The Martian

Author: Andy Weirmartian
Publisher: Crown
Date: 2014
Genre: Hard Science Fiction
ISBN: 9781594138546
Price: $15.00
Number of Pages: 368
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 4Q, 5P

Links to Author’s Websites and Interviews

http://www.andyweirauthor.com/

http://www.ew.com/article/2014/11/05/andy-weir-the-martian-author

Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/9780804139021

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/andy-weir/the-martian/

Reader’s Annotation

Mark is alone on Mars with nothing but his ingenuity and Disco.

Plot Summary

The book tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney, who is accidentally stranded on mars after he is separated from his team and injured during a dust storm. His team believes him to be dead but in reality he was just knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, he finds that he is bleeding from his wound in his abdomen. This, in fact, saved his life, as the blood sealed a hole in his suit that prevented him from suffocating. The only thing in Watney’s favor is that he still has the HAB, a life-supported living quarters that they had already set up. It has food and supplies, not to mention oxygen and shelter from the harsh environment. Watney is alive for the moment, but a big problem looms: He only has enough food to last him a year and the next mission won’t be for another four years, not to mention that nobody at NASA is aware that he’s still alive. Watney must use his skills as an engineer and botanist to figure out a way to make his own food source and find a way to communicate with NASA so they can send someone to rescue him.

Critical Evaluation

This is another novel that turned out to be one of my favorites of the semester. I really enjoyed the Cast Away meets Gravity premise and Mark, as a character, was always entertaining. I liked the fact that he had such a great sense of humor and that he used his brain to get out of tough situations. He rarely panicked and examined everything with a cool head. I also really liked the fact that the book didn’t just focus on Mark but instead included multiple perspectives from NASA and the other astronauts in his team. Sometimes it was a nice break to get away from Mark and all the science-heavy calculations he was making. It was also really suspenseful to know as a reader what was going on while watch Mark struggle in figuring it out. Despite the science parts, the book is never boring, especially in the last half. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat.

After reading the book, I was curious about the audio version, so I gave it a shot. I enjoyed the narrator and I felt like he fit the character. I think because most of the book is diary entries, the audio version works really well because it seems like Mark is leaving an audio diary instead of writing it down. Not my favorite audio experience, but I still very much enjoyed it.

Appeal Factors

Fast-paced, suspenseful, compelling

Read-alikes

The Explorer by J.P. Smythe
Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis

Awards & Lists

Alex Award: 2015
Goodreads Choice Awards: 2014
Indies’ Choice Book Awards: Adult Debut Fiction
Library Journal Best Thrillers
LibraryReads Favorites: 2014
School Library Journal’s Adult Books 4 Teens: 2014
The Reading List (RUSA): 2015

Discussion Ideas

• How does the science add to the story?
• How does the inclusion of NASA add to the story?

Justification of Selection

I’ve wanted to read this book since it was mentioned in class. I was very intrigued at the prospect of a Gravity meets Cast Away hybrid.

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Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Crowngone
Date: 2012
Genre: Psychological suspense
ISBN: 978-0307588371
Price: 15.00
Number of Pages: 422
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 4Q, 5P

Links to Author’s Websites and Interviews

http://gillian-flynn.com/

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/features/gone-girl-author-gillian-flynn-i-killed-my-darlings-20141003

http://www.ew.com/article/2014/10/13/gillian-flynn-gone-girl-ending-book

Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/9780307588364

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/gillian-flynn/gone-girl/

Reader’s Annotation

Nick’s wife has gone missing and Nick is the primary suspect.

Plot Summary

The story begins on Nick and Amy’s fifth anniversary. It starts with Nick’s perspective and we slowly learn that he has a beautiful wife, a great home and owns a business with his sister. However, under the surface, Nick is miserable. His marriage has fallen apart, his mother has recently died and now, on their fifth anniversary, Amy has gone missing. Nick struggles to help the police while keeping from them the true state of their marriage. As the police continues to investigate the disappearance, Nick looks more and more guilty. All of the evidence points to him as the likely culprit. The case is baffling, but one thing is certain: Nick Dunne is hiding something. Amy’s side of the story is told through her diary entries, which chronicle the history of the relationship, from their happy beginnings to their unhappy present. As the entries progress, they point to an abusive marriage that only seems to have been hanging on by a thread due to Amy’s inherited money. Things begin to look very grim for Nick as these details come to light.

