The Martian – Andy Weir

I’m not sure what initially drew me to “The Martian” but it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for a little while, not as long as some, and certainly not the newest book of the lot. I thought it was time to read it as I had seen that it was part of a Book Club on Instagram and wanted to find out what it was all about.

Synopsis:

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 & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& 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—& 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?

I have a lot of science fiction books. I also seem to have a lot of books about/regarding/involving Martians. Science Fiction seems to be the genre of choice on my bookshelf it has to be said, whether classic or modern.

I am so glad that I took the time out to read Andy Weir’s “The Martian”. I’ve read a few books this year, and whilst I have enjoyed them, it would seem that this particular book managed to grip me in a way that I haven’t felt with a book for a long time. In fact… the last time I felt this into a book was probably “Ready Player One”, and if I recall correctly, that was quite some time ago. That’s not to say that I haven’t been engaged in other books that I’ve read, it’s just sometimes it takes a book like this one to make you realise how awesome some books can be.

We meet Mark Watney, stranded on Mars, presumed dead. He isn’t, and now he’s got to survive. Survive on hope that he can be rescued in 4 years time, that the next Mars landing will be able to take him home, and that he won’t in the mean time die from lack of oxygen, food, or some other catastrophe.

Mark gets a lot of bad luck thrown his way, but through it all remains mildly optimistic that he can do everything that he can to survive and get out the other end. At first I thought it was a bit ridiculous the amount of stuff that went wrong, but I think that in the long run this probably benefited Mark as it gave him tasks to focus on rather than the utter loneliness and silence of the red planet.

I cheered along as contact with NASA was re-established, and loved how other elements came into play in the story telling, evolving from the blog/log entries made by Mark, through to the characters of NASA and their roles in helping Mark survive. And then the additional little stories of the equipment, like the woven fabric/material that ended up exploding about half way through, or the bolt in the failed launch of supplies to Mars. These little stories, components felt like characters in their own right.

Apparently some people were offended at the use of swear words in this novel; I had no problem at all with this aspect of the novel at all. In fact, it helped connect to the character. We are all human, I’m fairly certain we all swear/curse I think if I were in the same situation as this character then I would have been doing it a lot more to be honest.

For some reason when reading through the log entries it felt like it took the longest time to get to about 200 sols, then the rest of the book picked up pace and suddenly we were at the thrilling conclusion.

Ultimately there were only two ways that this was going to end: rescue or death. I’m not going to spoil for you if you haven’t read, but I’m glad it ended how it did.

This book has definitely made me want to check out other novels by this author, and have duly followed him on GoodReads to see what else he has written as his is a name that I haven’t heard before.

I rated this book 5/5 on GoodReads. I hope you manage to take the time to discover this book for yourself, it’s a thrilling ride, and perhaps not at all what you would expect from a book about the Earth’s burgeoning exploration into space.

Have you read this? What did you think? Next up for me is part one in “A Dance of Dragons”.

Kialtho

The Darkest Minds – Alexandra Bracken

Synopsis:

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living


Thoughts:
The idea of all the kids at puberty suddenly developing mysterious powers, and the ones that didn’t simply died, is intriguing, and an idea I don’t think I’ve come across before. This isn’t just some rehash of X-Men – which I think is what I expected when I first picked this book up – but the tale of the collapse of the USA from fear of these kids, by locking them up in essentially concentration camps, and hoping for the best.

I love that there are mentions of other countries like the UK imposing economic sanctions on the US. It shows that the author has thought about the wider ramifications of the world that she’s set up, and one that isn’t entirely without consequence. The US, in this book, is having to face up to what it’s done to these kids, through the sickness and the camps.

We meet Ruby as a 10 year old, scared, not knowing what she’s done. She manages to slip through the net and hide, to become someone that she is not in this new world of children defined by colours – the colours denoting their particular abilities [although, this isn’t exactly explained very well, hopefully more to come in the next book?]. Ruby is an Orange, and endangered species, because Oranges have the power of mind control.

