Blogging friends began raving about The Martian many months ago and in excitement I purchased it on Audible, back in March. I trust these bloggers (heBlogging friends began raving about The Martian many months ago and in excitement I purchased it on Audible, back in March. I trust these bloggers (hey I bought the book) but skepticism kicked in and as the hype increased I put off listening to it until last week. *kicks self*
So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.
If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.
The Martian was A-MAZING. Narrator R.C. Bray, deserves a high five,a medal, a raise ... absolutely brilliant narration. It's tense, emotional, snerk funny and a surprise favourite read this year.
I don't think I'm known in blogging circles for my speedy reviews lol and yet here I am posting, literally minutes after finishing the audio #booyah
Astronaut and botanist Mark Watney is tenacious, resilient, resourceful, brave and kick-ass smart, all qualities you'd expect of an astronaut. What I really loved was his humour and sarcasm, he's a wise-cracking smart ass and I laughed out loud, many a time. Given the gravity of his situation you might think his quips would get old but he was chosen for the mission not just for his qualifications but for his easy going personality, so it worked.
“My asshole is doing as much to keep me alive as my brain.”
“I'm even going to electrolyze my urine. That'll make for a pleasant smell in the trailer. If I survive this, I'll tell people I was pissing rocket fuel.”
The Martian is scientifically technical and high school science/math was not my strong point so it surprised me how much I enjoyed all of it, even the stuff that went over my head was fascinating. The Q&A on Andy Weir's website regarding research and accuracy was really interesting.
Mark's log entries, the narration from NASA; it felt believable and authentic, the characters likable. Mark's the King of Mars but I also loved Venkat, Mindy, Mitch and the Hermes crew.
Log Entry: SOL 118
My conversation with NASA about the Water Reclaimer was boring and riddled with technical details. So I'll paraphrase for you:
Me: "This is obviously a clog. How about I take it apart and check the internal tubing?"
NASA: (After about 5 hours of deliberation) "No. You'll fuck it up and die."
So I took it apart.
I told NASA what I did. Our (paraphrased) conversation was: Me: “I took it apart, found the problem, and fixed it.” NASA: “Dick.”
Log Entry: Sol 501 I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin’.
So how 'bout that conclusion. I may have stopped breathing and even teared up ... just a little bit.
... now for the movie.
How cool is it that astronauts on ISS watched The Martian movie in space. ...more
I love Rachel Vincent, met her at ARRC in 2013 and I did the #fangirl thing. I love her writing so of course I wanted to read her latest but I was worI love Rachel Vincent, met her at ARRC in 2013 and I did the #fangirl thing. I love her writing so of course I wanted to read her latest but I was worried about clowns. You know ... travelling carnival, macabre circus, will there be clowns?? Clowns scare the crap out of me, they are creepy and most probably evil. I'm also one of those people who find circuses morally repugnant. However, my love for Rachel Vincent's writing and my big-girl-pants beat out clown fear. So fear not fellow clown phobics ... no clowns in Menagerie!
And OMG it's freakin awesome.
I seem to have hit the audiobook jackpot this year. Gabra Zackman nails the narration, pacing, distinct voices and personalities for an array of characters. I hope Gabra narrates future installments.
After the Reaping, cryptids and human/cryptid hybrids (oracles, weres, ogres, minotaurs, mermaids, selkies, succubi, fae) are hunted, caged, enslaved, tortured, exploited, starved and stripped of every basic human right.
Delilah Marlow reluctantly visits Metzger's Menagerie on her 25th birthday. Her horror at the treatment of Cryptids and specifically the torture of a werewolf girl, unleashes something in her and hours later Delilah finds herself chained on the other side of the bars at the mercy of keepers hell-bent on stripping every shred of humanity from her.
Menagerie is dark and brutal and superbly imagined, the complex world building blew my mind. But it also ripped at my heart. It might be fantasy but the parallels of abuse and injustice, the exploited, ostracised and oppressed in our own world are obvious.
