Artemis by Andy Weir

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I love science fiction/fantasy. I love reading about different worlds and all the struggles of being in space. I mean, space is really scary if you think about it because it’s unknown and you can’t breathe without an apparatus and there’s no sound or direction or anything. It’s just floating stuff. Isn’t that crazy to think about.

So it’s obvious why space lends itself to writing some really crazy novels and because it’s so unknown you can literally write an entire universe in space.

For a while, I mean a long, long time, I took a break from reading science fiction. I like to read a little bit of everything, but science fiction sometimes lends a hand into my anxiety. It’s all the stories about existence and life and I feel my heart beating faster and my forehead begins to sweat. It’s tough to manage anxiety when you read anxiety-inducing reads.

I think the last science fiction novel I read was The Martian by Andy Weir, which I read in October 2015. It’s kind of funny how I’m back to reading science fiction and it’s all because of Andy Weir yet again.

I was a huge fan of The Martian even with all of the science and math. My husband had to explain a lot of it to me, but I really enjoyed the idea of a man trapped on Mars and figuring out how the hell he’s going to survive and get off the red planet. It was clever and smart and even nerds like my husband loved how close to accurate the book was to reality. The only difference being is that no human has ever been left behind on a planet before that is something that probably would never happen.

And here we are, full circle, and I’m reading Andy Weir’s second novel Artemis.

Elon Musk recently made a comment in the news about how we’re years behind in the space race. He believes that we should have a colony on the moon by now and even proposed images of what the base should look like. It’s funny that he says that because that’s pretty much what Artemis is about.

The whole story takes place on a moon colony where a 26-year-old woman named Jazz Bashara spends her days as a porter delivering packages to locals. She also happens to be a smuggler bringing in prohibited items from Earth. Jazz is also an untapped genius and while she has the potential to be anything she wants, she’d rather deliver packages.

Jazz accepts a mission to destroy these harvesters that are used to collect minerals and make aluminum, oxygen, and silicone. It was really unclear what all of this was about and the rest of the story spends its time trying to figure out what that is. All we knew at this point is that she’s doing this for a big amount of slugs (the currency of the Moon) and that’s about it.

The whole book read like some action movie slash whodunnit about a girl from the “wrong side of the tracks” trying to make some money and then saving the world at the end. It’s a pretty common trope that you see on TV and movies and if you’re into that kind of thing then you’ll like this book.

In all honesty, I felt super underwhelmed by this novel. I thought that with space being the main antagonist here there would be a plethora of directions Andy Weir could have gone, but this story felt like it could have easily taken place on Earth with some large research center in the middle of the desert or something. I wanted some bi-product of smelting that people used to get high. I don’t know, I just wanted more.

Also, I think the way he wrote Jazz and the way the character acted and spoke just felt like a caricature. There wasn’t any depth there and there was no understanding as to why a woman who excelled at something most men can’t do would give that all up to be a porter. I get that she’s supposed to be this rebel, but rebellion looks different to everyone.

Why not have her working on some underground lab making science stuff or like even being the person who makes drugs from like space dust? Why not have her working as a mechanic fixing robots and air systems or something where her intelligence matches her career? It just feels like we’re past the place where untapped genius is hidden somewhere inside a character like in Good Will Hunting and especially for women who are underutilized ALL THE TIME.

Andy Weir uses his sense of humor to make Jazz this smart-mouth “bad ass chick,” which read more like a high school fantasy than a real woman. Honestly, just because you’re a woman, you’re not reading gossip magazines and commenting about your own breasts like you were surprised you had them in the first place.

I finished reading Artemis and what I thought was how this was a great adventure book. I don’t know if adventure books are a genre because they probably fall under another category of books, but this felt like an adventure. There was a task, it got messed up, people died, make a plan to fix it, try and fix it and something goes wrong, need to fix that, save the world.

This book had the fun of an adventure. I honestly feel like Andy Weir wrote his own version of Total Recall or Blade Runner. You’re sitting on the edge of your seat and you’re hoping the next minute wouldn’t go wrong, and then you breathe a sigh of relief. But even in Blade Runner and Total Recall there’s some amount of depth there and turmoil and some secret underground group working with the government to destroy the thing in space.

However, I think I learned a valuable lesson here. After I read this book, I decided that I will never want to take up any offer to be in space. I don’t care if Elon Musk is offering free space rides for $20, I’m not going to space. I don’t know what’s with Andy Weir and his obsession with putting humans in space and seeing what they can do when the circumstances are against them, but it’s thoroughly freaked me out. No thanks. I’m not going to the moon.

