30 August 2015

The Martian, by Andy Weir (Audio Review)

My  Instagram post about The Martian audiobook is:
If you listened to The Martian by Andy Weir, narrated by R.C. Bray and you didn't like it, WE CAN NO LONGER BE FRIENDS.
 I really should just leave it at that.

Fine, so here's more. Mark Watney is the only member of a crew who survived a devastating dust storm on Mars after being the first man to walk on the red planet. His commander and the rest of the crew "confirmed" he had died and without risking more lives to secure his body and bring him back, they make the heart-wrenching decision to leave him. The only problem is that Watney did survive, and somehow he's got to figure out how to stay alive until rescue comes. And in the meantime, he should probably figure out how to communicate with them also so that they know he actually did make it through the dust storm. When I write "meantime," I should clarify that I'm speaking in days.... as in hundreds of days. Somehow, in those hundreds of days, Mark Watney has to keep his air supply going, feed himself, keep his electronics up to par, maintain his humor, and generally just NOT DIE.

Through intelligence, training, dedication, and absolute extreme humor, Mark Watney is one of the most engaging characters to get to know. With his journal and video logs, combined with life on earth responses and characters who ranged from the tight-assed (but completely understandable) PR specialist and the brilliant but relaxed research scientists, the audiobook version was a winner in every way. While there were more than enough moments that had me cracking up, the successful balance of scenes that made me hold my breath wondering if Watney would make it out of this one continued and I refused every excuse to take a break from listening. I'm sure this has been written already somewhere by someone much smarter than me, but this was Apollo 13 on Mars, and DAMN IT WAS AWESOME.

It's going to be a movie and Matt Damon will play Mark Watney. I think he's a PERFECT choice, along with the rest of the cast. I just hope and pray they stay true to the book's humor and sincerity.

The story is fantastic, R.C. Bray as the audiobook narrator is incredible, and the author rocked it. Matt Damon, there's a lot riding on your shoulders, my man. I'm pulling for you.

As I mentioned earlier, if you read The Martian or listened to the audiobook, and didn't like it, we really, really have to reconsider our friendship. #truthhurts

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this audiobook via my Audible.com membership.

About the Author (from his website)
ANDY WEIR was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.

12 August 2015

"Because survival is insufficient."

So proclaims the tattoo on Kirsten Raymonde's arm, as she works with The Traveling Symphony, more than ten years after almost 99% of the world succumbed to a deady flu outbreak. Traveling with her fellow actors and musicians to ensure that the arts never die, Kirsten becomes one of the key figures to the description of life after.

Kirsten Raymonde once performed on stage with a famous actor from Hollywood, Arthur Leander, when she was a child. Her most vivid memory of life before is the night he died onstage of a massive heart attack. Jeevan, once a member of the paparazzi and now an EMT, rushes onstage to try to bring Arthur back to life, and Clark, an old friend of Arthur's, is the one who calls Miranda to tell her the news. Miranda, a high-powered executive in the shipping world and one of Arthur's ex-wives, is on the other side of the world, successful in both her career and in her ongoing hobby of drawing and writing her graphic novel Doctor Eleven, full of imagination and adventure in an otherworld known as the "Undersea." That very same night, a deadly flu outbreak quickly tore through civilization, frightening viewers watching the news and eventually killing nearly everyone on earth.Within a few weeks, the once beautiful life of civilization and law and order was over. 

Alternating between the years after devastation and the years before, Emily St. John Mandel's delicately detailed design of life is incredibly vivid. Focused on a few key characters, the descriptions of the flu, the desolation following it, and how survivors crafted solutions to maintain life is brilliant. And my favorite character, Miranda, and her ongoing project of Doctor Eleven, was fantastic. I am thrilled to hear that the author is working on bringing Doctor Eleven truly into the graphic novel arena. I'll certainly be first in line to check that out.

Post-apocalyptic fiction for die-hard fans can be very specific, and for me, Station Eleven was divinely sad, thoughtful, and has easily secured its place on my own personal "Best Books Read in 2015."

