Book Review: The Martian (The Martian #1) by Andy Weir

A mission to Mars.
A freak accident.
One man’s struggle to survive.

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 and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark 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’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

Grounded in real, present-day science from the first page to the last, yet propelled by a brilliantly ingenious plot that surprises the reader again and again, The Martian is a truly remarkable thriller: an impossible-to-put-down suspense novel that manages to read like a real-life survival tale.

I decided to read the Martian, because the movie got my attention and as those who know me know, I like to read the book before I watch the film. This book was fantastic and I don’t usually go for these kind of space odyssey books. The main character Mark Watney is such a hoot you can’t help but love him and root for him and hope that he gets out of the situation that he is in. Can you imagine how much mental strength let alone the rest that it takes in order to live and survive on Mars completely alone? No one to talk to, no human interaction at all. It is a wonder that he did not fully lose his mind. He did a little bit of course, but that is to be perfectly expected.

This book really is enjoyable. Now if you do not like a whole lot of very well explained scientific data you may not like this book. As much as I loved the book I can admit that occasionally I wanted to have a little bit of a snooze fest during these parts. However, everything else about this book was a win for me. If you have seen the movie and want more read the book. If you haven’t seen the movie still read the book because it is a truly amazing story.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (Pink Carnation #5) by Lauren Willig

A New York Times extended list bestseller and the exciting fifth book in the national bestselling Pink Carnation series.

After years abroad, Robert, Duke of Dovedale, has returned to England to avenge the murder of his mentor. To uncover the murderer’s identity, he must infiltrate the infamous, secret Hellfire Club. But the Duke has no idea that an even more difficult challenge awaits him-in a mistaken, romantic-minded young lady.

Charlotte Lansdowne wistfully remembers the Robert of her childhood as a valiant hero among men. Too aware of his own flaws, Robert tries to dissuade Charlotte from her delusions, even as he finds himself drawn to her. When Charlotte takes up a bit of espionage-investigating a plot to kidnap the King-Robert soon realizes that she is more than the perfect partner in crime.

Caught in a dangerous game full of deadly spies and secret rites, Robert and Charlotte must work together to reveal the villain…and confront their true love.

Another solid installment of the Pink Carnation series with the Night Jasmine and another enjoyable read. While for me this one started off a little bit slow it picked up the pace and became really enjoyable. Robert Duke of Dovedale is the kind of character I could conjure up a true image in my head of. I really liked him and even though some of his actions ticked me off (why couldn’t he just tell Lady Charolotte the truth?!) I also understood why he did them. He thought he was protecting her and that is of course how these books work.

While the spy craft is still around in this book it does focus a little bit more on the love and fairy tale aspect of a historical romance which to me made this one a little bit more light and fun. There is still the spy side and a little bit of danger to keep it spicy. Then there is the modern side of the story as we always have that bit to play with as well and this time we saw Eloise thinking that Miles was a spy. This lead to some very comical situations and then eventually he had to confront her.

Bottom line enjoyable and I look forward to reading the next installment.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra, the #1 national bestseller, unpacks the mystery of the Salem Witch Trials.

It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister’s daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death.

The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, parents and children each other. Aside from suffrage, the Salem Witch Trials represent the only moment when women played the central role in American history. In curious ways, the trials would shape the future republic.

As psychologically thrilling as it is historically seminal, THE WITCHES is Stacy Schiff’s account of this fantastical story-the first great American mystery unveiled fully for the first time by one of our most acclaimed historian

I know non-fiction books can be dryer then fiction but this one is just something else. The author is acclaimed and many people loved her Cleopatra book but this is just way to dry. I hate that because the Salem Witch trials are a fantastic time to write about. This book was a slog from page one to page end. It had a fair amount of good details but everything was just so flat and dry history does not have to be that way.

The worst part of it for me I think was that while she gave good facts but everything was just left not connected and details that would have been interesting were cut. It feels like the author just cut all the good juicy meat off the bone and left the leanest most boring cut to be read. Not the worst book ever but it is a massive slog. You have to really be dedicated to make it through.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: At the King’s Pleasure (Secrets of the Tudor Court #4) by Kate Emerson

At the King’s Pleasure is the fourth novel in Kate Emerson’s well-reviewed series set in Tudor England—based on a real life member of the royal court of Henry VIII.