I received this ARC of Artemis as a free ebook on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid to write this review.

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

I honestly am so happy that a book like this exists. Shortly after being told I had OCD, I tried to search the book world for fiction stories featuring characters with similar traits. I was a little surprised to find out that the world’s exposure to OCD was only As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson and some documentaries of folks with such debilitating compulsions that they rarely leave the house.

My mother told me that when I was in kindergarten class, I would wash my hands after using a single color in finger painting. The teacher thought it was adorable that I would dip my finger in the paint, brush it across the paper, then get up to go wash my hands. Was it because even at that age I didn’t want to blend my colors too much or was there something more insidious going on?

I never liked getting my face painted. I don’t like touching things with my bare hands. I hate bugs of all kinds even butterflies and lady bugs. I can’t stand when strangers touch me. I can’t walk on grass barefoot. I’m the only person who knows how to clean my house.

And I thought these were all quirks. That everyone thinks about the microbial germs crawling across the surface of a subway pole. That everyone knew if you touched a smelly homeless person, you would get whatever disease that they had that made their feet and ankles balloon up. I believed everyone thought about the dust mites that crawled across your skin and carpet.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with OCD that I realized these thoughts weren’t thoughts everyone had. This isn’t “normal” and most people think about them briefly and then move on with their life.

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN starts with the sudden disappearance of a local billionaire. In attempts to try and win the reward for more information, Aza and her best friend Daisy start to look for clues that could help them score some big money. After all, it was Aza’s friend, Davis, who’s father disappeared suddenly.

Aza was just your average girl who seemed for the most part just living her life. She went to school. She had a pretty solid family life despite her father’s death. However, what you find out and realize is that her mind is a swirling jungle of thoughts and worse case scenarios and worries that she didn’t need to worry about.

I thought this book was going to be about a group of kids who were looking for a missing billionaire. You’d believe that too if you read the inside cover. I thought this would be The Goonies of the 21st century with a little twist, that the main character would have OCD. I thought this would be some manic version of Sherlock Holmes.

It most definitely wasn’t.

While you’re led to believe this is some rag tag team of teenagers looking for their friend’s dad, TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN is not about that. The story is truly about Aza. The use of the first person point of view in this context lends a hand to shape the story. You read what Aza thinks about in her head. You see her running through her thoughts. You find her battling herself and reminding herself that it’s not real. Her thoughts aren’t real and that her OCD is battling out against her.

I guess the idea of having a story about a billionaire gone missing also lends itself to the power of OCD. One minute you’re trying to find a missing person and have a grand adventure with your friends. The next you’re having an all out anxiety attack and spiraling downward toward oblivion.

For Aza, everything is a battle. Trying to maintain her friendships while her brain tells her to go and do something else. Trying to keep her mother from worrying too much as she picks on a scab that’s been trying to heal. Trying to be in love with a boy she’s known for a long part of her life without freaking out about kissing him.

There were so many examples of how debilitating OCD can be. I loved that John Green gave examples of how the thoughts can be so evasive that you forget you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone. You spend a lot of time pushing to be present and speaking directly with the person in front of you.

It did feel like the whole looking for a billionaire part was an afterthought that was wrapped up in the last ten pages of the book. I wish there was a little bit more there and spread more evenly throughout the book.

While it would have been really cute to see the four kids running around trying to find a missing billionaire and get some answers to the choices he made, I get that this book is to be more about exposure and understanding when it comes to OCD.

For those who do have OCD, you’ve found a friend in a book that knows exactly what you’re going through. Although, I would be careful because there are some triggering thoughts. I needed to step away for an evening even with only a few pages left. The thoughts it triggered in my head were too overpowering for me at times.

And for those who don’t have OCD, you get some idea of how our brains work daily but I would keep in mind that everyone struggles from any mental health issue in different ways. I feel I have a firmer grip on the thoughts my brain tells me, so I’m able to snap back to reality much quicker than Aza. I know that my condition could be so much worse, so I’m grateful that it’s manageable.

I would strongly recommend approaching this with an open mind. This book is good, but I can imagine someone who doesn’t have OCD getting really annoyed by the characters and their mindset. It’s really hard not to want to shake Aza and say “snap out of it,” but this is how it is. You’re doing whatever life thing that you’re normally doing and then, something triggers you and you’re spiraling down.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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Oh brother, this one is a doozy. I’ve read countless reviews from other people who read this book and all I saw was that they cried at the end. So many raves and happy thoughts. about this book and it’s so awesome to see everyone feel so good about it. So many awards that they don’t even fit on the cover. The title is so freaking long and completely unassuming that you actually think this book is about two philosophers from different periods of time that get together and actually discover the secrets of the universe.

