The Martian – Andy Weir

the-martian

The Martian is the 2011 science fiction novel by Andy Weir. The story centres around the astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and an engineer, who with five others travelled to Mars for the mission called Ares III. On the sixth day of the team’s mission however disaster strikes, and the team are forced to make a quick exit from Mars. The twist of this story though is that Mark, who is impaled by an antenna is flung out of sight by extreme winds, as a result he is presumed dead and gets left behind. I say presumed, because it quickly becomes apparent that Mark does not die, he survives, though is stranded on Mars. The novel explores Mark’s isolation on Mars, and the fight for his survival and return to Earth.

If you don’t live under a rock you will be aware that Weir’s novel was adapted into a film starring Matt Damon in 2015. I watched this film prior to reading The Martian. Usually I try to do the opposite, as I find my motivation to read a book hinders when I already know what happens from a film. I was excited to find though, that this order of film then book, did not hinder my reading experience at all! I found myself just as intrigued and swept away with the plot as I would have been had I not seen the film adaptation first. – which I feel is a real testament to Weir’s writing.

First things first, you may be thinking that because The Martian is about space, botany, and engineering, that it is not a book for you. And, I must admit I had similar feelings. Having read sciency novels in the past that included a lot of scientific terms, I was a bit sceptical. This is because I feel that in these types of novels all the language goes over my head, and I simply do not connect with the story or the characters because I do not understand. However, I found that although Weir does include science talk, it is not something that dominates the novel, and the stuff that is there is very accessible. So, if the idea of science talk is the only thing putting you off about reading this book then you have little to worry about.

What I loved most about The Martian is Weir’s character Mark. The novel is by large written through diary logs kept by this character, so we really get a feel for him as a person. The logs are used to reflect of what Mark has been doing throughout the day, and what he plans to do as he continues his mission to survive. Though, they are not as serious and technical as you may imagine. The logs are humorous, thoughtful, and determined accounts which demonstrate the character perfectly. Mark is certainly a character who strives to see the positive in situations, and doesn’t let setbacks stop him. Alongside that though he is an extraordinarily smart and logical thinking individual, if only we were all more like him.

When I began reading The Martian though I did worry that the novel would be one dimensional and would focus entirely on what was happening on Mars. However, after a few chapters, I was happy to see the inclusion of what was happening on Earth, and then further on what was happening on the spaceship that held the rest of the mission teammates. So, throughout the novel we are presented with a very rounded story, which was effective in building up the tension. It was also interesting to see three very different settings, we had Mars, the space stations on Earth and a space shift travelling through space between Mars and Earth. It is not often you get to discover settings that are so different yet so similar at the same time.

Whether you go on to enjoy The Martian or not, what is unarguably brilliant about this story is how everybody rallied around and wanted to help this one man. It truly demonstrates the best in humanity by showing how people come together when somebody is in trouble. Suffice to say, I would highly recommend Weir’s novel. It is a humorous, engaging, and thought-provoking story that is too brilliantly written. I struggle to find faults with Weir’s work on this novel, though if you feel differently, I would love to hear your thoughts.

star-1star-1star-1star-1star-1

Teacher’s Pet – Hayley McGregor

Are books based on true stories your thing? Well, here i review the book that tells Hayley’s harrowing story

teachers-pet

Teacher’s Pet is the very true story of Hayley Mcgregor. Hayley was groomed and abused by her teacher in school, from the age of 12. It took Hayley twenty years though to realise what she went through was wrong. This is Hayley’s side of the story, as to what she experienced all those years ago, how she came to report those experiences to the police and what happened during the legal process.

It’s difficult to judge a book like Teacher’s Pet, this is for two reasons: 1. it is not a story from the imagination, you cannot really judge how the story progressed and how it ends, because it is a real life story, one that cannot and should not be manipulated for effect. 2. The writing and style just simply does not matter, yes if it is illegible it will be a struggle, but this book is not about how well it is written. It is simply a book trying to tell somebody’s side of the story and to spread a message.

That being said though, I found McGregor’s book to be a very good read. I’m not sure whether it was ghost written or not, though I’m not entirely sure that even matters. What I really liked though was the first few pages of the book, where McGregor gives a brief outline of what her story is about, and explains why she is telling her story. In this section of Teacher’s Pet the punishment of her abuser is divulged. Some might see this as a mistake, as the reader’s incentive to read on and see what became of the abuser is diminished. However, I found this to be the opposite, I was even more inclined to read on to discover Hayley’s own story. And, despite having the ending handed to me in the opening pages, I found that I read on and on finishing the book in a day.

