February 29, 2016

read with us: a book chosen by another

Welcome to our February update for the 2016 MMD Reading Challenge! This month, we read a book that someone else chose for us. Let's just say our results were a little less than spectacular!
Our books this month were The Martian, The Lost Garden, The Eye of the World, and Pride and Prejudice.

Becky's book: The Martian by Andy Weir, chosen by Val
Val says: I was SO excited for Becky to read The Martian – it wasn’t so much that I thought it was the perfect book for her specifically, it was more that I read it and loved it SO MUCH that I was desperate for anyone and everyone to read it, too! The Martian is everything you could want in a book – it’s suspenseful, engaging, and funny – I really didn’t expect it to be so funny! Technically this book is sci-fi, but don’t let that keep you from reading it. It is a total delight.

Becky says: I am so glad Val picked this book for me! I haven't seen the movie yet, and I knew I wanted to read the book first, but without this push, I probably wouldn't have.

Prior to beginning the novel, this is what I knew: An astronaut left behind on Mars survives by eating potatoes. And there's science.

Here's what actually happens: Mark Watney, a member of the Ares 3 crew, is presumed dead and left on Mars when a storm comes up and the mission is aborted. He has to figure out a way to survive until the next Ares crew arrives. Through ingenuity and lots of crazy science, he manages to stay alive.

The Martian is hilarious! It's the funniest book I've read in ages, and I wasn't anticipating that, even though people said it was funny. (I guess I should have believed them...) There is so much science in the book, and I'm not exactly a science kind of girl, yet it never gets overwhelming or boring. Most of the book is comprised of Watney's journal entries, and that's where the hilarity comes in. He's witty, sarcastic, and just plain funny--which is pretty amazing, considering his circumstances. Once he is (SPOILER ALERT!) finally back in contact with NASA, he continues to crack jokes on a regular basis ... including a very well timed "that's what she said" joke.

I so badly wanted Watney to survive, and I loved reading about the ups and downs as he tried to do just that. This is easily the most fun I've had reading so far this year. One thing to note, though: There is a lot of swearing in this book. So if you have a problem with excessive language (seriously, it begins in the very first line), then I'd skip the novel and go straight for the movie. (I still haven't seen the movie yet, but it's rated PG-13, so the filmmakers must have toned down the language. The language just on the first page of the novel would push it into R category.)

Val's book: The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz, chosen by Becky
Becky says: When it comes to reading material, let's just say that Val and I rarely ever choose the same books. The majority of my reading is in the realm of Christian fiction, a genre Val gave up on in the 8th grade. Every once in awhile, I come across a book that doesn't feel like Christian fiction, one that seems like something Val would enjoy. The Lost Garden is one such book. I loved it so much that it made my Top 10 list in 2015, and I wanted to share it with Val. (See my review.) Also, how could you not be attracted to a book with that cover? Gorgeous!

Val says: Becky chose The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz for me.  It’s a dual-story plot – following Eleanor in 1918 after the conclusion of World War I, and following Marin and Rebecca in present-day. All three characters are facing great loss – Eleanor’s brother, Walter, was killed in the war, and Marin has just been given custody of Rebecca, her 15-year-old half-sister, because their father and Rebecca’s mother were killed in a car accident.  Marin and Rebecca end up living right next door to Eleanor’s old house, and they discover a walled garden that Eleanor helped plan.

It took me a while to get into this book.  I did not find Eleanor immediately likeable, and I felt that some of her reactions to events felt off – untrue to the situation.  But as the book progressed, I didn’t notice those issues anymore, and after about 50 pages in, I was very interested in both storylines.  I haven’t finished the book yet (I have about 50 pages left), and I’m excited for the unresolved questions in both storylines to be answered. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the post-WWI time-period, or anyone looking for an engaging book with a compelling storyline that isn’t too emotionally taxing.

This is what Val's cat Chloe thought of the book.
Steph's book: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, chosen by our brother Andrew
Steph says: Our brother picked my book for me. It was The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. I didn’t make it past the first page for two very important reasons: 1) this book is the most intimidating thing I’ve ever picked up. Only two people that I know gave encouraging opinions of this thing. They are also the only two that like epics. 2) I was added to a committee at church that was meeting extra the entire month of February. That meant I didn’t get home until about 10 o’clock four nights of the week. I already get sucked into books and have a hard time putting them down so that I can sleep. An epic this month was just not going to happen. You will be seeing my thoughts on this book when we reach our “books that intimidate you” portion of our challenge—when I will *hopefully* not be working on surprise projects.

Susan's book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, chosen by Steph
Steph says: For our mother, I picked Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen because it is my favorite book and one that I have reread 8 or 9 times. It is witty, it is clever, and Lizzy is just my spirit animal. She has grace, class, and just the right amount of sass. All of the characters are wonderfully realistic and ridiculous in turn. The book has such a fun look at what family life is like. I asked mom to read it because she never has, and that just had to be fixed. 

Susan says: When I began reading the book, I really found it not that interesting. However, now I think it was because of the version Becky lent me. The book is beautiful, but it has small, old fashioned looking print.

I switched to my Kindle, where I'm reading the "insight edition" with notes prepared by Bethany House Publishers. The foreword was written by Nancy Moser, who wrote a novel about Austen's life called Just Jane, and as soon as I read it, I couldn't wait to read the Pride and Prejudice! In the body of the book, there are sidebars about terms or meanings of words, and the type is so much easier to read. I have been fascinated! I "hear" Colin Firth's voice when I read Darcy's lines. I am enjoying it very much! The ease with which I can read it makes it better. I haven't finished reading the book yet, but I'm looking forward to reading more!

Have you read any of these books? We'd love to hear your thoughts! And be sure to join us again next month, when we're each reading a book published this year!

Flashback: See what we read in January.


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