But let me tell you how I felt.

It

was

AWESOME.

Reading this book was like reading about royalty. You’ve heard so many good things about it that you can’t help but to want to read it and this book really doesn’t disappoint.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a story about friendship. Aristotle is a 15-year-old kid with no friends. It wasn’t until he decides to take swimming lessons that he meets Dante, another boy with no friends. You know what happens when two people who have no friends. They become friends.

Aristotle is a little bit of a loner with a snarky bite and some experiences in his life that he can’t seem to shake. Dante is more care free and what I like to call a “butterfly chaser” which I use to describe bohemian and free spirited and not weighed down by society. They’re the likely opposites of each other, but as the saying goes opposites attract.

I don’t think I recall making a best friend the way Aristotle and Dante befriended each other. I’ve been the loner type and maybe a little more on the Aristotle side than the Dante side. I’ve always wanted a best friend and I found one in my partner. I guess that it’s commonplace to find a comfort in a friend that not only wants to be your friend, but loves you on a completely other level.

I honestly thought this would be one of those books where Aristotle and Dante fall in love in the beginning of the novel and you struggle to see them come to terms with their sexuality and with the people around them. But no, it’s not.

It’s a book about friendship and the kind of friendship that leaves a lasting impression on you. It’s about what you do for someone you love, be it a painful experience or a fun one. You’re with someone that makes you happy. For Aristotle and Dante, there’s just the added bonus of loving each other.

Aristotle and Dante both undergo a series of events that help shape their friendship and what they mean to each other. Dante is artistic and poetic while Aristotle is cynical and pessimistic. Their clashing personalities really bring a sense that while they may not see eye to eye on everything, human beings are able to transition to a place where you’re not finding a friend, but you’re finding a life partner. It doesn’t have to be overly romantic and life isn’t that way anyway, but regardless of romance it was still beautiful to behold.

I clutched this book close to my chest after I was finished reading. I couldn’t believe that this book was created and I couldn’t believe it took me so long to experience it.

You can find a copy of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe on Amazon.

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

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I’m not usually into Thriller, but I’ve been trying to read two books at once and I heard that mixing up the genres between the two helps with that. So I decided I would read Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda to keep the genres different and interesting.

I knew that this book would be a psychological thriller, but I didn’t think it would be something like this. Basically, the story follows a couple on their way to have a great weekend together. They’re about to embark on their trip away from the kids in a cabin alone. While it sounds like fun, what you get nervous about is the perspective that you’re reading this from.

The main character, Paul, just happens to be a crazy person. The book is set in his point of view so you’re reading his thoughts and actions and observations. What you slowly start to realize is that Paul is a misogynist, a sociopath, a criminal, and a scary freaking guy.

I really wanted to hate this book because I hate male characters that are written as jerks/assholes/misogynists/etc. There’s some real-life people like this and it freaks me out to read. I would rather read about men who are good to women and responsive and loyal. However, I think it’s a sign of a well-written novel if you hate the protagonist as much as you’re supposed to.

As the story progresses, you see how “crazy” Paul really is. The plan he had created, the trap he set, and the entire time you’re reading this, you’re on the edge of your seat hoping to God he doesn’t take out the knife and start chasing people around. I don’t think I would be able to handle it if he was a murderer on a spree and we had to read everything about it.

So in terms of psychological thriller, this book definitely played with my head a little bit. I’m really surprised that it did that. Maybe it’s because I’m new to the whole genre, but I kind of liked it. While I don’t want to read any more Patrick Bates-type characters, I will give this one the benefit of the doubt.

However, points off for the ending. I really don’t think the epilogue explaining everything from the wife’s perspective was really necessary here. If anything, it should have just been a quick wind up of what happened after that final day and what happened to Paul.

I received this copy of Best Day Ever in exchange for an honest review. I wasn’t paid for this review and the opinions here are my own. You can purchase a copy of Best Day Ever: A Psychological Thriller on Amazon.

Little Fires Everywhere to Celeste Ng

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I know this review is a long time coming. I’ve been mulling over this book for the past couple of weeks. I don’t know how to describe my feelings for this book, but I know they are good. I just don’t know how to explain it the best way possible. I’m going to at least try.

I don’t know where to start with this book. There were stories within stories and some of them I wanted to know more about and there were others that I could have done without. There were stories that randomly popped up and ones you followed throughout the book.

Have you ever been the new person in town? I’ve never been new and when I’m new, I’m already assimilated to the town the best that I can. However, some towns are just too small and too friendly that if you’re slightly different you may be facing some serious backlash.