You can’t help but have total admiration for Hayley after you have read this book. To have gone what she has gone through, from the abuse, to rocky relationships, to severe depression, and then to the realisation of what had really been happening to her. It really is remarkable how she is still fighting. Hayley did not need to write this book, she did not need to have her name publically known, but the fact she did is so important. Teacher’s Pet is allowing Hayley to spread her message and to reach those that may not realise what they too have been through or what they are currently going through. Teacher / Child relationships – I’m sure it is a topic we are all familiar with in one way of another. But, it is not a topic that I often see being severely frowned upon, and this book itself is testament on why both adults and children need to educate themselves on handling these types of situations.

So, if you are thinking about reading a true story next, or simply interested in how teacher/student relationships occur, as I was, I would highly recommend Teacher’s Pet. Although Hayley discusses sexual encounters in this book, I would not say it is too explicit. Therefore, I would encourage young adults and teenagers to read it, if only to open your eyes to the consequences and the trauma that can occur in these situations.

star-1star-1star-1star-1star-1

A Poem for Every Night of the Year – Ed. Allie Esiri

in this post I move from reviewing novels to reviewing poetry

poem-every-night-of-year

So I know this blog is called find my fiction and it mainly focusses on novels, but I just wanted to share this book I had purchased quite recently. It is very simplistically called A Poem for Every Night of the Year and is edited by Allie Esiri. The book is exactly as the title suggests, it is a book full of 365 poems for you to devour each night before bed.

Now, I am not somebody who loves poetry, and I always dreaded studying it at school, college and even university. However, when I came across this book I just could not resist it. Mainly because it is just a beautifully decorated book, but also because I loved the idea of a book which could possibly open my eyes to the apparently great world of poetry. What is great about this selection of poems is the range of poets that are incorporated, from more classics such as T.S Elliott to some more modern and contemporary poets such as Tony Mitton. Allowing for a great range of poetry for you to discover, meaning there’s definitely something for everybody.

I came across this book on Amazon, and when I was reading the descriptions and the reviews I got the impression this book was more for children. I would strongly disagree with this view, and say that this book is for everybody. Some poems are silly and accessible for children, but some poems are far more complex than they may be able to grasp. So, I would say that this book definitely should not just be marketed for children. Though I agree it is a good tool to use to get children into poetry and all its forms.

Whether you are a child or an adult reading this book I feel you would appreciate, like I do, the short descriptions that Esiri includes prior to each poem. These descriptions give us a short insight into the mind of the poet, their inspiration or even some context. This I feel makes the reading experience far more enjoyable, because if you’re like me and a real poetry novice, the descriptions help to make more sense of the poetry in front of you.

If you have not already guessed, I would highly recommend A Poem for Every Day of the Week. Whether you are a poetry enthusiast or a bit a novice, you will find something in these pages that really sparks your imagination. – Though with 365 poems, I believe this will happen numerous times.

star-1star-1star-1star-1star-1

Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

Recently adapted into a BBC drama, here I review the novel

apple-tree-yard-louise-doughty

Apple Tree Yard is the 2013 novel by Louise Doughty. This book has received a lot of popularity recently, with the BCC drama of the same name being aired earlier on in the year. The plot focuses upon a character called Yvonne Carmichael who simply happens to find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time – and this leads to a terrible situation. I could go on about the plot of this novel, but I’m afraid this time I will give too much away. What I will say though is this: Yvonne was once happily married and a successful scientist, but finds herself embroiled in an affair, and later in the witness box for the charge of murder.

This is one of my favourite novels at the moment. Although the pivotal moment that leads to the trial is predictable, I can forgive this because of the depth and the layers of the story that Doughty creates. The subject matter of the affair is so ordinary and humane it makes the progression of the plot even more worrying. It is simply the idea of somebody being in the wrong place at the wrong time – and there is nothing more relatable than that.

Throughout Apple Tree Yard, Doughty uses the second person, and it worked brilliantly. Yvonne addresses us, the reader, as though we are her lover throughout the novel. This approach gives us a great sense of her feelings and her reasonings behind some of her actions. This is perfect as it emphasises just how ordinary of a character Yvonne is, so like you and me, that it is not impossible to see that we could make similar decisions.