Ruby was an interesting character, but the constant self fear and loathing did get to me a little, and in the middle of the book when the kids are searching for the “Slip Kid” the kid that will keep them safe from persecution, we see this a lot more. This section of the book moved a lot slower as well, but I can understand why it was needed – you can’t have the group of escapees miraculously and suddenly discover the camp with a little controversy.

Ruby knows she’s an Orange, she knows what she can do even if she can’t control it. She knows what other people can do to her – other Oranges, so I think my biggest problem comes a little later in the book when she’s being taught to use her abilities by the Slip Kid, also an Orange, when he begins to manipulate her. To make her want him, to make her behave in a different manner to how she was. At first I thought it would going to be a typical dystopian romance triangle, but actually I liked that it wasn’t, that she was true – despite being manipulated – to the person she loved. I did have problems with the mind-rape; I felt that this was glossed over too quickly, and that it was used as an excuse to get them to leave the camp rather than dealing with the fall out – mind, I suppose there wasn’t much time to deal with it, so again, maybe that might be something that’s dealt with in the next book?

I enjoyed this ride, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, one to definitely loo out for, I think.

Elder Tree Shawl

After approximately a month after starting this project I can announce that my “Elder Tree Shawl” is complete. Here it is:
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I had to take some breaks from making this though as the needles were making my hands hurt, but  I have to admit that it wasn’t until tonight that I realised I was using a 3.5mm and a 4.0mm needle… fail. Once I discovered this I felt like an idiot, I have to say. I don’t think it’s affected the shape of the shawl too badly though, and I certainly wouldn’t entertain the notion of ripping back.

I love the colours in this project, the yarn is from CountessAblaze, in the colour way “Nerds Prefer Their Rainbows Darker”. I would definitely use this again, and sort of want to have it in a DK weight so that I could make another Crochet My Little Pony. I have several other colour ways from CountessAblaze in my stash – alongside GnomeAcres she’s my favourite Indy yarn dyer – go check them both out if you haven’t already!

I can’t block it just yet though as I don’t have enough pins or big enough blocking mats, so I will have to wait until I can order more – I can’t wait to see what this will look like when it’s fully completed! I only have nine squares for the mats and the wingspan of the shawl will be pretty big when it’s complete, so yeah, more mats needed.

The pattern is really easy to follow, much better than the “Lonely Tree” as well as this one you can keep going until you’ve decided you’ve had enough. Because of this I started weighing the yarn quite a lot when I joined in the second skein so that I could try and make sure that I wouldn’t run out during the cast off. It ended up that I had nine grams of yarn left, which I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with…

There’s not much to add for the time being, except that the next project up will be some Chikini’s; clothing/tabards for rescued battery hens.

Carnival of Shadows – R. J. Ellory

Before I begin I need to mention that I won this ARC copy of “Carnival of Shadows” in a GoodReads giveaway, and that my review is based on the version of the book I received non profit blah blah blah.

Let’s start with the synopsis:

Kansas, 1959. A travelling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man’s body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michael Travis is sent to investigate.
Led by the elusive Edgar Doyle, the carnival folk range from the enigmatic to the bizarre, but none of them will give Travis a straight answer to his questions. With each new turn of the investigation, Doyle and his companions challenge Travis’s once unshakeable faith in solid facts and hard evidence.

As the consequences of what has happened become ever more disturbing, Travis struggles to open his mind to a truth that defies comprehension. Will he be able to convince himself that things are not what they seem? Or will he finally reconcile himself to a new reality – one that threatens to undermine everything in which he has ever placed his trust?

In his powerful, atmospheric new thriller, bestselling author R.J. Ellory introduces the weird and wonderful world of the Carnival Diablo and reveals the dark secrets that lurk at its heart

[Via GoodReads].

Thoughts:

I have to say that the premise of this book was really interesting, the mysterious carnival, a murder and the FBI. When I began the storyling I couldn’t help but think I was reading a story about Hotchner from Criminal Minds as I didn’t feel that Travis’ character was anything more than a typical law enforcement character complete with “troubled” history in the form of an abusive father murdered by his mother.

