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A Blogging Good Read - October

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Hello! Joining me for Blogging Good Read this week is AJ from Writer's Block and Broken Lenses. Unfortunately our third person wasn't able to take part this month but we read her book anyway, so carry on to see what they all were and what we thought of them.

AJ picked The Martianby Andy Weir:

My boyfriend doesn't read but this is possibly one of the only books he has gone out and bought off his own accord. After hearing his feedback I recommended it for this. The Martian (as some of you may know because of the film) is about an astronaut being stranded on Mars. Any other person would probably just give up and wait to die. Not Mark Watney. Despite circumstance (and the occasional explosion), Mark Watney has a surprisingly positive attitude on his situation and doesn't give up.

What I love most about this book is how it read like a film script, if that makes any sense? It was tense in all the right places and as I was approaching the end of the book, I had to keep putting it down so I could breathe and calm down. It's just brilliant. Even if you're not into science and stuff. Read it.

I vaguely knew that a film version of The Martian was about to be released when I read this - good timing as I always prefer to read the book first! Other than that, I knew virtually nothing about it and was totally blown away by how inventive and enthralling it was. As you might imagine with a plot featuring someone stranded on Mars and battling to stay alive, there's a lot of science involved but I can honestly say that it's never done in a boring way. You're always utterly fascinated as to what engineering or botanical jiggery-pokery Mark is going to come up with to solve the next problem.

Not only does it do the virtually impossible for me and make science genuinely interesting, this book manages to be really funny too. Mark is such a great protagonist: brave, resourceful, clever but a wee bit narky and feisty and sweary enough to be just the sort of person I like. The format of the book (told mostly in mission reports to start, then branching out to share the story from Earth and also touching occasionally on his colleagues in space) could run the risk of getting a bit tedious but even when Mark is essentially reporting on himself for long stretches, it's still told in such a way that keeps you completely hooked.

ps - ignore the quote on the cover. Gravity was awfully dull. This is brilliant.

I chose H is for Hawkby Helen Macdonald:

I missed out on hearing much about this book when it was first released but Becks was engrossed in it earlier in the year and she's always a good book barometer, so I pounced on a copy when I saw it in a charity shop. It's not an easy read, being as it is about the dual topics of training a hawk and mourning the loss of your father. I haven't experienced either of those things but the author really makes you feel the pain and bafflement of both of them. It's shockingly visceral in its grief but so beautifully written that my overwhelming feeling when reading it wasn't sadness, it was a sort of hopeful admiration that one person can feel that deeply yet be so eloquent in the way they share it with the world.

I'm always especially fond of books which feature something you don't really think you care about, then end up completely intrigued by. The Martian had me hooked on space exploits and this book plunged me deep into the mysteries of hawking and the natural world of the fens. I found it absolutely compelling.

What did AJ think?

I tried desperately hard to like this book. It's the first book in a while that I have had to force myself to read. I really didn't enjoy it.I couldn't connect to the character in anyway as it felt like she had absolutely no personality whatsoever, nothing to engage me and want me to read and MY GOD WAS IT SLOW. 

It's probably because I'm more of a fantasy girl and prefer the works of T.H White rather than rambling, what sounds like hatred, of his work and his life. In fact the character's attitude to White generally upset me.

I honestly couldn't finish this book. I had heard good things but was so disappointed that I stopped making myself try to read it. It felt too much like a chore rather than reading for pleasure.

Our final pick for the month was Carsickby John Waters:

This book has a simple enough premise: John Waters hitchhikes from Baltimore to San Francisco. Or so I thought until I read the last page of the intro, after which point it launches into two fictional novellas about the fantasy good rides and bad rides he could take on the journey. I got through about four of the former before coming to the conclusion that his fiction isn't my cup of tea and happily moved onto the final section which was about the actual journey itself and was much more interesting! I'd have preferred for the whole book to be a travelogue rather than this odd mish-mash of fiction and fact but it would have been a short book in that case as I don't think it could realistically have been stretched out any further. Anyway, that's how he chose to write it and I'm probably in the minority when it comes to not liking the format.

Did AJ enjoy it?

I hate being that person who doesn't enjoy certain books just because they're not what I would normally read but this is a memoir and automatically my brain switched off. I have multiple memoirs and biographies at home but the majority of them have been left unread (except fo How to be a Woman by Cailtlin Moran). 

I know of John Waters as a director but never knew about his plans to hitch hike across America let alone that he had written a book about it. This was the only swaying point to encourage me to read Car Sick.This didn't read like other memoirs I have tried and genuinely made me laugh. Compared to H is for Hawk this was a much more compelling read.

Thanks AJ!

Next month we'll be reading Adorkableby Sarra Manning, Cold Graniteby Stuart Macbride and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry Augustby Claire North.


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