Critical Evaluation

I absolutely loved this book. I really enjoyed how unreliable narrators both Nick and Amy were and how readers needed to look between the lines to figure out what was really going on. I loved all the twists and suspense in the story. I was actually surprised how much I liked this, as normally I don’t really enjoy unlikable protagonists. For some reason, however, the story really intrigued me and held my interest despite the unlikable characters. A lot of people hate the ending, but for me, I thought it was one of the best parts of the book. I don’t think it would have worked to have a nice and clean ending. Their marriage was messy and so is the ending, which is appropriate.

This is one of the books I tried out in audio. I thought the voice acting was pretty solid. For me, however, I had a hard time with it because I had seen the movie beforehand and couldn’t get Ben Affleck’s voice for the character out of my head, so it just felt wrong hearing another voice.

Appeal Factors

Twisted, fast-paced, bleak, disturbing, suspenseful

Read-alikes

Confessions by Kanae Minato
In the Blood by Lisa Unger
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Awards & Lists

Goodreads Choice Awards: 2012
Library Journal Best Books: 2012
Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award – Best Mystery & Suspense: 2012
The Reading List (RUSA): 2013

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss the Ending: Good or Bad?
• Discuss whether Nick and Amy are likable characters.
• Discuss Amy’s diary as a literary device.
• Discuss Flynn’s use of unreliable narrators.

Justification of Selection

I have heard a lot of positive and negative reviews of this book, which made me very curious to read it. People kept talking about a crazy twist and I just had to find out what it was.

Pure

Author: Julianna Baggottpure
Publisher: Grand Central Pub
Date: 2012
Genre: Apocalyptic fiction; Science fiction
ISBN: 9781455503063
Price: $15.00
Number of Pages: 416
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 4Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Websites and Interviews

http://juliannabaggott.com/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/12/how-i-write-julianna-baggott.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-a-carlson/juliana-baggott-interview_b_1258654.html
Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4555-0306-3

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/julianna-baggott/pure2/

Reader’s Annotation

The world has been torn apart by detonations. The lucky ones are inside the dome while the rest must brave the outside.

Plot Summary

This post-apocalyptic novel centers on Pressia, a teenage girl who lives with her grandfather out in the ruined landscape of America after the world is destroyed by bombs. The survivors are deformed and have been fused with whatever object, person or animal they were next to when the detonations went off. Pressia, who was a child at the time, has been fused with a doll head on her right arm. She has just turned 16 and is worried about a military faction that rules the landscape and takes teens to serve the militia when they turn 16. The novel is also about Partridge, a 16-year-old boy who lives in the dome. The dome protects a large society of people who don’t suffer from deformity, as they were able to get to it before the bombs went off. Partridge is the son of the dome’s leader and accidentally finds out that his mother, who he thought was killed by the bombs, may still be alive on the outside. Partridge ends up meeting with Pressia and they team up to find his mom.

Critical Evaluation

I thought this book was very well done. It had a slow start, but once Pressia and Partridge meet, it really takes off and becomes very entertaining. It’s also very well written, with a lot of character depth and development thrown in. It’s really unlike any other post-apocalyptic book I’ve read. While there is action, the book is more concerned with the characters’ journey. The fusing aspect is also really unique and interesting. It’s not just thrown in to be different. It has a large impact on the story and really becomes a big part of the characters and how they deal with it. The character motivations and actions are all very realistic and understandable. The book also features several interesting side characters that could have been one-note but were luckily elevated to important roles. A great example of this is El Capitan. At the start, I thought he would end up being a one-dimensional villain. However, his growth into a better person was one of the most surprising and enjoyable parts of the book.

Appeal Factors

Atmospheric, bleak, YA appeal

Read-alikes

The Passage by Justin Cronin
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield

Awards & Lists

Alex Award: 2013
Booklist Editors’ Choice – Adult Fiction for Young Adults: 2012
New York Times Notable Books – Fiction and Poetry: 2012

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss how Pressia changes throughout the book.
• Discuss El Capitan and his relationship with his brother.
• Gender roles in the novel.

Justification of Selection

This was one of the read-alikes on NoveList for my Science Fiction group book. Once I read the summary I was immediately intrigued. It sounded different from any other dystopian or post-apocalyptic book out there, so I just had to check it out.