I was intrigued by the murder of the mysterious man underneath the merry-go-round, and in fact reminded me of “The Colorado Kid” by Stephen King, and a part of me wanted to see the outcome unresolved as well, but the story that Ellory developed was far different to what I expected. For me this story ran from something Criminal Minds through to the X-Files.

In the first half of the novel we get this solid investigation into the murder of an unfortunate soul, but how the story developed was a bit… ludicrous? I’m not sure how I felt about the conclusion, and to be fair it was another one of those stories that had a lot of pages, and felt that it was building to what should have been an epic conclusion, but it was deflated as everything just fizzled out and moved on.

I don’t know. It was an atmospheric read, and I enjoyed being in 1950’s America, but I just feel that there was something missing about this book. Perhaps it was because it was the ARC copy, so things had perhaps not been edited out.

There was one thing that I found quite irksome in this version, and perhaps it’s change for later versions, but the continued use of “Federal Bureau of Investigation” rather than FBI… it’s like it was to add to the word count more than anything… that’s probably just me though.

I think I could recommend it if you want an atmospheric read then pick this one up for something a little on the different side, but personally I don’t feel that the synopsis reflects the novel. I wouldn’t have called this a “thriller” but more of a slow burner that fizzles out… which is a shame as I wanted to like this more.

That being said I think that this has introduced me to a new author, someone that I haven’t read before and would be interested in reading some more of his work.

Keep on reading,

Kialtho

Crochet: My Little Pony

It’s done! My first ever foray into the realms of crochet [I don’t count my previous attempts at granny squares as they didn’t ever amount to anything]. I’ve been saying for an age that I’ve wanted to try crochet, but it seems even more alien than when I first started knitting.

When I saw this pattern I knew that I had to pick up that hook once more and give it a go – and having plenty of stashed acrylic was even better as I am trying [and mostly failing] to get through some of my stash yarn. I wouldn’t say I have a lot, but there’s certainly enough to be going on with.

When I first decided to make it I also needed a break from my current knitting project, as the small needles/sock yarn were making my hands hurt.

I choose a pinky/purple of Hayfield DK Bonus as I had a full ball of it and obviously wasn’t sure how much I would need, and how much would go wrong. Luckily, I didn’t have to re-do any of the appendages at all, and most of the undoing was usually at the beginning when making the foundation chain. There was also an instance of me accidentally going the wrong way after setting down the body, then going back to it after a small break… I think I ended up ripping back two or three rounds, but nothing drastic. Oh, and I also had to rip back on one of the wings as the shaping went a bit wrong as well.

I did the hair following this tutorial.

It’s a bit time consuming but I like how it looks, so it was certainly worth it. The only thing that I’m not sure on the colours of the hair…. maybe I should have chosen something else? I don’t know, what do you think?

So here are a few pictures of the finished object:

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What do you think of my first ever crochet? I think I’m in love with it a bit! She needs a name… any suggestions?

Keep on crafting!

Kialtho

Minions, Deer, and Elephant Socks

My last knitting update was back at the end of January, which seems like a really long time ago, but in reality it isn’t. I have finished a few things since then so thought I would share them with you. I usually share them once they’re finished, but I had a couple of birthday presents in the mix so thought I would wait until they had been given out before blogging about them.

I guess the first thing that I want to show is something that I didn’t actually finish. I wanted to learn Double Knitting, which is an interesting technique in itself and was interesting to learn, but I couldn’t stick with the pattern. In this case I think it was a combination of using the wrong type of yarn and the wrong size needles. Also the charts I was reading from were pretty small which made things a bit difficult.

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With this one, which was supposed to be a scarf, I decided to complete the deer section, and work a couple of blank rows and then cast off. If there’s something that I’ve learned it’s to not stick with a project that you know isn’t going well, or that you aren’t enjoying. This was just one of those. The end result was okay looking, but I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with this square that’s left.