In Little Fires Everywhere, you follow Mia and Pearl as they arrive in Shaker Heights, Ohio. It’s considered one of the most idyllic towns in the suburbs of Ohio and we all know that with idyllic towns there’s always something hiding under the surface.

This was my official first book by Celeste Ng. I’ve tried reading books by her in the past, but I had some trouble with them. Mostly because of the I’m really bad when it comes to death and dying and her first book was all about that.

Little Fires Everywhere feels like a combination of stories. It’s almost like watching a play where all the characters are important and all of them have a background that needs to be discussed and discovered to help with outlining the bigger theme of the book; the sacrifices mothers go through.

I’m not sure if it was Celeste Ng’s intention to make a book about being a mother, but it happens to be that way. And for some reason I’ve been reading a lot of books about mothers and what they do for their children. Perhaps it’s a sign that I should call mine?

But the story is a culmination of different stories. Themes covered from sex as a teenager, pregnancy, abortion, adoption, surrogacy, sacrifice, suffering, struggle, all the words that start with the letter S. Honestly, I thought the book could be longer since there was so much covered.

So Mia and Pearl arrive in this town and you’re curious as to where they came from. What made them move here? Why did they decide on Shaker Heights? All these questions kind of rise up while you read the book. The further you read, the more you find out.

However, I think the most important part of the book and probably the catalyst for everyone’s secrets revealed is when a young couple tries to adopt an abandoned Asian baby. Without giving too much away, the birth mother realizes too late that she didn’t want to give the baby away and the couple who wanted to adopt her was already in love with the baby. You can imagine the tension between the two families and what will happen next.

What’s interesting is that Celeste Ng takes on every major character in this book and starts to unpack their lives. It’s expertly laid out throughout the novel so that with every chapter that goes by, you learn a little bit more. Perhaps it’s more like watching a serial TV show than a play where each episode shares with you more about the people involved.

But the amazing part is how everything is sort of attached to the lives they chose, the decisions they made, and the actions that took their lives and changed who they are and why they did what they did.

It’s really hard to talk about this book without giving it away. I will say that if you’re a mom and you know the struggles and sacrifices you’ve made for yourself and for your children, then this will be a good book for you. And if you’re a person without kids, you might wonder what your mom went through in order to let you grow up in a good and loving home.

I received this copy of the book at BookCon. You can find Little Fires Everywhere on Amazon.

Dreamology by Lucy Keating

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When I was a little girl, I used to have these amazing dreams about this guy. I would first fly through the air around my childhood home and watch the sun set orange and red across the lawn. I would finally land and sit down on our front stoop.

Suddenly, he would walk over to me. He’s always wearing an oversized sweater and well cut jeans. His smile made me melt and his dark hair was always in his eyes. Because it’s a dream, there’s always some strange quirks about what you see. For example, he was an alien from another planet.

I don’t remember all the details now that I’m older but I do recall that we would kiss under the street light before he headed back up to his home planet.

While the details of the dream are a little hazy, for some reason, I’ve never forgotten that dream and that dream boy and I think fondly about that time when I was a kid.

Have you ever had that dream before where it was so amazing and so memorable that even as an adult you can’t get it out of your head?

In Dreamology by Lucy Keating, you get to experience the same feelings for the main character Alice, who has been dreaming about her dream boy since she was a kid. All she knows is that the dreams were vivid and ended when she woke up. It was a surprise to her when she began school in a new city and found her dream boy in reality.

Of course, Max isn’t who he was in the dreams. In fact he appears to be rude, indecisive, and already in a relationships. You can see how a girl who has been in love with her dream boy for so long could be disappointed by the real thing. I mean, I would never want to meet my dream boy in real life worried about the same results.

From this point on, the story begins to get a little weirder as their dreams start to bleed into reality. They visit this dream lab to get it fixed and it’s something out of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where the main characters’ brains have been altered to allow for their dreams to meld together and then have their dreams become a reality.

I love books like this sometimes. The premise is pretty simple, the story is easy to read and follow along and you finish reading it in a few days. You get to feel that rush of love when you first fall for someone. It makes you feel good and sometimes you need a little bit of sugar in your life.

But I think what I love most about this novel is how they chase each other and their dreams. If I dreamed of my dream boy every single night, I would be worried that one day he would just disappear. It’s kind of the same here. What if Alice woke up and never dreamed of Max again? Would she be okay with the real Max or would it never be the same again?