A Dog’s Purpose

Author: Bruce Cameron dog
Publisher: Forge Books
Date: 2010
Genre: Humorous, Stories told by animals
ISBN: 9780765366764
Price: $5.99
Number of Pages: 319
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 4Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.brucecameron.com/

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/interview-with-w-bruce-cameron-author-of-a-dogs-purpose-and-8-simple-rules-for-datying-my-teenage-daughter

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/w-bruce-cameron-2/a-dogs-purpose/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7653-2626-3

Reader’s Annotation

Ever wonder what your dog is thinking? It’s probably more than you think.

Plot Summary

This book is told from the perspective of a dog, as he is reincarnated through various lives. His first life is as a stray mutt that is rescued by an old human. However, his life is cut short when he has to be euthanized. The dog gets reincarnated as a golden retriever puppy named Bailey and gets taken in by a family. The dog grows close to a young boy named Ethan, whom he watches grow over several years. However, they are tragically separated in a car accident. Waking up once again far away and in a new body, Bailey attempts to track down his former family.

Critical Evaluation

This is one of the best dog-related books I’ve ever read. Cameron does a great job in portraying how a dog thinks. It is both touching and hilarious, from a human perspective. As dogs can’t understand English, it’s interesting to see how they react to situations when they don’t know what is really going on around them but you do as a reader. The reincarnation concept is also very original and helps add drama and variety to the novel. While the book has aspects of comedy and drama, the heart of it is the relationship between Bailey and Ethan. Seeing their relationship grow was one of my favorite parts of the book. Cameron really knows how to tug on your heartstrings. There are several parts of the novel that make you want to cry but others that fill you with hope and warms your heart.

Appeal Factors

Amusing, Heartwarming, fast-paced

Read-alikes

Marley & Me by John Grogan

Roam by Alan Lazar

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss if Cameron successfully captures the essence of a dog’s personality and thinking.
  • Discuss the novel’s theme of why dogs are here and what their purpose is.

Justification of Selection

My husband has been trying to get me to read this book for years. Like him, I am a huge dog-lover, but I thought it would be weird reading from an animal’s perspective. I’m glad I finally listened to him.

A Discovery of Witches

Author: Deborah Harknessdiscovery
Publisher: Viking
Date: 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
ISBN: 9780670022410
Price: $33.50
Number of Pages: 579
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 3Q, 3P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://deborahharkness.com/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/20/living/deborah-harkness-author-interview/

http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/celebrity/entertainment/monitor/2012/09/deborah-harkness-interview-shadow-of-night

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/deborah-harkness/discovery-witches/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-670-02241-0

Reader’s Annotation

Diana has vowed never to practice magic until she finds a manuscript that changes her life forever.

Plot Summary

The story is about Diana Bishop, a history scholar who is studying alchemy manuscripts at Oxford University. Diana was born into a family of powerful witches. However, ever since her parents were brutally murdered when she was a child, she has vowed never to use her magic. However, there are times in which she uses magic without realizing it, like one day at the library when she accidentally calls an ancient magical manuscript called the Ashmole 782. She believes it’s just another alchemy manuscript. When she touches it, however, she senses powerful magic. Somehow, her touch unlocks a secret text within the manuscript. She attempts to send it back, but the damage has already been done. The power of the manuscript has called all of the magical creatures to Oxford that have been looking for it for centuries. One such creature is vampire Matthew Clairmont, who comes into contact with Diana and begin to fall in love with each other. Unfortunately, their romance is forbidden by the covenant, who guards the safety of magical creatures. Soon, Diana is running for her life as creatures begin hunting her for her knowledge of the Ashmole and because of her forbidden romance.

Critical Evaluation

I have very mixed feelings about this novel. The historical elements are all extremely well done and interesting. However, the romance is cliché and the book is in need of massive editing. It’s way too long and filled with pointless scenes of her talking about her clothes or what she’s eating. The first quarter of the book is all about her going to the library to study, and the scenes feel repetitive and redundant. When the romance takes off, the story does become more interesting, but there’s no getting around that a vampire romance has been done countless times before. Harkness does do a good job of trying to make it feel different by making some changes to the vampire lore, but it still feels like Twilight for grownups. I do think Diana, as a character, has a lot of potential. I like how powerful she is, but I kind of wish that her powers were delved into earlier in the book. Matthew is also an interesting character, but I think more of the focus should have been on Diana’s power rather than his history as a vampire. All in all, it’s a decent book and I may read the other two in the series.

Appeal Factors

Intricately plotted, romantic, steamy, suspenseful

Read-alikes

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss the historical aspects of the novel, such as alchemy and the Knights of Lazarus.
  • Discuss the relationship between Diana and Matthew.
  • Discuss the congregation and their purpose.