Menagerie is tight, and raw and tense and beautiful despite the horror. It's everything I've come to expect from Rachel Vincent's writing ... and more. I loved the multiple POV's. I loved Delilah and handler Gallagher. I loved many of the fierce, fragile and damaged cryptids, werewolf Claudio and daughter Genni, minotaur Eryx .
Be warned, the torture, abuse and violence is disturbing and difficult to read at times.
But when the violence turns and some less-than-human humans get what they deserve, there's me cheering ... YEAH bring it on!! #karmasabitch hmm guess I sound a little disturbing.
The ending is great. Rachel Vincent could have been totally evil here. I know this probably makes little sense but it's an ending that left me satisfied and yet frothing at the mouth for more. Write faster Rachel Vincent.
I could keep going with superlatives ... or you could just take my word for it and read it. Menagerie is a favourite read this year. It might even be THE book of the year!...more
My first time reading Fiona Palmer, surprising, since I'm actually familiar with a few of her titles. Anyway, not only was this a delightful rural romMy first time reading Fiona Palmer, surprising, since I'm actually familiar with a few of her titles. Anyway, not only was this a delightful rural romance with wonderfully endearing characters, The Saddler Boys has substance, highlighting topical issues of domestic violence, single parenting, rural school closures and small town viability.
Set in the actual town of Lake Biddy in Western Australia, 22 year old Nat leaves her family and boyfriend Greg in Perth to take up her first teacher's posting at the small country school. While unfamiliar with remote rural life, she's enthusiastic, genuine about embracing the experience and she's warmly welcomed by the locals ...
None more so than 8 year old student Billy who blossoms under Nat's instruction and compassionate nature. My heart melted at the first mention of little Billy and when we learn of his Nana's death from metastatic melanoma, I was undone. My boys had a beautiful bond with their Nana who died from Melanoma 7 years ago.
Palmer's passion for the rural landscape is vivid on the page, farming, shearing, seeding, P&C fundraisers, the genuine sense of community, neighbourly generosity and compassion. I loved that almost as much as I loved the bond developing between Nat and the Saddler boys, Billy and hardworking single dad, Drew. The Saddler boys, big and little won my heart!
Family, friendship, love and community with a thoroughly authentic Australian flavour. ...more
I love psychological thrillers but I did begin this one tentatively. Whilst it's fiction, any child-related crime adds a depth of reality that is hardI love psychological thrillers but I did begin this one tentatively. Whilst it's fiction, any child-related crime adds a depth of reality that is hard to cope with. Child abductions scare me to death and when 8 year old Ben Jenner goes missing, Rachel Jenner faces every parents' nightmare.
'In the quiet, my eyes followed the lines of the surrounding tree trucks upwards until I glimpsed the sky above, and I could feel darkness starting to push in as surely as fire creeps across a piece of paper, curling its edges, turning it to ash.
In that moment, I knew that Ben wasn’t there.'
Yes this was a special kind of hell to read but it was also riveting and bloody brilliant. I'm astounded it's Gilly Macmillan's debut novel.
The main narrative focuses on Rachel Jenner's recollection of her son's disappearance and investigating Detective Jim Clemo's, reports and sessions with his treating psychologist. But the narrative is supplemented with transcripts from social media posts, online newspapers, journal articles and missing children websites. It's an unusual mix and it really works.
Burnt Paper Sky is a highly emotive read, and not just for the obvious impact of a missing child but the 'trial by media'. The vilification heaped on Rachel by the media and public was appalling. Every facial expression, phrase, action, scrutinised and judged with ignorance and maliciousness.
Burnt Paper Sky is wonderfully layered. Tight, pacy and smart and OMG the tension, it kept me guessing. I read this in one sitting desperate to know what happened. Make sure you lock the door and start this one with a chunk of free time because you won't want to put it down and you'll want to hurt anyone that interrupts.
A heart-in-mouth read ... start to finish.
Gilly Macmillan is an author to watch out for and I'll be standing in line for whatever she dishes up next.