Kirsten Potter, the narrator, fit perfectly. Her voice smoothly fit into each of the characters well and I enjoyed listening to her tell me the story. I don't believe I've listened to her before. That can always be a little scary, trusting a voice you've never listened to before tell you a story, but Potter was exceptional. I'll look for more from her again.

We are all connected, whether by a tiny thread or stronger, but somehow, the link is undeniable. And in Station Eleven, the characters are tied together so delicately that it is incredible how Emily St. John Mandel has delightfully woven them through into an incredible adventure of lives lived after everything we've ever always trusted and believed would never change has now broken down.

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this audiobook through my membership from Audible.com

About the Author (from her website)
Emily St. John Mandel is the author of four novels, most recently Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award. A previous novel, The Singer's Gun, was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband. 

Visit the author:

About the Narrator
Kirsten Potter rocked this audio. Here is a complete list of everything on Audible.com that she has performed. I'm sure that you won't be disappointed. Click here to listen to a sample from Audible.com

19 July 2015

Pirate Hunters, by Robert Kurson

Before I started this blog many moons ago, I fell in love with Shadow Divers, the bestselling book by Robert Kurson. Never once would I have thought that a non-fiction tale of deep sea divers would hold me spellbound, but before I knew it, the story of these divers who discovered a German U-boat submarine sunk off the coast of New Jersey had me along for the ride and imagining the adventure. I've never scuba dived once in my life as I've always been fearful of dark water and sharks, but something about this book knocked me off course completely and reminded me that I come from a family who thrives and lives off the water in a variety of ways. Not only was my husband in the Coast Guard and is a certified diver, but my father was also in the Coast Guard and my sister graduated from the Naval Academy. Even my husband's family runs a boat chartering business in Boston. My husband and I live in Florida, and the world of diving is right around my corner. I've still not tried it, though. I've been on a boat several times, but never once wanted to dive deep under the surface; fear has kept me away, but with a family so used to the water, perhaps I need to rethink this. No excuses.

On one of the hottest days of the year in Neptune Beach, Florida, I passed by one of my favorite indie bookstores, The Bookmark. I already have more than enough books to be read, but what book lover can resist "just one more?" Not this one. In I went and the display for Pirate Hunters drew me in with the title alone. When I realized who the author was, there certainly wasn't any question on what I was going to do: I had to buy it and begin it immediately. After all, the author himself was going to be at that same store in just a week.

Pirate Hunters tells the story of two men who, on the eve of their start to find a sunken Spanish galleon off the coast of the Dominican Republic, divert their mission to help another treasure hunter locate the pirate ship known as the Golden Fleece, which was operated by a captain whose story alone was enough to convince them to look. The fact that only one other pirate ship from the Golden Age of Piracy (1650s to 1720s) has ever been officially identified and confirmed just made it even more desirable, and the quest these two men take on is, I assure you, every bit as captivating and thrilling as Shadow Divers. The adventures of John Chatterton (one of the main divers and featured in Shadow Divers) and John Mattera, a once mob man turned police officer turned exclusive celebrity bodyguard, absolutely delivered and it brought to mind the reality that fiction can never be as thrilling as real life. Robert Kurson's skillful and perfectly paced retelling of each moment in the adventure to secure a treasure more important than gold or silver was as clear and distinct as any major motion picture. Better, even.

Both Chatterton and Mattera each have their own stories to contribute, becoming characters of hotheadedness and commitment (Chatterton) and dogged determination and research (Mattera) to continue pursuing the location of the Golden Fleece, even in the face of skeptical partners and lazy treasure hunters/claim robbers. Leading the way and working hard by researching in archives and libraries around the world was the only way they could uncover the secrets behind a pirate captain and his crew relentlessly battling the Royal Navy, and the reason why this one man, Captain Joseph Bannister, a seemingly honest man, would leave a life of security as a legitimate merchant ship captain, and decide to become an elusive pirate. It was incredible. I could just picture what life in the Golden Age of Piracy was like in the Caribbean. Standing strong and determined, one man making the decision from the bow of his ship, to steal it and to then pursue a life that could only get him hanged, if ever he was caught. (Pulled into this adventure tale, I wasted no time to head to the Jacksonville Public Library to pick up a copy of The Buccaneers of America, by Alexandre Exquemelin, a Frenchman who rode with the pirates for a period of time, even sailing with the infamous Henry Morgan. This book was mentioned often in Pirate Hunters, and I had to have my reading material lined up after finishing Pirate Hunters.)