You can find Dreamology on Amazon.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

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I picked up Joan from the bookstore the day before it was supposed to appear on the shelves of every bookstore in the country. I searched through Strand because it wasn’t something displayed just yet on the mounds of book tables in front of the store. No, Joan was a little secret left to those who already knew the book was about to publish.

Throughout the weeks beforehand, I had heard rumblings across the bookish universe about how amazing this book was. How insightful and surprising it is for a first novel from an unknown author. I felt intrigued by that alone and as the stubborn mule that I am, I had to check it out for myself before I can make a discerning comment.

What I found to be a compelling novel about a writer and obviously a book written for writers. I’ve always believed that I would one day become a published author.

I did myself a huge disservice by trying to read this book too quickly. I was trying to be as quick about reading this because I had so many others waiting for me to read them, so I panicked. However, Joan is not the type of person to be rushed. I think that can be clearly expected from her, but I rushed her and the following points I bring up which brought my review to a 4/5 are probably because I didn’t give her the full, calm, and extended attention she deserved.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is the story about a woman who already had a promising writing career ahead of her. The book begins with article clippings of praise for Joan’s already published short story collections. Then all of a sudden, she disappears from public eye and this is where her story begins.

This is an extremely detailed story of a woman who struggles to find balance between the dreams she made for herself prior to having a family and the reality of raising two kids with an almost absent husband. Suffice it to say, this wasn’t Joan’s plans for herself.

I know a lot of women who would argue that you’re able to have a fulfilling and lasting career even with having kids. I’m pretty sure Beyonce is one of those women. However, if you’ve ever written anything and aspired to be a writer there’s a certain amount of sacrifice you make in order to write that book. The few years I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo I don’t remember going out with friends or having conversations online. I would just sit at my desk and type words that would fall out of my head in hopes of making heads or tails of it in the future.

And it’s completely possible to be a writer and be a mother. I think this is just one truth Joan Ashby refused to see and it was clear she never saw that throughout the story. It really is the novel for writers about writers and writing. It’s about the sacrifices you need to make in order to let your art shine. What I found to be a really interesting style I’ve never seen before is how Cherise Wolas spent so much of her time writing several different stories into one giant behemoth of a novel.

First, she’s writing the story of Joan Ashby’s life, then she has long excerpts from the books Joan Ashby has written. She also has pieces of writing from Joan Ashby’s books while she was living her life. Finally, she also has the stories Joan’s children carried with them as they uncover the truth of their mother. Like how do you get yourself into the mindset of not only your own voice, but Joan Ashby’s voice, and then the voices of her kids. It’s an incredible dissection of a writer and what goes into writing and it’s almost the inception of books. A writer writing about writing and writing a novel while living her life. Anyone who writes can understand it and can resonate powerfully with it.

I think my favorite part of this book is when she finally takes her trip to India. She pulls an “Eat, Pray, Love” to escape from the ongoing life she’d been living at the most pivotal point in the story. Her time in India was inspiring; almost like hitting the reset button on your life and starting anew in a different world with different people other than the ones you’ve felt were damaging your spirit.

However, I will say that the passages including excerpts of Joan Ashby’s work were quite long. They’re all so expertly written and the story can’t really move forward without them but it almost felt like I was reading five books at once and I found it a little bit exhausting at times. For example, there’s an entire section of this novel read from the point of view of Joan’s son Daniel. He reads his mother’s work for the first time and not only do you read the perspective he gains from her work, but how that plays into some of the decisions he makes for himself. It’s really powerful, but something I could have done with less of or truncated. Why did Joan need to be such a verbose writer?

While I wish I can give this story a full five stars, there were a couple of flaws that I didn’t really like. One of which is the constant reminder to the reader that this life Joan Ashby was currently living was not the one she chose. She repeats throughout the novel how she didn’t want to get married, how she didn’t want to have kids, and how she was basically stymied the great career she could have had because of them. Yes yes, we understand that this isn’t the life Joan Ashby wanted for herself and I believe she tried to do her best as a disconnected mother, but I don’t think it needs to be repeated over and over again.

I think this book can resonate not only with writers but with women who may have sacrificed a little bit too much in order to take care of their children and raise their families. They’re all noble decisions to make, I assure you, but what happens when the kids are all grown up? What happens to the Beyonce lurking behind the 5AM wake up calls and the trips to soccer practice or violin lessons? That’s what I think this book is about.

I placed Joan up on the shelf prominently displaying amongst my other books, and one day I’ll have the time to sequester myself with her and her story. Don’t take the last two points I brought up as hugely disparaging of you reading this novel. I think you should and I think you’ll understand why everyone believes in Joan.

You can pick up a copy of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby: A Novel on Amazon.com