The Martian

Oscar Watch 2016

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Last Thursday, The Academy announced the nominees for 2016 Academy Awards, which means it is once again time for me to start my annual attempt to view all the Best Picture nominees, and as many of the other films nominated, as possible before Sunday, February 28th.

I love the Oscars. I know there has been a lot of controversy over them the last couple year; I just love movies and love being able to celebrate the films that have made significant achievements this past year. I do hope the nominations will soon start reflecting more diversity, but I also feel like the issue lies much deeper than just the Academy. I think there needs to be more diversity in the films themselves, and which films receive recognition in general. Off the top of my head I can only think of two films featuring African Americans that could have been nominated – Creed and Straight Outta Compton. I’m sure there must be more and I don’t know if this is my own failing for not seeking out more diverse films, or if the entire film industry just needs to put more emphasis in promoting diversity in film and making people aware these films exist. Hopefully next year we’ll see more diversity in the films being promoted for Oscar recognition and then in the nominees themselves.

Several of this year’s nominees took me by surprise. I honestly never expected Mad Max: Fury Road to receive a Best Picture nomination. That was the biggest surprise to me. I haven’t seen it yet, so I honestly can’t judge but it just did not seem at all like the kind of movie the Academy would recognize – though I’m told it’s technical achievements are fantastic. I was also excited to see The Martian nominated, simply because I loved that movie so much (and those of you who read my blog regularly know how much I loved the novel). I wasn’t necessarily expecting it to be nominated, but I can’t say I’m surprised; the movie was extremely well done.

I know very little about the other six nominees. I had been planning to see Room at some point, as I have heard so many good things about the movie. Spotlight has also been on my viewing list for a while, though mostly because I had a feeling it would receive an Oscar nomination. However, the cast is also excellent. I feel like The Big Short may be this years The Wolf of Wall Street (which I really did not enjoy) – not necessarily content-wise (because the two films are vastly different) but just in my overall opinion of the film once I’ve watched, but I could be rushing to judgement.

The Revenant is a film that if it weren’t for the nomination I would probably have very little interest in viewing. It just seems dark and somewhat depressing to me. However, I was pretty sure it was going to be nominated, so I’ve been preparing myself to watch that one. While I wasn’t a big fan of Birdman last year, I did love the way it was filmed and Alejandro González Iñárritu did an excellent job, so I’m looking forward to those technical aspects of The Revenant because I suspect they’ll be the best part. 

Bridge of Spies and Brooklyn just seem like the odd children in this pack of nominees. I suspect while each will be a great film, they won’t have the clout to really contend for that Oscar. I suspect Bridge of Spies will be much like Tom Hanks’ last Best Picture nomination, Captain Phillips, an excellent film but not even close to winning, and Brooklyn just kind of snuck in there.

At this point, without seeing all the films, I have a feeling the Best Picture winner will come down to The Revenant, The Big Short, or Spotlight. I can’t narrow it down more than that, and I could be completely wrong. We’ll see on February 28th. Until then, I’m going to enjoy viewing all the films and forming my opinions on who should win.

3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge | Day 2

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It’s now day 2 of my 3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge! Today’s quote comes from my current obsession, The Martian. If you are at all interesting in science or science fiction, you need to read this book. It’s incredible. I’ve read it twice this summer already. Thanks again to 1booklife for tagging me!

The Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote for three consecutive days.
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day.

Today’s Quote:

Martian Quote

Tag You’re It:

I’m terrible at tagging people for stuff like this, so my apologies if you’ve already done it (if you have let me know and I’ll check your quotes out!):

CJ’s Bookshelf: June Reads

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I’ve finally gotten back into my usual reading pace, thoguh this will probably still be a shorter post as most of the books I read this month I chose to review individually. I’ve provided links to those reviews in case your interested in reading more about each one.

Throne CollageThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

You can read my full review here. Cliffnotes version: This book has one of the best female protagonists I’ve seen in a YA series. If you’re tired of all the Bella Swans out there, check this series out.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

I’ve become hooked on this series, in case you can’t tell. I have written a full review here if you’re interested. I’ll just say that the second book was a great follow-up to Throne of Glass, and just makes this series even better.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

You can see my full review of this book here. While I’m still not entirely sure it lives up to the hype, it was definitely much better than The Girl on the Train.

Mort by Terry Pratchett

MortIt took me a while to finish this book as I kept getting distracted by other books as I was reading it. That’s not a commentary on this book at all – in fact I really enjoyed it. Equal Rites is probably still my favorite Discworld novel so far, but Mort would come in a close second.

