Monday, April 13, 2015

loopyker's #CBR7 Review #04: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir book coverI can't believe it has taken me a month to get to writing this review.  I was telling everyone about it when I finished it, but just didn't get it written down.  I had managed not to hear much about this book beforehand.  I can't even remember where it was recommended so that I put it on my library hold list...and then waited months for it to come up since it was so popular.

I will start with what a lot of other people say because it is so obvious - this feels a lot like the movie Apollo 13, but with one person.  Some people say it is like Cast Away, but it doesn't have that crazy edge.  While reading it, I kept thinking that it would make a good movie and when I looked, they were in fact already making the movie. It is scheduled to be out in November 2015.

The "Martian" is astronaut, Mark Watney, from Earth who accidentally gets abandoned on Mars after a failed mission.  A little food and a lot of equipment is left there with him.  But can he figure out how to survive all alone for the years it will take until the next mission arrives?

It moves from one problem-solving, crisis moment to the next.  I did not want to put this book down!  I also don't want to write spoilers.  I really didn't know what was going to happen from one minute to the next.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

loopyker's #CBR7 Review #2 and #3: Book 1 & 2 Sally Lockhart Mysteries by Philip Pullman

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman book cover

After very much enjoying several of Philip Pullman's other books (His Dark Materials and companion books, The Firework Maker's Daughter and The Scarecrow and His Servant), I had high hopes for the Sally Lockhart Mysteries.

In the first book, The Ruby in the Smoke, we meet Sally who, at age 16, has been recently orphaned.  She is curious to know more about the circumstances of her father's death after receiving some ambiguous information.  Sally has had a very nontraditional upbringing in 1872 Victorian London, so feels comfortable in asserting her independence to have the freedom she needs to investigate.

In theory, it sounds like exactly the type of book I would really like.  No fantasy, but it touches on my two other favourite genres - historical fiction and mystery. As Sally makes friends, it even gets into the history of photography and stereoscopic photography, which made it more personally interesting to me as an amateur photographer.  However, I still didn't really connect with Sally's character or the plot.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

loopyker's #CBR7 Review #01: Shadows by Robin McKinley

Note: This review was written in early 2014 and is being posted for the first time now - well after I remember anything about the book to address criticisms I've read from some other reviews.

Shadows by Robin McKinley book cover

I've been a long-time fan of Robin McKinley, so I requested this new one through my Online Library and was excited when it became available days later. It is nice to know that the library requests can work and I wasn't disappointed by the effort. 
I hadn't even heard about Shadows and since McKinley doesn't often do sequels, you never really know what you are going to get. Unlike many of her books, Shadows doesn't have a fairy-tale land setting. It is more like our present-day world, but after the invasion of magic and the resulting technology to deal with that magic. 
Maggie is a 17 year old, in Newworld, where magic is now illegal. Her widowed mother meets and marries a new man, who creeps Maggie out. There is something wrong when she looks at him - extra shadows that seem to have a life of their own. Maggie's world is soon turned on end as the truth of things is slowly revealed to her.
I very much enjoyed McKinley's original take on magic and learning about the "shadows". As usual, she does a good job at capturing the insecurities, but also strengths of a teenage girl and her friends and family, creating believable characters and settings, with enough twists to keep it interesting. Knowing that McKinley is a dog owner, I can also see how that experience and love for her own dogs have made their way into this tale. 
My only complaint is that some parts felt a bit rushed. There is certainly a lot of action once it gets going. The ending is rather sudden and seems like it should be going on to a book 2. I hope it does! But I know McKinley well enough, to know not to count on it. If she gets inspired, it will be done. 

Shadows was a satisfying, fun YA fantasy read, joining the many books by Robin McKinley that I will happily reread and hope for them to be continued sometime. I still always hope her earlier Damar history will call to her to return there someday, but in the meantime, I will enjoy her many different worlds too.

4 stars
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Title: Shadows
Author: Robin McKinley
Age Range: 12 and up
Book format: ebook/hardcover/paperback
Print length: 367/368 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (September 26, 2013)/Nancy Paulsen Books (September 26, 2013)
Kindle ASIN: B00BPDN2SI
ISBN-10: 0399165797
ISBN-13: 978-0399165795

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Rating system:
1 star (didn't like); 2 stars (OK); 3 stars (good); 4 stars (very good); 5 stars (favourite)

Also check out Cannonball Read for a variety of book reviews from many others.

Monday, April 06, 2015

I'm Still Here/Book List

Wow.  I had so many books I wanted to review in 2013 and 2014 that I just wasn't up to writing about.  Life (and death) keeps getting in the way.  I even went for a long stretch last year where I wasn't reading or listening to any books at all.

I did still sign up for Cannonball Read again.  I'm determined to actually make my goal one of these years. It is up to year 7 for CBR now.  Good for them!  I'm glad there are people that kept up with it better than I did.  I was less ambitious and signed up for a half-cannonball (26 reviews), but am getting to a slow start again.

I did write one review last year, that I didn't post, so I will get to posting that soon.  I will need to reread some of the favourites that I meant to review before.  It has been too long for me to remember details.  In the meantime, I have been reading new books this year that are already piling up. 

Book list read and waiting for reviews:

1) Torchwood - The Sin Eaters by Brain Minchin (audiobook)

2) The Martian by Andy Weir (ebook) (review here)

3) The Ruby in the Smoke (Book One: Sally Lockhart Mysteries) by Philip Pullman (audiobook) (review here)

4) The Princess Bride by William Goldman (audiobook)

5)  Unsinkable: A Memoir by Silken Laumann

6) The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters by Wes Moore (audiobook)

7) The Shadow in the North (Book Two: Sally Lockhart Mysteries) by Philip Pullman (audiobook) (review here)

8) White Hart by Sarah Dalton (YA Spring Fling ebook)

9) Watermelon Summer by Anna Hess and Aimee Easterling (YA Spring Fling ebook)

10) Memory's Wake by Selina Fenech (audiobook)

11) World's Greatest Sleuth!: A Holmes on the Range Mystery by Steve Hockensmith (audiobook)

12) Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (audiobook)

Other books I read this past year:

Sky Dragons by Anne McCaffrey & Todd McCaffrey
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Neil Patrick Harris by Neil Patrick Harris (audiobook)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Mortal Instruments Series - Books 1-somewhere around the beginning of 5 by Cassandra Clare
The Dark is Rising Sequence - Books 1-5 by Susan Cooper

I will do a mini-review for some of the ones that didn't get proper reviews for my last post of 2015.