Another thing I really liked about this novel is that until the trial we only know the lover by the name ‘X’. By removing the identity of the lover, we see, like Yvonne, how much of a fantasy the adulterous relationship is.  The name of Yvonne’s lover is revealed during the trial. By doing this I feel Doughty emphasised just how ordinary the lover actually is. Therefore, heightening the idea of the fantasy coming crashing down and revealing the realities. This therefore turned out to be an effective technique that the novel used, as it emphasised the contrast between the Yvonne’s fantasy world and its consequences.

I can honestly say I can’t think of a single thing I did not like about Apple Tree Yard. It was a very realistic novel, with relatable characters and a relatable situation for many. Through this it very effectively demonstrated how one decision or one bad choice can lead to very terrible situations. It is a novel that shows us as readers that our life can lead anywhere, no matter how happy and stable we seem at the current time. Understandably then, I would one hundred percent recommend you read this novel. For the reasons I have outlined, I feel like it would be a novel that most people would enjoy and could relate to in one way or another. I have not yet watched the BBC adaptation as I wanted to read the novel first, though I feel it is unlikely that the drama would match up to Doughty’s writing.

star-1star-1star-1star-1star-1

The Light Between Oceans – M.L.Stedman

Seen the movie? Thinking about reading the book? Here I have reviewed the book to help make that decision easier

the_light_between_oceans_m_l_stedman

The Light Between Oceans is the 2012 debut novel by M. L. Stedman. It is a novel classed as war fiction, however, aside from Tom Sherbourne’s (one of the main characters) PTSD and few references about the First World War, there is little content that is explicitly about the war. The novel follows Tom after his return to Australia, from the Western front, and his decision to take a job as a lighthouse keeper on the isolated Janus Rock.

I think this is one of the best novels I have read in a while. It is beautifully written, and is a truly unique story. In the novel, Stedman effectively explores human morals, and the effects our decisions can have, not just on ourselves, but those around us. The struggle I had with this novel, and why it pulled on my heartstrings, was because the main characters Tom and Isabel are good people. They both had good intentions, they just make a bad decision. Stedman created so much depth in the characters and the story that I found myself struggling to dislike the characters for their actions. You truly find yourself justifying their decisions and hoping that their lives will continue happily. However, like any good novel, this does not necessarily happen the way you would expect. Stedman, as the story progresses, does not deliver a conclusion that is easily guessed. The story continues to throw us off, and gives us twists and turns, making it impossible to know where the story will end, until it does.

The novel itself was adapted into a film in 2016, starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. I watched this film after reading Stedman’s novel, and although it is fairly true to the book, I could not help but feel a disconnection with it. I feel in the book we are given a better insight into the run up to the ‘decision’ and the feelings involved in it. Thus, the movie, for me, did not provide the emotional, heart wrenching response that the novel gave me. I wanted to touch upon the film though because sometimes people do the book/film order the other way around to me. I.e watch the film and then read the book. Therefore, if you have watched the film and not connected with it, I do not want you to be put off from reading Stedman’s novel. I promise you, you will not regret it!

This novel is great for those who love a good romance, or who like a good period drama or who want to read something with more depth. I found it to be one of those books that just stayed with me for some time after I had finished it – it truly haunted me for some time. I cannot give enough praise to M. L. Stedman for her work, thus I encourage you to pick up this novel and immerse yourself in the story.

star-1star-1star-1star-1star-1

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams – Stephen King

Looking for a collection of short stories? Here I review one of Stephen Kings collections

the_bazaar_of_bad_dreams_stephen_kingThe Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a collection of short stories by Stephen King. This is his sixth published collection of short stories. Some of the stories included in the collection however have been printed or have been previously available online. For example Blockade Billy can be found published alone and Mile 51 and Ur have been available on Kindle. Although this is the case, in an author’s note at the beginning of the publication King writes ‘some of these stories have been previously published, but that doesn’t mean they were done then’. Thus, as readers we are given the understanding that there could be changes and improvements to the stories, that they should not be overlooked.

