how best to spend his fortune.

Caught up in her parents’ divorce, narrator Cady misses two summers after an accident on the island leaves her battling horrible migraines, memory lapses and anger issues. When she returns, she finds that much has changed with her family. Will she learn the truth about Summer 15 . . . and what happens when she does?

Cady is a tough character to bond with or really know — but that’s not really the point, is it? After finishing We Were Liars, I did a lot of thinking about whether it’s necessary to like a story’s characters to appreciate the book. No, I decided — but it helps.

“Appreciate” is a good word to use here. I appreciated this story, but did not necessarily like it. Mirren, Johnny and Cady were privileged, entitled and foolhardy, and the only character I really felt sorry for was Gat. A family friend who doesn’t hail from the WASP-y Sinclairs, Gat is caught up in their infighting and skepticism of outsiders when all he wants is to belong.

Did it shock me? Yes . . . and no. I didn’t completely see the twist coming, but I saw shades of it that got my wheels turning earlier on. Once finished, I considered returning to the beginning armed with my new knowledge to piece it all together again.

It is smart, suspenseful, ominous and interesting — but in the end, my dislike of the Liars themselves kept me from loving this one. It is unique, however. Lockhart’s sparse, moody writing made We Were Liars very memorable. Plus, as a lover of the Bard? I was all about the allusions to Shakespeare’s King Lear. Quite cool.

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
Published in 2014; 4/5 stars

This is it: Georgie McCool’s big break. The opportunity for the TV show she’s been working on with Seth, her longtime friend and writing partner, for decades. But it comes with a cost . . . missing Christmas in Omaha with Neal, her college sweetheart, and their two daughters.

Neal doesn’t understand how Georgie could choose to stay alone in Los Angeles rather than travel for Christmas, proving — once again — that she isn’t as invested in their family as she should be. Once a brooding cartoonist who won Georgie over by essentially telling her that he disliked her less than everyone else in the world (um, swoon?), Neal has changed. Their partnership has floundered under the pressures of parenting young children, battling finances, Georgie’s long hours. Normal life, basically.

When Neal and the girls depart on ugly terms, Georgie retreats to her eccentric mother’s house to nurse her wounds between her writing shifts with Seth. It’s there that she finds an old analog phone — a landline — and connects to Neal in Omaha. But it’s not her Neal — stay-at-home dad Neal; discontent and angry Neal — but the young, idealistic college student Georgie fell in love with decades before.

With this portal to the past, Georgie realizes she’s “found” her husband when he was still a sort-of-ex-boyfriend — a few days before Christmas in the ‘90s when he took a fateful trip to Nebraska and returned, quite unexpectedly, with an engagement ring.

Does Georgie have a chance to right her wrongs . . . and does she want to? Is it too late to fix what somehow became quite broken?

Rainbow Rowell is such a talented, perceptive and engaging writer, and Landline was a treat. Rowell even makes reading extremely long phone exchanges — normally a reader pet-peeve of mine — pleasurable. I totally loved Georgie McCool.

Though this story doesn’t have the swoon factor of the other Rowell novels I’ve read, I thought her observations on long-term relationships and parenting were superb. The unexpected highlight of the book for me was the dynamic between Georgie and her 18-year-old sister, who happens to be wiser than most of the adults in her life put together.

Also? Landline’s audio narrator, Rebecca Lowman, was awesome. I have a reader crush on her and will be desperately seeking whatever she lends her dulcet vocals to from now on.

Book chat: ‘Why Not Me?’ by Mindy Kaling

Why Not MeActress and writer Mindy Kaling is my vision of a talented Everywoman.

Confident but approachable, warm and vivacious, Mindy is someone I aspire to be more like. I love her sass, her wit, her style . . . and also love that she “doesn’t look like most women on TV,” a statement Mindy herself ponders in Why Not Me?, her second memoir.

I went into this book hoping the Mindy I know and love — wise, funny, a little quirky — would shine through, and she absolutely does. Her memoir is a collection of short stories about many topics, including her days on “The Office”; the hard work and long hours behind “The Mindy Project,” her (awesome) TV show recently picked up by Hulu; and many anecdotes about friendship, college, growing up, looking for love, self-confidence and more.