Following the acclaimed By Royal Decree, Pleasure Palace, and Between Two Queens, Kate Emerson again plucks a real figure from history in this lushly detailed tale featuring Lady Anne Stafford—who is torn between her husband and another man.

History remembers Lady Anne Stafford as the woman who cheated on her husband with both King Henry VIII and his companion, Sir William Compton. Lady Anne was indeed in love with two men at the same time….but the king wasn’t one of them. Lady Anne’s complex and heart-wrenching romantic relationships are at the core of this riveting tale that masterfully blends romance, drama, and historical detail as only Kate Emerson can.

A new year and finally finishing up a book that I started last year. For some reason I just could not get attached to this one last year in 2015. I got through it pretty fast this time around and I think I was having so much trouble before because it just was not as engaging as the other reads. Now with that said it was not a bad read at all.

Once again, you are in the court of a Young King Henry. This time the story revolves around the younger versions of key players to come out at court later, like the Boleyn’s and others. The main character is Lady Anne Stafford, the infamous adulterer who cuckolded her Husband with both the King himself and his boon companion Sir William Compton. The characters were fun, but some of the dialogue for me fell a little flat. Things came across as more vapid than in other books and I am not sure if this was on purpose or just how things came across but I didn’t like it.

The characters seemed to fly off the handle and have toddler tantrums more in this book than others as well. It was dramatic, of course, but sometimes a little off putting. Aside from all of that I did enjoy the book on a whole. It is once again a different look at the history of things and gives us a different side of everything that went on. Yes of course it is fiction, but it is very plausible fiction. I felt for Lady Anne and she did get dealt a bad hand on many occasions. Overall this is a good read and I am happy that I read it, overall it fits in well with the series so far.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

I really wanted to like The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It was chosen as the March reading for a book group that I plan to join I wanted to like this book so we could have good chats about it. Alas, I just could not get into this book very well. The girl who is the main character Flavia she is just, I can’t like her. I don’t mind precocious children at all but this goes above and beyond. The writing style of it all being from her point of view, it is just a little to much for me.

The book is not bad so much as it is just a bit to much for me. Ah well what can you do right? It was not a total waste of time but I think I am going to stick with Sherlock Holmes when I want smart crime solvers.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: Habibi by Craig Thompson

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth — and frailty — of their connection.

At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling

This one was the assigned read for my book club this month and I wish I had liked it better. The subject matter was pretty tense for a lot of it but overall I just felt kind of “meh” about the book. Maybe it is just because I am not a graphic novel reader?

The drawing and images were well done and you could really see the beauty in it but for me the story was just kind of meh. I think a lot of the Orientalist things brought about in this novel are what set me to not enjoying that much. I struggled a little but the beauty in the drawings can’t be missed either so 3 gemstones for this one mostly because of the beauty of the art.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: Narcissus in Chains (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #10) by Laurell K. Hamilton

Hamilton’s vampire-hunting Anita Blake faces a plethora of foes in her tenth outing. Just returned to St. Louis after six months away, Anita is still no closer to choosing between her lovers–Jean-Claude, a vampire, and Richard, a werewolf. But she has to rely on both for help after two of the wereleopards that she has been watching are abducted at a seedy club called Narcissus in Chains. Anita and her boyfriends rescue the wereleopards from the sinister people holding them, but Anita is wounded in the fight and put at risk of becoming a wereleopard herself. Richard angrily captures the wereleopard he believes is responsible and threatens to execute him. Anita must now rescue that wereleopard from Richard and the werewolves he leads, even as she mourns the apparent end of her relationship with him. Then she realizes that those who kidnapped the first two wereleopards are targeting other lycanthropes. Maybe she will be next. With plenty of steamy sex and graphic violence, this is engaging reading for vampire cultists.

Alright, I love this series. I have loved that Anita is a kick ass and ask question later kind of girl. I love that she doesn’t give into things easily and she is her own woman. With that said this has so far been my least favorite book in the series. It is not the sex, I have not issues with sex scenes in books. It is how much is going on, how much Anita seems to have no control and some of the reasons for the sex and how the scenes are.

