Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir



From Amazon.com:

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 while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and 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—and 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?
Plot summary in a nutshell? Castaway on Mars.

I finally managed to track down Andy Weir's The Martian at my local library. I picked this book up a few times at the bookstore, but I just wasn't sure if I was willing to pay for a book that may or may not be too jargon filled. While I was at the library on Thursday evening, I decided to see if their copy was available. The regular copy wasn't, but there was a large print edition, so I scooped it up.

Though I enjoyed the book, I kept seeing cinematic intent behind every plot move. And, yes, it is being made into a movie. It was a fun read and good escapism, though, so if you are looking for an exciting summer read, this one might be for you. Personally, I love survival stories, so, even though I see the dollar signs for the movie version, I still had a good experience with it.

This book is a relatively fast read. Yes, there is a lot of "science speak" in it (obviously...it is SciFi), but I didn't find it hard to understand or disruptive to my reading experience. On Goodreads, I gave it a 3/5 stars, only for predictability. But that being said, it didn't ruin my fun, and I am still glad I decided to read it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider


From Amazon:


Robyn Schneider's The Beginning of Everything is a witty and heart-wrenching teen novel that will appeal to fans of books by John Green and Ned Vizzini, novels such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.
Varsity tennis captain, Ezra Faulkner, was supposed to be homecoming king, but that was before—before his girlfriend cheated on him, before a car accident shattered his leg, and before he fell in love with unpredictable new girl Cassidy Thorpe.
As Kirkus Reviews said in a starred review, "Schneider takes familiar stereotypes and infuses them with plenty of depth. Here are teens who could easily trade barbs and double entendres with the characters that fill John Green's novels."
Funny, smart, and including everything from flash mobs to blanket forts to a poodle who just might be the reincarnation of Jay Gatsby, The Beginning of Everything is a refreshing contemporary twist on the classic coming-of-age novel—a heart-wrenching story about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

I finished reading The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, and I really enjoyed it. The story follows Ezra Faulkner and his relationship with himself. Notice I did not say with a girl. Yes, yes. There is a romantic relationship in the story between Ezra and and a girl named Cassidy, and at first glance, you would say that the story follows Ezra's and Cassidy's relationship. But in the end, it is really about Ezra coming to know who he is and what he wants out of life. Really, it is a story about authenticity and living an authentic life.

Also, and this is no small thing: This is the first novel I've ever read that contains a geocaching scene. :)

I found this to be an easy, smooth reading experience. I loved the humor and how Schneider captures the various crowds of students at Ezra's high school. I enjoyed the humor, too. In some ways, though the story moved quickly and there was enough tension to keep you interested, this was a quiet read. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading Schneider's next novel.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday...


Hosted by:  Breaking the Spine

I absolutely cannot wait for this book to come out!! I have had it on my wishlist forever!! 


From Amazon...


From a ferociously talented writer, praised as “the fire, in my opinion. And the light," by Junot Diaz, comes a blazing portrait of one woman’s rise from courtesan to world-renowned diva. 
Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all.  As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.   Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, The Queen of the Night follows Lilliet as she moves ever closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation -- or destroy her with the secrets it reveals. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Curious about a "Graze" snack box?

I was, too. I love snacks, and I kept seeing all of these ads on Facebook and Twitter about "Graze" snacks that are mailed to you every month or so. A friend of mine tried them last year, and she liked them. So, I thought I would give the service a try and post for anyone who is curious. :)

So, I went to the "Graze" site (https://www.graze.com/us/home) and signed up. The first box (and, come to find out, the fifth) is free. Once you get the first box, you can choose what kind of box you want. They have several to choose from, and you can rate the snacks you try (telling them that you definitely do or do not want something). Box prices vary (as do the times they ship). It seems like the more expensive/larger the box, the longer in between shipments. And, I am super excited that they have flapjack boxes!!

Anyway, they send a little card (see pic below) that tells you how to "get the most out of Graze." Good tips about what to do if you want to try something new or go healthy with your snacks (there are some good options). There are also rewards for sharing. Nutritional info for each snack is on the back of this card.

When my "Graze" box arrived, this is what it looked like:



And this is what it looks like on the inside:


So, your first box has four snacks to try. I  think they are pretty much chosen at random. In any case, here is what I got:

Sweet Mustard Ranch (a mixture of pretzels, sour cream and onion cashews, and mustard breadsticks)

Original Three-seed Protein Flapjack (three tiny rustic rolled oat flapjack with flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds)

Punchy Protein Nuts (chili lime cashews, pistachios, and almonds)

Strawberries and Cream Granola Topper (oat and barley granola, freeze dried strawberries and yogurt covered strawberries)

JUST A QUICK NOTE: The plastic top on each snack tells you to look at the back of the card (sent with the box) to see the "best by" date. PAY ATTENTION TO THIS. I just noticed that most of these dates expire soon. I imagine that is because these are made to be eaten quickly. Also, if you are someone with food allergies, it is likely best to skip subscribing to "Graze." I noticed on the FAQ on their site that they say, "Graze is not suitable for people with food allergies." (SEE HERE: https://www.graze.com/us/faqs)

I am not trying all of these today, but I decided to try one (I will update later): Punchy Protein Nuts.

Here is what it looks like without the plastic top:



Verdict: Tasty! I like this snack a lot! The nuts are fresh and have great tangy and slightly spicy flavor. Yay for my first "Graze" experience! The portion sizes are on the small size, so be aware of that. Still, I think if you were buying all of this in a store, the pricing would be more or about the same, depending on where you were.

I will continue to update as I try each one.

And, just for disclosure: No, no one paid me to endorse this product. I know no one at Graze, and I paid for my own box. I was just curious and thought I would post about my experience! So far, so good!

UPDATE: 6/11... 

Sweet Mustard Ranch (a mixture of pretzels, sour cream and onion cashews, and mustard breadsticks)


I really enjoyed this one, too! Sorry for not taking a picture...but sometimes hunger overrides blog love. Anyway, again, very fresh and tasty.

Verdict: Great! 10 out of 10! Yay!