Though the only uniting thread seems to be Mindy’s insistence that we should be ourselves regardless of what anyone thinks and work hard for what we want, that was enough. That totally worked for me. This 240-page book left me feeling motivated and renewed, like I’d just had a cleansing cryfest with an old friend.

Plus? It’s funny, but in a warmhearted way. Mindy is hilarious. I especially appreciated that, while she is grateful women see her as a realistic role model, she’s not afraid to admit that, at times, she does wish she were thinner, bolder, more confident or [insert societal standard or adjective here]. That vulnerability is appealing — and also comforting. It’s more than okay to love and accept ourselves while still striving to improve.

If you’re a fan of Kaling, Why Not Me? is a book you’ll likely savor. Having not read her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (I know: way behind), I can’t compare the two — but this short, easily digestible and enjoyable series of stories definitely feels like you’ve invited Mindy over to give you advice on being a bad boss lady while she still owns up to some of her foibles. I totally dug it.

4 out of 5

Pub: 2015 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Copy borrowed from my local library

Book chat: ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir

The MartianI must be broken.

While everyone and their book-loving great aunt has been raving about Andy Weir’s The Martian (seriously: look at all these five-star reviews), I was over here listening to the story on audio and trying not to fall asleep on the road.

The story centers on astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist stranded on Mars after his colleagues believe he has been killed during a powerful dust storm. They reluctantly depart to save themselves, but no one feels good about it. No man — or woman -– left behind.

After he comes-to in the barren red landscape light years from home, Mark must take stock of his limited resources and find a way to communicate with Earth. He uses his wits, experience and sense of humor to stay alive and fed as NASA scrambles to save him — with the eyes of the world watching.

The premise was definitely intriguing, especially given how obsessed I was with last year’s “Interstellar” and my general love of outer space. Fun fact? Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” defined my early marriage. Spencer and I never missed an episode, often settling down on busy weeknights to re-watch ones we’d already seen. I was all about it.

I married a scientist, so my interest in science-y stuff does come in handy . . . but, you know, I was an English major. Despite my love of the subject, I don’t know much about space — or survival.

Maybe that’s partially what hurt me here?

Along with high expectations, of course. The Martian is everywhere right now, with a high-profile film starring Matt Damon due to release this fall. Everyone I know who has hunkered down with this fast-paced tale has loved it, so I assumed I would love it, too.

But I didn’t. It was . . . missing something. Though initially hard to pin down, I’ll describe it as a lack of emotional investment. As a narrator, Mark is funny, compelling, smart and sarcastic — definitely a great character. I liked him. I felt for him. But did I ever truly worry for his fate? Not so much.

Buddy Trish recently commented that she believes it will make a better movie than book, and I agree. The trailer definitely got me hyped up. All the extremely science-y science may better translate on film. As it stood? I didn’t have the attention span necessary to follow the intricate plan for Mark’s survival, totally zoning out as he described the math needed to ensure he could grow enough potatoes to survive until possible salvation.

And that was just the beginning.

Though I wasn’t emotionally invested in the outcome, I definitely appreciate Weir’s writing. He builds suspense — will he make it, or won’t he? — and deftly brings hostile, lonely Mars to life. Between its storms and desolate landscape, it’s not exactly a place conducive to life. Yet Mark’s ingenuity allows him to tame the red planet, finding a way to subsist despite all reasoning saying he shouldn’t be able to.

Also, it’s fun to see under “settings” in the middle of my 2015 reading log spreadsheet:

New York City, New York, USA
Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA

The audio narration by R. C. Bray was fantastic. If you’re toying between reading the story or listening to it, I heartily recommend the latter. Bray perfectly nailed the tone of the story and seamlessly shifted between characters, with his portrayal of Mark being the definite highlight.

Though The Martian won’t go down as an all-time favorite, I’m happy I read it — and was impressed to learn that Weir’s science is sound. Plus, it was originally self-published . . . and as a writer, that earns an extremely impressed thumbs-up.

3 out of 5

Pub: 2011 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Audio book borrowed from my local library