Yesterday, I flew home from a five day vacation to Belize. I had a wonderful time! We snorkeled, scuba dived, and ate way too much seafood! But most importantly, we READ! My TBR vacation list included a very “fucked” astronaut, a series of 1940’s letters detailing an extraordinary society, a crotchety old man, several dead bodies, and a new publisher friend.
I wanted to have plenty of reading options! I wound up making it through three and a half of them and decided to do one super blog post with all of them. If you aren’t caught up with my Popsugar 2016 reading list, now’s a great time to do so! I’ll be throwing these three up on my Tumblr over this next week, but I wanted you all to have the first peek!
The Martian – Andy Weir
first paperback edition, Crown Publishing Group
I didn’t initially want to read this. If I see a movie before a book, I almost never read it. The only time I do is when I LOVE a movie (as was the case with Me and Earl and The Dying Girl). However, my boss was reading it and told me it was one of her all time favorites. It was on sale at B&N so I figured, why not.
In all, I don’t think The Martian was particularly my kind of book. That said, I absolutely loved it! Mark Watney is the Ares 3 botanist. After a catastrophic sandstorm on Mars, his crew presumes him dead and leaves the planet. Trouble is – Watney didn’t die. Now, stranded and alone, he must figure out how to survive on a planet trying to kill him.
Weir did the impossible: he made math and science understandable and, even more shocking, entertaining. Watney was a hilarious voice (the novel is mostly told through his logs) while still maintaining his loneliness. No part of Watney’s journey felt unrealistic or forced, and as his heart broke or soared, mine did too.
It got off to a bit of a slow start, but after the first 30 pages of so, the action was gripping, and took necessary breaks in the form of perspective shifts. However, the pacing wasn’t always what it should’ve been (Watney’s logs could have been shorter in several places). But, overall, The Martian was an exciting and genuine science fiction novel, with charming characters, and a well executed plot.
A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman (Henning Koch)
first paperback edition, Atria Books
Sweedish Ove is a typical curmudgeon. He doesn’t understand “iPads”; he hates foreigners; he’s a strict rule follower; he’s in a very dark place. Then, much to his irritation, an annoying and incompetent married couple and their two bratty daughters move in next door, taking out his mailbox with the moving truck in the process. What follows is a neighborhood adventure like no other, that leaves all those involved changed forever.
Utterly perfect. Equally humorous and heart-wrenching, this novel proves things are not always as they seem. Grouchy old Ove may not be as bad as he first appears, and this simple story may just leave you wallowing in profound musings on life, death, and growing old.
Backman’s characters are vivid and compellingly drawn. Even the mangy neighborhood cat is more developed than most literary characters. His story is no less impressive. Most noteworthy is Backman’s use of flashbacks. A general weak point in literature is when authors feel the need to insert a few chapters of “backstory.” It always feels forced and isn’t quite as developed as the present. Not so here.
A Man Called Ove is everything you want in a story. It’s funny and sad and leaves you better than it found you. It’s charming and it’s cleaver. And, if you’ve recently lost an old man in you’re life, you may just find it saves you.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
first paperback edition, Dial Press Trade
The year is 1946 and bestselling writer Juliet Ashton is on a book tour when she receives a letter from a man living on the island of Guernsey who has stumbled upon her name in a book she used to own. Through a series of letters between the island’s inhabitants, Juliet learns about an extraordinary and brave literary society, and tales of the Guernsey’s occupation during World War II. It is a breathtaking look at what the books we love do for us, and the price we are all willing to pay for our humanity.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the perfect beach read – light, romantic, and readable. The characters are shallow and so is the plot, but it’s still a delicious treat. For lovers of classic literature, Guernsey’s literary and potato peel pie society will register deep within you while lovers of world war two literature will note the fresh perspective.
Is Mary Ann Shaffer’s book a particularly good one? No. But it is in every way delightful and the true definition of a treat. If, like me, you find yourself on a beach this summer, do yourself a favor and bring this along. I promise you’ll enjoy yourself!
(I’m also a bit biased – I love the story of how this little book came to be. Mary Ann Shaffer always wanted to write a book, and as she neared completion, she became terminally ill. Her niece, Annie Barrows, finished it off for her. A story like this is so sweet, and even sweeter after you finish the book!)
I had an awesome trip and an even better reading list! (For those interested, Ordinary Grace is next up! Happy Family was the other book I brought.)