Honestly there does not seem to be a whole lot of plot to this book, there are some bad guys and they are attacking as usual but the bulk of the book is spent fighting the Ardour. Having sex with people or close to sex with people, my least favorite is Micha. Anita was for all purposes raped. She said no. No many times and never actually said yes and they had sex anyways. I mean seriously? COME ON. Just seems very not Anita like to me. Richard needs to just be kicked in the face I am tired of his complaining. Who stands out for me as someone who grew in the right direction in this book? Nathaniel. He seems to be starting to get some back bone and be a bit of a man. Good for him.

Bottom line is I don’t hate the book but it was not my favorite at all either.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: Changes (The Dresden Files #12) by Jim Butcher

In Changes (The Dresden Files #12) by Jim Butcher we are reminded that Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden’s lover—until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it—against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry’s not fighting to save the world…

He’s fighting to save his child.

Holy crap Harry has a kid. Holy crap Harry has a kid. Is what went through my head from the moment that we find out that Harry has a kid. I mean seriously, holy crap. From there I can honestly say I enjoyed the book. Harry has to make a lot of tough choices in this book and while I won’t give it away by saying what all those choices are but trust me in this they are big. This is perhaps the biggest adventure yet for Harry and what he has to take on to get his child back.

The ending will rip your heart out it surely did mine but it had its good spots too. The world of Harry is getting darker by the chapter and pretty soon I would say something has to give. The question is what will it be? Another solid installment of the series, Jim Butcher keeps on giving.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book review: The Widow of Larkspur Inn (Gresham Chronicles #1) by Lawana Blackwell

When Life Seemed Its Worst, Gresham Awaited

Julia Hollis’ opulent life in Victorian London crashes to pieces when her husband passes away. Worse, she is told by his bankers that he gambled away their fortune. Now, the family’s hope rests on The Larkspur, an old abandoned coaching inn in the quaint village of Gresham.

Driven by dread and her desire to provide for her children, Julia decides to turn the dilapidated inn into a lodging house. But can she–who was accustomed to servants attending to every need–do what needs to be done and cope when boarders begin arriving? And then an eligible new vicar moves into town..

The Widow of Larkspur Inn was a decent story. I went in knowing it would have a fair amount of God refrences as it was Chrisian Lit but towards the end of this book it got to be a bit much, very preachy. With that said the begining was a bit slow and there were the problems in the end, however the middle was good.

I enjoy watching the growth of the family once they move to the Larkspur and seeing how each member changes. The grow and get stronger. The cast of characters that come to live in the Inn are funny and watching them grow is interesting as well. It almost made me want to go and have a bed and breakfast myself! Overall this is a good read and if you can get past the slow points and the preaching I think you would enjoy it as well.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: Small Favor (The Dresden Files #10) by Jim Butcher

The new novel in the New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series. No one’s tried to kill Harry Dresden for almost an entire year, and his life finally seems to be calming down. For once, the future looks fairly bright. But the past casts one hell of a long shadow. An old bargain has placed Harry in debt to Mab, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe, the Queen of Air and Darkness-and she’s calling in her marker. It’s a small favor he can’t refuse…one that will trap Harry Dresden between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally, and one that will strain his skills-and loyalties-to their very limits. It figures. Everything was going too well to last..

So it has been almost a year since Harry Dresden was in a life or death struggle this must be some kind of record for him! Of course nothing can ever stay simple in Harry’s life and soon enough Mab the Queen of air and darkness is calling it a marker on a debt he owes her that is of course when the book really gets good. This is now book number 10 and I can say none of the books in the Dresden files have been disappointing, small favor is action-packed and full of a lot of different things that we all love about Harry. You would think by now that some of the stories would start to be reused it is after all book 10 and other authors have been known to use it. Period. I won’t say who the are though.

There were times in small favor where I thought Harry might’ve lost the plot for once it is Harry and he has been taking on a lot in the last several years. However he goes on to prove once again why he is my favorite wizard for higher even going so far this time to help in destroying an aquarium. Yes an aquarium to be fair the bad guys started it as they usually do. Overall a solid book and a great read that kept me entertained and well connected to the series well done Jim Butcher!

My Gemstone Rating:

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