Note: this will be released in the US as What She Knew. ...more
This was my first Barbara Hannay read. What rock have I been living under?? ... I have no idea why Hannay hasn't come to my attention before 4.5 stars
This was my first Barbara Hannay read. What rock have I been living under?? ... I have no idea why Hannay hasn't come to my attention before now but I've been missing out.
The Secret Years is a multi-generational story blending contemporary and historical narratives into an utterly captivating read.
It's a story where the past bleeds into the present, the effect of long held secrets rippling through generations.
Lucy returns home to Australia from a 6 month deployment in Afghanistan. Her mother and beloved grandfather Harry's reticence in talking about the past, then her discovery of a tin of her grandfather's wartime memorabilia, impetus for heading to Cornwall, England to unravel the secrets of her family's history.
Harry and George's (Georgina) story (the historical narrative) was my favourite, it's tender and brave and the war added tension and urgency to their romance. But, I was surprised to enjoy Lucy and 'cousin' Nick's story almost as much. Lucy's search for answers is integral in pulling all the pieces of the story together.
The Secret Years has a wonderful sense of place, whether it was the harsh beauty and isolation of the Australian bush, London during the Blitz, the dramatic beauty of the Cornish coastline or the lush beauty, humidity and danger of Rabaul, New Guinea during the Japanese invasion, I was transported effortlessly and completely immersed.
The Secret Years is an evocative story of great love, loss and secrets. Family history gives us a strong sense of identity so the story is also a journey of self discovery. Hannay breathes life and love into the pages.
One of the benefits of discovering an author late is an extensive backlist to devour :)...more
Ooh I loved this ... falling in love with a cover paid off this time.
Why I loved it? ... just because. Does that cut it? It's a story that spoke to meOoh I loved this ... falling in love with a cover paid off this time.
Why I loved it? ... just because. Does that cut it? It's a story that spoke to me for no one reason I can put my finger on ... it just did.
... "there is something delightful about helping a key find its way back to a lock, so it can do the work it was meant for. "
"Are you going to let yourself be defeated by a little lock? Remember Genevieve: Love laughs at locksmiths! Trust your old uncle."
The story moves seamlessly from Genevieve in the present day to her time in Paris as a teenager staying with uncle Dave and tante Pasquale, to her mother Angela's bittersweet time in Paris. I was captivated by it all.
I loved the symbolism ... secrets, locks ... opening your heart to new experiences, life and love.
All the talk about boulangerie's, baguette's, pain au chocolat had me longing once more for Paris.
The story felt like Paris ... that beguiling mix of old fashioned values and sophistication, lingering over conversations, good food and wine, enjoying simple pleasures.
Walking in Paris with Genevieve felt intimate, discovering along with her, places I've visited and some I'm adding to the bucket list ... Village Saint-Paul, Montparnasse cemetry, Le Pont Traversé (the old butcher's bookshop.) I loved her interactions in Paris, her struggles with French bureaucracy and efforts to learn the language.
I adored Genevieve's Parisian friend Sylviane. I could read a book about her ... how 'bout it Juliet?
The Paris Key is a story about secrets, family, friends and discovering one's true self ... in Paris.
HOLY guacamole this was BRILLIANT, a 2015 favourite read. It's intelligent, edgy and tight ... the very best kind of psychological thriller. Even theHOLY guacamole this was BRILLIANT, a 2015 favourite read. It's intelligent, edgy and tight ... the very best kind of psychological thriller. Even the title and cover art is creepy good.
Tessa is the only surviving victim of the Black-Eyed Susans serial killer. The story moves seamlessly between past and present, teenage Tessie and adult Tessa almost 2 decades on, with a teenage daughter of her own.
Tessa's fragmented memories and growing desperation added wings to my own anxiety and as the murderer's execution loomed the sense of urgency grew. Was he wrongfully convicted?