Although I am nowhere near an expert in King’s work, and have only ready a small number of his publications, I am a fan of his. Therefore, when I came across this publication of short stories, I did not hesitate to purchase it. I do not often read short stories however at a time when I was not ready to commit to a full length novel I thought The Bazaar of Bad Dreams would be perfect. This was because I figured that short stories would be a low commitment. However, upon reading the first couple of stories I could not put the book down. I found each story was so well written, engaging and gripping that I did not want to cease reading them. Understandably, I do have favourites in the collection. These being, Ur, The Little Green God of Agony, and Obits. Although these are three stories which are extremely different, all three presented a different reality. Ur, presenting a story about alternative realities, The Little Green God of Agony, a story displaying an exorcism type event and Obits about a columnist who can kill people by writing their obituaries. These were three concepts which intrigued me the most and found that I could not pause from reading. From these three stories alone, you can see just how diverse this collection of King’s work is.

The diversity in this collection is something which thoroughly surprised me. As somebody who thinks of Stephen King and only pictures horror, I have been pleasantly surprised. I have been introduced to new sides of King, sides that I did not know existed. Thus, I am more inclined to delve further into his many literary works and discover how much more King can surprise and challenge my initial perceptions of him and his writing.

Alongside each story, King offers up an intimate author’s note which introduces each tale to the reader. This is something I have not yet come across and thus makes each short story more unique and personal. As we discover where the idea for the story stemmed from and why King felt the need to write the following story. This draws us, as readers, closer to the author, enabling us understanding of the mindset and the feelings King had whilst writing the stories. Something which is so rarely done with the literature we read.

Out of the publications I have read recently The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is one of my favourites. It is perfect for those who do not wish to commit to a full-length novel, for those who are die hard King fans and those who may not have read King’s work before. The amount of diversity King offers us as a reader means that there is something for everyone. And I would highly recommend you find your ‘bad dream’.

star-1star-1star-1star-1star-1

I Let You Go – Clare Makintosh

Thinking of reading Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go? Here, I review the novel to help you make your final decision!

Clare_Mackintosh_I_Let_You_Go

I have just recently finished reading I Let You Go, the debut novel and Sunday Times bestseller by Clare Mackintosh. The novel was ‘the fastest selling title by a new crime writer in 2015’ (http://claremackintosh.com/clare-mackintosh-about/). Naturally I had high standards. It is not often that an author’s first novel does so amazingly! Crime and Thriller fiction is actually something which I have only just recently discovered. Having caught up in the excitement of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train I have become a lover of this genre of fiction. Like others that enjoy this genre of writing, I love the suspense, the plot twists, and how gripped I get when I am reading the story. I often have to force myself to take a break just to lengthen the experience of reading such a novel.

I admit I am terrible. The saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is universally used, yet what do I do? I always judge a book by its cover. Granted the saying usually is not used to refer to an actual book. The concept though is there. I feel if the book cover does not talk to me and intrigue me then the story won’t either – And I know this is silly. I could and more than likely am missing out on some great pieces of work, but I cannot stop myself. When it came to I Let You Go the novels cover is something which excited me. The image used from a company credited as ‘Arcangel’ spoke to my ‘I need to know more’ side. I just couldn’t help but to envisage somebody solemnly looking out of the window to a bleak, cold, rainy day. Something which you automatically associate with a person feeling down, and i just couldn’t help but wonder why and what was going on. The accompanying butterfly I also found interesting because butterflies are meant to represent new life, change and joy, which contrasted greatly to the surrounding image. So from the get go I was excited to delve into Mackintosh’s story.

The novel itself I can only describe as amazing. It is fast-paced, intense and complete with numerous twists that I did not see coming. The little bits of writing on the front of the book and the blurb on the reverse initially tell us that the story is likely to revolve around a ‘tragic accident’. Usually I tend to try and guess what happens at the end of novels whilst I am reading them. However I gave up doing this whilst reading I Let You Go. This was because when I thought I had a grip on where the story was taking me Mackintosh would seem to throw in another twist. Thus I don’t believe I would have ever come to the conclusions that this novel presents. Which is fantastic! As it can sometimes be disheartening when you have the story all sussed out.

Another great thing about this novel for me was how much I reacted to it. The chapters of the novel tend to change perspectives to enable the reader a more rounded story. However one of these perspectives towards the end of the novel began to infuriate me. It was definitely a struggle to read as I just wanted to hit the character. Although I found myself developing this great hate for one of Mackintosh’s characters I couldn’t help but find myself loving the character at the same time. It was a pretty great addition to the novel and I applaud Mackintosh’s ability to write a character which produces such great emotions from a reader.

Thus this is a novel that I would highly recommend anybody reading! Whether you’re interested in crime novels or not this is a page turner for anyone which will shock you right up until the last pages!

star-1star-1star-1star-1star-1