The Martian by Andy Weir

Digging through my pile of exciting books, one of the first I finished was The Martian by Andy Weir.  It was a good read–not as exciting as I hoped–but I can see how it could be a really great read…for someone else.  Someone with a bit more interest in science than I have!

Set in the near-future, the title character is Mark Watney, an American astronaut left behind on Mars when his team has to make an emergency evacuation.  The rest of the crew believes he’s already dead–but Watney survives, and now faces the challenge of surviving alone on Mars until the next schedules mission…four years away.  Luckily, most of the supplies for the mission were left behind, but it’s still a struggle for food, water and air.  Meanwhile on Earth, satellite images soon alert NASA to the mistake made, and the whole planet rallies around how to rescue the stranded astronaut.

In a lot of ways, this book reminds me of Hatchet, essentially the story of a castaway surviving alone.  That comparison feels like a helpful framework for addressing what I did and didn’t like about this book. Continue reading

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Book Review: Smek for President

I reread The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex recently, which is so delightful and funny and surprisingly meaningful.  It made me very excited to jump into the recently-published sequel, Smek for President.  Which was a bit less meaningful, but still funny and delightful.

The sequel picks up two years after the first book.  The world has settled back into normalcy after being invaded by aliens (twice) and Gratuity “Tip” Tucci is trying to get used to being a normal kid again, after being on her own for six months when her mother was abducted, and then saving the world.  J.Lo (the alien Boov, not the singer), who Tip met and befriended in the first book, is living with Tip and her mother but trying to cope with being the only alien left among all these humans.  Worse, the other Boovs blame J.Lo for accidentally summoning enemy aliens, who ultimately led to their loss of control over the Earth.

Tip and J.Lo set off together to the new Boov world, one of the moons of Saturn.  J.Lo wants to set his case before the great Boov leader Smek, and Tip wants to rebel against her mother.  They find the Boovs engaged in their first presidential election, and more interested in arresting J.Lo than in hearing his story.  Hijinks, naturally, ensue. Continue reading

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Coming Attractions (Or, Squee!)

I don’t usually post about what I’m planning to post about…but I have so many exciting books stacked up right now, that I can’t resist sharing. :)  All of these had staggered release dates, but somehow they’ve managed to land on me all at once!

Coming Attractions Continue reading

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Book Review: The Runner (Tillerman Cycle)

After rereading and reviewing the first two books of Cynthia Voigt’s Tillerman Cycle, I skipped on past #3 (even though it’s my favorite) because I read it relatively recently, and went to #4, The Runner.  It’s chronologically earliest, set ten years before Homecoming opens the series, and focuses on a different generation of Tillermans.

The title character is Bullet Tillerman, the uncle of Homecoming‘s Dicey.  Like Dicey’s Song, this is mostly a character book.  Bullet is a high school student during the Vietnam War, and the champion cross country runner in his school–but he doesn’t care about winning, only about running well.  At home, he fights a mostly silent battle of wills against his father, while at school he holds himself aloof from the racial tensions rocking the student body.

I normally love Voigt’s focus on character…but in this case, I couldn’t get into the particular character she focused on.  I wrote in my review of the earlier books about Dicey’s and her grandmother’s determination to hold themselves apart and not be dependent on anyone.  Bullet shares the same characteristic with his mother and niece, but more so. Continue reading

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Classic Review: The True Meaning of Smekday

I reviewed The True Meaning of Smekday a couple of years ago–and it was a delightful read!  The sequel, Smek for President, finally came out this past month, so I reread the first in anticipation.  Today I’m re-posting my review for the first one.  Stay tuned for a review of the new book soon!


I don’t remember anymore where I originally heard about The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, but I know I read it because I couldn’t resist that title–or the premise that came with it.

Sometime in the very-near future, aliens called Boovs land on Earth on Christmas Day (in true Doctor Who tradition) and proceed to take over the planet.  Resistance is, shall we say, futile.  The Boovs rename Christmas as Smekday, in honor of their General Smek who conquered Earth (Smekland).  Our heroine is Gratuity Tucci–her friends call her Tip.  Tip’s mother was abducted by the Boov on Smekday, a story she begins to relate for a school writing assignment on “The True Meaning of Smekday.”

When all humans are ordered to relocate to Florida, Tip sets out alone in her car (she’s eleven, but she taught herself to drive after her mother disappeared), accompanied only by her cat, Pig.  Along the way, she meets a Boov named J.Lo (his Smekland-name).  He has his own troubles, and they form an uncertain alliance.  They realize that the troubles for Smekland have just begun, when another race of aliens comes to invade: the Gorg, known throughout the civilized galaxy as the Takers.

I am always impressed by books which can manage satire-level humor, balanced with genuine tragedy and heartache.  Telling an absurd abduction story is one thing.  Telling a tragic abduction story is another.  Doing both at once–now that’s really something.  There’s a lot of humor throughout the book, but there are also serious dangers and serious tragedies.  Neither detracts from the other. Continue reading

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