Black-Eyed Susans had my skin crawling with dread, there's no graphic violence but the suspense almost killed me. My thoughts were jumping as erratically as my heart. So true about the sense of smell and memories. Such visceral reactions to Heaberlin's writing ... LOVE that.
I had my suspicions and I was correct (to a point) but the author's skill with misdirection. Wow, talk about amping the suspense. I was all over the place.
What more could you ask for? ... superb characterisation, gorgeous writing, the forensic science/DNA, psychological and legal aspect all fascinating, obviously well researched and executed brilliantly.
I'd laughed, something close to the way I used to, and imagined it drifting out under the bedroom door, smoothing out a tight wrinkle in my father's face.
I love historical fiction and France's history in particular is rich, vivid and endlessly fascinating. I've read a few novels focused on the formidablI love historical fiction and France's history in particular is rich, vivid and endlessly fascinating. I've read a few novels focused on the formidable Catherine de Medici but this was my first look at the early life of her daughter Marguerite and my first Sophie Perinot novel. Definitely a positive experience.
The story is told from the first person perspective of Marguerite (Margo) and her relationships with her Valois family are front and centre. Mother Catherine de Medici, brothers King Charles IX and Henri Duc d'Anjou (Anjou) ... what a viper's nest.
In this coming-of-age story we follow Marguerite from relative obscurity and innocence to a place at court, in love with the unsuitable Henri, Duc de Guise, a pawn in her family's power struggles and finally in political alliance her marriage to Henri, King of Navarre.
He smiles again, then looks at me questioningly. "Whatever possessed you to wear that awful wig?" "The same demon, Sir, that goaded you to wear yellow." "Your mother then." I can't help myself: I laugh.
There is a real sense of Marguerite's growth as the novel progresses, fueled by the machinations and ill-treatment by her family, naivety fast becomes awareness and intelligence and a strong moral compass hold her in good stead challenging her family in doing what she believes is right.
Set during the throes of the Wars of Religion and culminating in the horrific Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre the slaughter of thousands of Heuguenots (Protestants) viewing this through Marguerite's eyes added a different perspective.
Well written and researched, Perinot does justice to the colorful and bloody history and its players.
I thoroughly enjoyed Médicis Daughter. Now to hunt down The Sister Queens, I don't think you can OD on French historical fiction. ...more
Me Before You was my first read in 2014 and my first Jojo Moyes. I was moved and I loved Jojo Moyes writing. But not everything about Will Tr4.5 stars
Me Before You was my first read in 2014 and my first Jojo Moyes. I was moved and I loved Jojo Moyes writing. But not everything about Will Traynor sat well with me (don't throw rocks.) I won't rehash it all here, see my review if you're vaguely interested lol.
Then The One Plus One became a favourite read in 2014 and I got all rah rah #teamjojomoyes
So ... when I found out there'd be a sequel to Me Before You I jumped at the chance to see how Louisa Clark was faring ... after Will.
Lou is such an endearing character, she's all heart. Yes, she's lost her spark, yes she's just going through the motions, all despite her best intentions, but I found that understandable. Lou is also compassionate, irreverent and brave and things haven't got any easier for her. An accident throws Lou more challenges, but she's a trooper. And out of something pretty awful ... good things come.
Catching up with Lou's odd family was fun; even though things with Lou's mum take a turn that's a bit left field, I think it added emphasis to the theme of living life and second chances. Lou's sister is still a pain in the ass. I actually found Treena more irritating than teenager Lily.
I enjoyed the interactions at the Moving On Circle ... a quirky bunch of people in this bereavement support group. I found it real. Actually I found it all quite real. Grief can be paralysing. It's often dark and lonely. I think Jojo Moyes stays true to that but with a touch of quirkiness and irreverent humour to lighten the journey.
After You doesn't have the powerful punch-to-the-guts of Me Before You, why would it, but it's meaningful in a quieter way.
Family, love and second chances for everyone. I loved it!