Whether it's Captain Bannister's story, or the fierce and determined diving and researching from Chatterton and Mattera, there is no doubt that the book will keep you intensely dedicated to finding out what happens next. Through the investigation of sailor's logs and accounts of battles, Kurson parses through it all to leave you with the amazing and sheer bravado of a man fighting the Royal Navy to keep his stolen ship and save his head. Captain Joseph Bannister was a renegade, a man who threw a lifetime of rules and obedience to the wind and rushed onward into a world of piracy. Whatever made him choose this new life might be forever covered by the clear waters off of the Dominican Republic, but the ship itself is there, and these are really the only two guys who deserve to find it. And only a writer like Robert Kurson can tell it.

I loved this book. Can you tell? And now I need to put scuba diving back on the list of things I can't be afraid to do anymore.

Side note: Robert Kurson is an engaging and vivid speaker and is quite the storyteller. My husband and I went to dinner afterwards and couldn't stop talking about him. And also making plans to go on our own adventure.

The author, Robert Kurson, speaking at The Bookmark
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Release Date: 06/16/15
Pages: 262

About the Author (from his website)
Robert Kurson is an American author, best known for his 2004 bestselling book, Shadow Divers, the true story of two Americans who discover a World War II German U-boat sunk 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey. Kurson began his career as an attorney, graduating from Harvard Law School, and practicing real estate law. Kurson’s professional writing career began at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a sports agate clerk and soon gained a full-time features writing job. In 2000, Esquire published “My Favorite Teacher,” his first magazine story, which became a finalist for a National Magazine Award. He moved from the Sun-Times to Chicago magazine, then to Esquire, where he won a National Magazine Award and was a contributing editor for years. His stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He lives in Chicago.

Visit the author:

09 July 2015

Misery, by Stephen King (Audio Review)

Cockadoodie, dirty bird!

As per usual, my dirty bird self is so bad at challenges over the past couple of years, so while this readalong was for June only, I finished Stephen King's Misery almost two weeks later. But, no matter, I had a blast listening to Lindsay Crouse rock Paul Sheldon's voice, but most especially, Annie's smooth, yet gruff voice. Crouse's narration was *breath* SO VIVID *breath* 

Paul Sheldon, famous novelist of the Misery Chastain historical romance series is on his way to deliver his final novel in the series to his publisher. With his only copy by his side, he gets into a car accident on the snow-covered roads of Colorado, and wakes up to a brute of a woman who seems to be taking care of him, but he can't quite understand why he's not in a hospital. From there, it is a psychotic display of Annie's roller-coaster of emotions and goals, and Paul is the object of her madness. Whether she has filled him with drugs, or forced him to drink dirty water, the most important objective she has is to make sure he rewrites that Misery Chastain novel - and torture is a method she most certainly will employ to protect her favorite character.

Stephen King at one of his finest and best. No doubt about it. Annie Wilkes is truly disturbed and twisted, and as Paul Sheldon's number one fan, she is devoted beyond measure, but not without conditions to suit her. And while Paul may have his own writing demons to contend with, nothing can equal the wrath of Annie when she's angry, and it is frightening. More frightening than the opening pages of The Stand at times, and more horrifying and gore-filled than scenes from Pet Sematary, Stephen King delivers once again. In every sense of the word it is scarier than anything else he's ever written because this story doesn't deal with ghosts or the dead coming back to life - this is scarier because it's one person, a real person, gone completely mad.

One of my favorite Stephen King stories by far. And the narrator? Perfection. She made this story come to life. *breath* SO VIVID *breath*

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this audiobook through my Audible.com membership. Click here to listen to the sample.

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Release Date: 01/29/09
Audio Time: 12 hours, 11 minutes
Narrator: Lindsay Crouse

And thanks to Care's Online Book Club for hosting! Click here to see the review roundup from other participants! 

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The StandThe Dark TowerItThe Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know? So here you go, click here to visit this cool author's official website. Crouse

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