Justification of Selection

I am not a huge fantasy reader and I wanted to try a different kind that I had for the database assignment. I thought the historical aspects of the book sounded fascinating and I was interested in reading a book about witches.

Say Goodbye

Author: Lisa Gardner
Publisher: Bantam Bookssay
Date: 2008
Genre: Suspense
ISBN: 9780752872056
Price: $7.99
Number of Pages: 360
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 4Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://lisagardner.com/

http://books.usatoday.com/happyeverafter/post/2012-03-11/interview-lisa-gardner-catch-me/645327/1

http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/lisa-gardner/news/interview-071708

Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-553-80433-1

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/say-goodbye-lisa-gardner/1100158713?ean=9780553588095

Reader’s Annotation

Killers aren’t born — they’re MADE.

Plot Summary

The story centers on Kimberly Quincy, a pregnant FBI agent. Her husband, Mac, wants her to settle down due to the pregnancy. Unfortunately, however, a case comes in that she begins to become obsessed with. She meets Delilah Rose, a hooker who is also pregnant. Delilah tells her about a killer that been kidnapping and possibly killing hookers in the area. Kimberly also meets another agent named Sal Martignetti, who has been investigating the case. Kimberly begins to receive mysterious calls about the case, which furthers her obsession. As she investigates the case, she begins to realize that nothing is what it seems and that she may be in the crosshairs of the most dangerous serial killer she has ever faced.

Critical Evaluation

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, at the same time, it was one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. There are graphic depictions of little boys getting sexually abused. There’s also a lot of discussion about spiders, which I have a fear of. This is not to discredit the book, as it’s very well done. The graphic material isn’t gratuitous, but it is emotionally exhausting and difficult to get through in one sitting. I thought Gardner did a good job in conveying the idea that killers are made, rather than born, as she chronicles the progression of an innocent boy’s journey into psychosis.

Appeal Factors

Fast-paced, suspenseful, disturbing

Read-alikes

Stay Close by Harlan Coben

The Fifth Victim by Beverly Barton

A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss the theme of creating monsters.
  • Discuss Kimberly as a character and how her pregnancy affects the story.

Justification of Selection

I have always been interested in stories about serial killers and I have hear some great things about Lisa Gardner, so I decided that I should try her out for this assignment. I’m very glad I did, because while this was one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read, it was also completely engrossing and well done.

World War Z

Author: Max Brooksworld
Publisher: Crown
Date: 2006
Genre: Apocalyptic, Horror
ISBN: 9780307346612
Price: $14.95
Number of Pages: 320
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 4Q, 5P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://maxbrooks.com/

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/magazine/max-brooks-is-not-kidding-about-the-zombie-apocalypse.html?_r=0

http://www.npr.org/2012/09/07/160758839/what-college-kids-can-learn-from-the-zombie-war

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/max-brooks/world-war-z/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-307-34660-5

Reader’s Annotation

World War I and II have nothing on World War Z.

Plot Summary

This book chronicles the progression of the great zombie war. The novel begins with how zombies first started to appear in China and how it slowly started to spread throughout the world through various ways. The story tells multiple perspectives, including American soldiers, Israeli political leaders and innocent bystanders. The story chronicles how the war began, what happened during the war and how it concluded.

Critical Evaluation

I listened to this book in audio format and I’m really glad I did. I think this book lends itself to the format better than any of the other books I listened to. The multiple perspectives made for a fantastic cast of voice actors. I especially enjoyed Martin Scorsese’s and Mark Hammil’s roles. The big Battle of Yonkers chapter is one of my favorite in the story. It is the perfect example of what makes this book so great, as it is easily one of the scariest, most suspenseful scene. Although I enjoyed this book for the most part, I don’t see myself reading a book in this format again. I much prefer a more linear story with a central protagonist. Still though, I’m glad I experienced this book.

Appeal Factors

Bleak, fast-paced, compelling

Read-alikes

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Blackout by Mira Grant

I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Awards & Lists

Audie Award in 2007

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

USA TODAY BESTSELLER

WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER

Discussion Ideas

  • Discussion of the storytelling format and multiple perspectives.
  • Discussion of the gender roles in the novel.

Justification of Selection

I read this book because I have always heard such great things about it. I am a huge zombie fan, but I had originally stayed away because I knew it wasn’t a linear story with a few main characters, but rather a set of separate accounts of the zombie war. I wasn’t sure if this would appeal to me, but I’m glad I read it and even happier that I listened to the audiobook.