By the looks of GoodReads not everyone is loving this one and some positively loathe it ... each to their own ;)...more
If you're a regular on my blog you know I'm drawn to anything France & vaguely foodie related. On Rue Tatin may not be for everyone, some may evenIf you're a regular on my blog you know I'm drawn to anything France & vaguely foodie related. On Rue Tatin may not be for everyone, some may even find the everyday minutia tedious but for someone dreaming of living in France it's a vicariously fascinating read.
Seriously by the last page I was wondering who I'd have to kill bribe to make my dream a reality ;)
After doing a chef's apprenticeship in France, Susan returns to America but later moves to France with husband and son in tow to live the dream, while writing a book to celebrate French farmhouse cooking.
Not just food related chatter, recipe testing (yes there are yummy/doable recipes included and I can't wait to try the famous Tarte Tatin) but all the details on their purchase and renovation of a dilapidated old convent in Louviers, Normandy, her son starting school, interactions with neighbours, friends and townsfolk, the cultural differences, surrounding countryside and life in general.
Susan has written a number of cookbooks and her renovated convent home is also home to a successful cooking school. If I had a spare $3500 I'd do a 5 day class at On Rue Tatin. HA
A journal-style memoir highlighting Loomis' food passion, cooking locally and seasonally.
A book to be enjoyed with crusty bread and soft cheese. ...more
After the wonder of A Man Called Ove I jumped at the chance to read Fredrik Backman's latest.
And just like A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked MeAfter the wonder of A Man Called Ove I jumped at the chance to read Fredrik Backman's latest.
And just like A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry was a whole lot of feeling; one minute laughing out loud, the next minute tears flowing.
I fell in love with wonderful, crazy Granny and precocious 7 year old Elsa, having a granddaughter of my own I felt their special bond.
"Life-saving and driving people nuts are Granny's superpowers. Which perhaps makes her a bit of a dysfunctional superhero."
"Which is one of Elsa's favourite things about her Granny." Up there with throwing turds at the police?? lol ... "It's a little complicated."
"Because all seven-year-olds deserve superheroes."
I love fairytales, I loved that the roots of Granny's fairytales were planted in reality. And I loved Elsa's mission "to deliver every single one of Granny's sorries." But I'm guessing I'll be in the minority when I say wading through the 5 kingdoms in the Land-of-Almost-Awake was too long-winded for me and stopped this being a favourite read.
But what I loved ... I really loved.
I loved the honesty, the naivety and complexity, the craziness, absurdity and childish wonder of it all.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is a treasure chest of life lessons wrapped up in imagination, warmth and humour.
"Granny then said the real trick of life was that almost no one is entirely a shit and almost no one is entirely not a shit. The hard part of life is keeping as much on the not-a-shit side as one can." ...more
My friend Karen, some-time-guest-reviewer-on-the-eclectic-reader, fellow Higgins fan, instigator of my growing KH book collection, 4.5 stars loved it!
My friend Karen, some-time-guest-reviewer-on-the-eclectic-reader, fellow Higgins fan, instigator of my growing KH book collection, partner-in-stalker-ing at ARRC 2013, read If You Only Knew around the same time I did so we decided to share the Kristan Higgins love and combine our thoughts on her latest with some fangirl ramblings a semi coherent joint review.
What did you think? Karen: I loved it. I know when I open a Kristan Higgin's novel it's going to brighten my day and If You Only Knew didn't disappoint.
Me: I loved it too. If You Only Knew has major 'feels' and kudos to Kristan for transitioning deftly into the field of women's fiction.
The story? Karen: I'm trying to think of a way to describe the storyline and this conversation between Jenny and Leo on Jenny's return from the grand opening of her bridal design store, Bliss, sums it up ….
“Well, let’s see. My mom told at least nine people how wretched she’s been since my father died twenty-two years ago, my ex-husband, his beautiful wife and perfect baby showed up, and my sister’s husband confirmed that he’s having amazing sex with someone else.” “Shit. Now I wish I’d gone.” He sits down in the chair across from me. “I’m sorry about Rachel.”
I’m still trying to decide which aspect of the story I enjoyed the most.