In Mort Death decides to take on an apprentice. However, in doing Death’s job Mort saves a life instead of taking it, setting off a chain of events that could lead to disaster. Also, Death takes a holiday. Death is probably one of my favorite characters in the series so far, and I know that’s a common perception. I just love the humor that’s present with this typically terrifying character. He’s unlike any incarnation of Death I’ve seen or read before, and I’m really enjoying him. I also continue to really love Pratchett’s writing style; I am so disappointed I didn’t start reading the Discworld series earlier, but I’m glad I’m discovering it now.

The Martian by Andy Weir

I’ve already reviewed this book on my blog, but I feel the need to reiterate here that this is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. It’s smart, funny, suspenseful and hard to put down. Once I started reading it was very hard to stop until I was finished with the book. I highly recommend adding this to your summer reading list – at the very least you’ll want to have it read before the movie hits theaters in the fall.

Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurances) by Pip Ballantine and Tee MorrisPhoenix Rising

If you’re a fan of steampunk fiction, then you need to check out this series. I have had this book on my to-read pile for a long time, and finally pulled it out just before a signing with the authors. The story is fast-paced and fun, and I absolutely loved Eliza Braun and Wellington Brooks. They’re a great pair of opposites who learn to work together quite well; I really enjoyed seeing their partnership develop as they gradually began to trust each other. I haven’t read many steampunk novels yet, but the few that I have read tended to have a male lead character and female assistant. I was very pleased to see that reversed in this series. I also really enjoyed the humor throughout the book. If you like steampunk, you’ll probably enjoy this series, and if you’ve never read any steampunk this is a good place to start.

Civil War by Marvel

I finally finished Civil War, which I actually started reading months ago. I kept letting myself get distracted with other books, and then I became obsessed with Daredevil and read through two decades of those comics before finally coming back to Civil War. Part of what took me so long was that was reading every single title with connections to the storyline, which is somewhere around 100 issues.

And that’s what I read in May. My current reads include (a few have been on the list for a while because they got displaced by other titles):

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Blood and Iron by Jon Sprunk

And my upcoming reads include (Subject to change based on whim and mood):

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on what books I’m reading you can also find me on Goodreads.

CJ’s Bookshelf: The Martian by Andy Weir

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The Martian

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that its found in every culture without exception.” – The Martian

The Martian caught my attention a while back, and I was curious enough about the book to add it to my “to-read” list, but didn’t make any effort to obtain a copy immediately. I had a vague idea what the book was about, and it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t sure if it was my type of book. The truth is, as much as I love science fiction, I’m not into really sciencey science fiction. Science was always my worst subject in school and when I read books that deal with a lot of science I tend to either tune it out or most of it just goes way over my head. I tend to lean more towards the fantasy or urban fantasy subgenre when it comes to the broader scifi category. However, the trailer for the film adaptation looked good, and then my elementary school librarian (who now volunteers where my mother works) insisted that I had to read it. So, I decided to take her advice. And she was right (of course).

The Martian is one of those books that anyone could love, whether you’re a fan of science fiction or not. Mark Watney is an astronaut stranded on Mars after he and his crew are forced to abandon their mission and Watney is believed to be killed in the evacuation. Through a miraculous series of circumstances however, Watney survives being impaled during the sandstorm that forced the evacuation but has no way to contact his crew or earth, and no hope of rescue until the next Mars mission arrives in four years – and he only has provisions and life support for a month.

The novel may take place on Mars, but it’s a very naturalistic story; it’s very much the story of one man trying to survive against all odds. Watney has to use every bit of ingenuity and cleverness he has in order to figure out how to stay alive long enough for rescue. Meanwhile, on Earth once NASA discovers he is alive they must overcome every obstacle they face (funding, time constraints, politics, etc.) in order to give Watney his best chance at survival.

What I loved most about this book was definitely the character of Mark Watney. A large portion of this novel is told from Watney’s point of view as he keeps a detailed log of his time on Mars, just in case NASA can recover it. His narrative is full of humor – I laughed out loud more than once – and he breaks down the more ‘sciencey’ stuff in a way that’s easy for any reader to understand. While I have a very limited understanding of physics or chemistry, not once did I feel like anything he was explaining was too far over my head.

According to the author’s bio in the book, this is Weir’s first novel and he has really set a high bar for himself. Not only is the book humorous and easy to read, it also takes the reader on the adventure with Watney. The book is like a roller coaster ride, where you go up for every success Watney has, then crash down with him every time something goes wrong. Weir’s writing style allows the reader to feel all the highs and lows just as Watney experiences them; when a writer can make you feel a part of the story in that way he has truly accomplished something special.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone, scifi fan or not. It is one of the best books I’ve read this year and once I started reading it I could not put it down. The story is gripping and compelling and everything you want a good novel to be.