Friday, June 26, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
by Andy Weir
Read: June 11 - 18, 2015
February 11, 2014 by Crown 
Source: Kindle/Audible purchase
Category: Adult, science fiction, Mars, space, survival

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Personal reflection: 
I am not overly militant about reading the book before seeing the movie. A book is a much bigger emotional investment to me than a movie, and I have a lot to read all the time, as well as a good sense of what I like and don't like. Sometimes I'm interested in the movie but don't want to commit to the book, and sometimes it is the movie that convinces me to pick up the book. For instance, I saw the first two Harry Potter movies and those hooked me into reading all the books, which I did before seeing any more movies. I'm not sure I'd ever have read the series otherwise, so thank goodness for those early movies! 

That is all to say that I've seen The Martian around the reading world for a while and never felt compelled to pick it up, until I watched the movie trailer and became OBSESSED WITH READING THE BOOK IMMEDIATELY. I bought it right away on kindle and audio and started reading with my friend Asheley who felt the same as I did after seeing the trailer. That was the best decision ever, because this book is awesome. 

While reading I switched between print and audio, which was fantastic, and something I've never done before. The reader was great and brought the story to life even more. I also convinced my husband to listen to it, and he loved it too. My husband usually reads nonfiction these days, so it was fun to share this experience with him. It reminded us of earlier times before kids (I sound so old here guys!) when we read more books together. 

Thoughts on the book:
Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. Part of a mission of 6 astronauts on a 30 sol* visit to the red planet, he gets stuck there during a storm that forces his team to evacuate. Believing Mark was killed during the trek back to the MAV (aka the ship), they follow protocol and leave his body behind to save themselves. Only Mark didn't die at all, and now he has to figure out how to stay alive until he's rescued. The problem is that it's going to be four years before another ship gets to Mars and he's in a facility that was built to last 30 days. The odds are great and the planet unforgiving, but Mark is smart and extremely resourceful, although even that might not be enough to save him. The Martian splits the narrative between Mark's log entries, the scientists and officials on earth trying to rescue him and his crew in-route home.  

This book was incredible. Mark's harrowing journey came to life for me, and I felt like I was a full spectator, just as obsessed with him as the rest of his world was. Mark's narrative gets technical in places, as he details the science behind his fight for survival, but that made his story and Mars feel even more real. Those sections are also balanced out well by Mark's snarky voice, which made even the most sciencey parts engaging. I also loved how the author split the narrative between his tale and what was happening on earth. The whole story was amazingly well constructed to pull at both my heart and my anxiety levels. 

The Martian is truly a magnificent story of survival, hope and the amazing things that can happen when people work together, despite being faced with ridiculous odds. I cannot recommend it enough to everyone.** 

Mark Watney, you're my hero. 

Love Triangle Factor: None - N/A (very little romance, only featuring some side characters)
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

*sol is a Mars day, a bit longer than an earth day.
**My only hesitation is for my friends who dislike cursing. There is a good amount of it in this story. It fits in perfectly with Mark's voice, but if that is an issue for you, be warned. 

Here's the official trailer that inspired me so much
(From the trailer it looks like a strong adaptation) 

Monday, June 22, 2015

BEA 2015 Recap in (Mostly) Photos

May 26 - 30, 2015

ACT 1 The Journey

I love taking the train to NYC for BEA. It requires less security stops and check-in time from an airplane. Plus I've discovered I can lug all my books home for free if I bring an extra empty rolling suitcase with me. Win. The only issue is trying to get a huge bag full of books in the overhead rack on the way home. Thankfully, a very nice man helped me out, though he didn't take me seriously when I said "that bag is really heavy." That is until after he muscled it up there and replied, "wow, that's heavy." I told you! 

This year I had the best time traveling to BEA with the awesome Andi @ AndiABCs, Gail @ Ticket To Anywhere and Sarah @ What Sarah Read. Although we did get yelled at for talking to loudly, Gail set the girl in her place. We were not in the quiet car, btw! 

Check out my awesome "Don't Let Your Love Get Out of Shape" Just say No to Love Triangles shirt made by the talented Bookiemoji.

Some people aren't as eager to have their photos taken, but look how cute Sarah is!

ACT 2 The Venue 

I love to take pictures of the Javits Center where BEA is held every year to give people (like my family) who've never been a sense of what the madness looks like.  

Love seeing how the stairs are wrapped every year! 

Lots of huge banners of featured books at BEA, and upcoming releases (Go Set A Watchman wasn't at BEA, sadly) hang out in the lobby area. 

Lots of lines and people! On the left is the massive Starbucks line, on the right is the chaos of the exhibit floor. 

 This year the autographing area was moved to the right side of the exhibit hall, and though I had my doubts, this ended up being a fantastic decision on the part of the BEA people! There was a lot more room for lines and it seemed more organized as a whole. 

The Javits exhibition floor is like a casino in that there aren't any windows (or clocks) in there, though the lobby has a beautiful open feel. This is just reflection of the city behind me as I look onto the floor. 

ACT 3 The Parties 

Part of BEA for many people is publisher parties. Not everyone gets invited to all of them, but I had a great time at the ones I attended. They were all different and allowed me to interact with bloggers, authors, and publishing staff in a smaller - generally less chaotic - setting. 

1) Harlequin High Tea

I attended a Harlequin High Tea for Adult Romance at the Harlequin offices in NYC

It really was a high tea with yummy treats included!

Authors attended: Kristan Higgins, Karma Brown. Marie Force. RaeAnn Thane. Jodi Thomas. 

Friends at the Tea!