In other news, I made a friend a minion iPad cover during February for her birthday. This was a really easy pattern to follow, from the designer of the minion toys that I was making some time ago. I was concerned that it wouldn’t be big enough, but when I measured it it was actually quite roomy. This knit made me really happy actually, and was the reason I definitely decided to not continue with the deer double knitting scarf. IMG_0851
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Lastly, I remade my “Water for the Elephants” socks, the first pair I made back in October were too small for my Mum, so I decided after the failure of the above mentioned scarf, I would make these as I knew that I would be able to make these without a problem. I used some Hobbycraft Smooth and Silky, Women’s Institute yarn, in a sport weight rather than sock weight yarn. This meant that the socks grew much quicker. The only downside was that because the yarn was bigger I couldn’t fully complete the pattern on the foot, so it ends a little abruptly. But I’m really happy with the result, and Mum loves them too. She said that they keep her feet nice and toasty warm, which is certainly a plus!
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Before I sign off this blog for the day, I wanted to give you a sneak peak of the yarn I’m using for my next project:

This is CountessAblaze yarn, in the colour way “Nerds Prefer Their Rainbows Darker”. It’s beautiful. I am making an Elder Tree Shawl, and would love to take a picture, but it doesn’t look like much at the moment.
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I shall update soon about this project!

What are you making at the moment?

Kialtho

Paradigm – Ceri A. Lowe

This is one of those books that appealed to me from the very beginning, and I was very much stalking the bookstore when the release date came and went, and to my disappointment it just didn’t seem to be stocked over here, which immediately made me assume that it was American. Imagine my surprise to read British English spellings, and that it’s based in a post- apocalyptic London.


Synopsis:

What if the end of the world was just the beginning?

Alice Davenport awakens from a fever to find her mother gone and the city she lives in ravaged by storms – with few survivors.

When Alice is finally rescued, she is taken to a huge underground bunker owned by the mysterious Paradigm Industries. As the storms worsen, the hatches close.

87 years later, amidst the ruins of London, the survivors of the Storms have reinvented society. The Model maintains a perfect balance – with inhabitants routinely frozen until they are needed by the Industry.

Fifteen-year-old Carter Warren knows his time has come. Awoken from the catacombs as a contender for the role of Controller General, it is his destiny to succeed – where his parents failed.

But Carter soon discovers that the world has changed, in ways that make him begin to question everything that he believes in. As Carter is forced to fight for those he loves and even for his life, it seems that the key to the future lies in the secrets of the past…

In this novel we are introduced with two very different characters, in two very different times. Alice Davenport is a just 11 or 12 when we first meet her, forgotten about in society with a prostitute for a mother and neglect in her life. Carter Warren is a teenager groomed for great things, so long as he can prove himself. Linked in these two stories are the storms that have devastated the world, and the society that Alice Davenport sets up, the one that Carter Warren lives in.

There is a lot of unexplored ideas – that we maybe introduced to later on – such as the cryogenics – if your skills aren’t needed in society then you go into the big freeze. We have Carter Warren, parentless – and I was convinced throughout this novel that this was going to follow the formula of dead parents are really alive, but that wasn’t the case… and that was good.

In the years between Carter Warren being frozen and being awake something has happened in this perfect post-devastation society that has the leaders upping the security. Arts and crafts, music, hobbies they don’t exist, they aren’t seen as necessary. It’s all about the Model, the perfect society and how everyone fits, works and produces in that society. It’s an interesting concept, and one that I found refreshing in a genre that seems to be littered with the same old story.

I did find that half way through the book the pace lagged a little, but it did pick up to the slightly predictable ending [which I shan’t spoil for you, should you decide to read this].

I’ve given this 4 stars on GoodReads, which I think is appropriate, although I did hover over the 3 star button as well. I look forward to reading  the next book in the series for sure!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Kialtho


 

For the first time in how many years I’ve been taking part in the GoodReads reading challenge I AM ON TARGET. This makes me very happy, so I had to share. 40 books doesn’t sound like much, but with the knitting, and full time work and just life in general, I don’t seem to have enough time for reading!

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