Me: It's all about relationships. The bond between sisters Jenny and Rachel, the girls' testy relationship with their widowed mother, Jenny's oddly intimate relationship with ex-husband Owen and his new family, Rachel and Adam's marriage, Rachel supermum to adorable triplet daughters, Jenny's desire for a relationship with reclusive landlord Leo.
I loved the emotion, the laughs and tears, the snerk-funny stuff and I particularly loved that it was all so firmly centered in realness. I liked that I felt angry and frustrated with them all at different times. I wanted both Jenny and Rachel to value themselves more.
Any surprises? Karen: I think what surprised me most was the emotion I felt, reading about Rachel dealing with her husband’s infidelity. Kristen has written some very powerful paragraphs about what a real marriage might go through….not just “he cheated, it's over.” Struggling with your feelings, when you obviously still love your husband.
It’s the first time I’ve really cried in front of him since I found that horrible picture. “Oh, sweetheart,” he says, pulling me into his arms and I hate that it feels so good to be held, and I hate that we fit together so perfectly, and I love that he knows just how to rub my back and stroke my hair. I love him. I hate him. And I’m so tired of feeling both ways.
Me: not surprise, more like relief, that whilst this story is about the very real and heart-breaky experiences in life, Kristan's trademark snarky humour remains firmly entrenched.
take Rachel's conversation with old Mrs Donovon and her weeping outie-snoutie-belly-button. Only Kristan Higgins could turn a visit to the Doctor for an STD panel, courtesy of your lying, cheating husband ... into emotional hilarity.
Do you know how challenging it is to gag and laugh at the same time??
or Jenny accompanying Rachel to the plastic surgeon .... liposuction, labia plumping and tears.
"You don't need anything changed about you," I say, my voice shaking. "I know," she whispers, "I just can't ... I can't help... I hate myself for coming here, but I can't help it! Emmanuelle is so beautiful Jenny! She's so scary beautiful! She's Maleficent beautiful." ... "I bet she's not that beautiful." "She is," my sister says. "Well, she has a very ugly vagina," I say, and my sister bursts into that mixture of laughter and crying.
Final thoughts? Karen: I want more Jenny and Leo and I want to know what happens with Rachel down the track ... they need their own book.
Me: I want a night at the Tribeca Grand ...
But I also agree with Karen, I want more of it all. ...more
My first time reading Australian author Tricia Stringer and Heart of the Country appears to be her first foray into adult historical fiction.4.5 stars
My first time reading Australian author Tricia Stringer and Heart of the Country appears to be her first foray into adult historical fiction. Historical fiction being one of my favourite genres to read and me being a self-confessed-fussy-cow I gotta say, Tricia Stringer nails it!
Heart of the Country is set in the mid 1800's during pastoral settlement of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. We follow young Thomas Baker as he strikes out for 'Penakie' and a new life.
There's a wide cast of characters to love and loathe but I particularly adored Thomas and Lizzie, Gulda and Daisy and Lizzie's brothers Zac and Jacob. I laughed and cried along with them as life and the land dished out joys and hardships. I giggled at Thomas's embarrassment getting a boil lanced on his backside, sighed at the sheer vastness and beauty of our country and wished a 'bad' end on a few vile characters HA.
Stringer captures the wild beauty and ruggedness of our country, the harsh conditions and isolation, the scorching heat, drought that brings the country to its knees, the loss of livestock, the very human toll but also the camaraderie between (most) properties despite the distance. I loved the respect shown to the culture of original land owners but I also appreciated that Stringer didn't gloss over the often negative and shameful encounters between white settlers and indigenous Australians.
Heart of the Country is authentic, vibrant and colourful, full of tension, and tender moments. 500 pages flew by. No hardship reading this one ... I loved it!
I loved that Heart of the Country had a satisfying ending, no cliffhanger to torture me for a year and I can't wait to see what awaits the next generation.
Maybe a little Tricia Stringer rural romance while I wait for the 2nd installment? ...more