2) Harper Collins Epic Reads Party at Burbon Street Bar and Grill 

This party was packed with people, but had a great feel with the roof open to the sky…until it started raining and they had to close the roof and it became blazing hot. 

It was exciting to turn around and find authors like Patrick Ness hanging out. He's tall, btw! Liza Wiemer (author of Hello?) and I had a great chat with Aaron Hartzler (author of What We Saw) that made us all tear up.

Sandie from @ Teen Lit Rocks and I had a great time in the Epic Reads Photo Booth!

3) Macmillan Fierce Reads Party at The Strand's Rare Book Room 

This was my favorite location! The venue a gorgeous old library feel and the space was plenty large enough for the whole group. I didn't get any pictures of the space sadly. But I did have a great time in another photo booth!

These are 3/4 of my roommates and we had a BLAST together. More on that below. 

4) Penguin Lunch 

I attended a lunch sponsored by Penguin where we got to hear Carrie Ryan and Sarah Dessen speak. I didn't take any notes, but I loved hearing them chat about their books, book boyfriends, music they're listening to and much more in a smaller setting. 

ACT 4 Friends

The last 2 years I attended BEA, I stayed with a friend from college who is in the publishing world but not a blogger. Although it was great to catch up with her and stay in the city for free, it was a huge treat this year to room with four other bloggers. We had a BLAST. We'd originally planned to do Airbnb but after 2 cancelations we ended up in a hotel that was super close to the Javits. It was small but perfect. 

Danielle, Kristina @ Gone Pecan, Sarah, Asheley, Me

This is only a tiny fraction of the people I got to hang out with this year. I did a terrible job at taking all the pictures! 
From the Top: I'm with Andi, Summer @ Blue Sky Shelf, Jen @ YA Romantics, Gaby @ Bookish Broads, Rashika @ The Social Potato, Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books and Jess!

ACT 5 In the City

Day and Night in the city that never sleeps. You can see our hotel on the left. 

Don't mess. We're in our Love Triangle Free Zone.

From top: Ready to roll in our sunnies outside of the hotel. Serenaded on the subway. Roomies at The Shake Shack and Chipotle. Bottom picture is at Chevy's: Jess, Asheley, Danielle, Me, Ashley @ The Quiet Concert, Ashley's friend Katie, Lindsey @ A Bookish Sinister Kid, Allison @ Good Books and Good Wine

It was sad to say goodbye (for most of us!)

This random looking picture is the last I took in NYC this year. Its the view directly out of our hotel room. 

Some of the books I got at BEA this year.
 I brought home around 40 in addition to some hardbacks. 

Even though BEA's not in NYC next year, I'll be back!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Super Awesome Blog Tour:
Kids Review Ninja Bunny by Jennifer Gray Olsen

Organized by Random House Children's Books
See full schedule below

Ninja Bunny
by Jennifer Gray Olsen
Read: June 14, 2015
Published:  June 9, 2015 by Knopf BFYR
Source: Hardcopy from publisher (thank you!)
Category: Children's Picture Book, ninjas, bunnies, friends
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

About Ninja Bunny
This little bunny is ready to embark on the path toward becoming a super awesome ninja. He does what any bunny would do: follows a step-by-step guide in order to become the BEST ninja bunny that ever lived. First, he must learn to work alone and to be super sneaky, strong, and speedy; and most importantly, he must be able to battle anyone, anywhere, anytime. Then the little ninja faces his biggest challenge yet: a big brown bear. What’s a bunny-in-training to do?

Everything about Ninja Bunny is adorable and fun and inspiring! My kids had a great time reading this book and telling me all their thoughts on it. They also created some ninja bunny art (even on themselves!) and had fun pretending to be ninjas together. 

(Before reading)

ME: "What do you notice about the cover?"

L1: "They have  ninja suits and masks and carrots for swords and they're doing special ninja moves. Looks like they work as a team."

L2: "They're so cool but I don't know their names."

ME: "Do you think part of being a ninja is being part of a team?"

L1: "Yes. Maybe they're getting a lost carrot in the story. Like the one on top of the J [on the cover]."

(After reading the story)

ME: What do you think Ninja Bunny is about? 

L1: "Working as a team. First he thought he could do it by himself, but he needed help and his friends helped him beat the bear. I really liked the ninjas and when the bear ran away. He was going home."

L2: "I think he has a cave as a home"

L1: "[the bear] was scared because they worked as a team." 

L2: "He thought they were bad."

L1: "They all hugged and cheered the ninja because they all did it together." 

L1 drew her favorite picture from the book and said:
"I like this because of the colors and the way he’s balancing on the tree like that. 
It’s pretty cool."

What do you think the Ninjas' names are? (we started to get really silly here)

L2: "Crocodile Bunny!"

L1: "Sneaky Ninja Rabbit!"

L2: "Silly Cotton Georgie!"

L1:" The bear's name is John Cena Andrea"* 

Our only wish about this book is that we want more! We'd love to see further bunny ninja adventures. 

 Ninja poses! 

Go HERE and click on the related links tab to download some super awesome Ninja Bunny Activity Sheets and a Ninja Certificate. 

*My children have never watched wrestling but a kid in L1's class loves it, so she does too, apparently. She knows it's some sort of fighting at least. 


JENNIFER GRAY OLSON is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in art education. She is a glassblower and sculptor. In addition to writing and illustrating, Jennifer is also the co-coordinator of the SCBWI Orange /Riverside/San Bernardino illustrators’ schmooze. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two boys, and baby girl. Learn more about Jennifer and view her illustrations at


L2 decorated himself like a ninja.
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