The Martian, by Andy Weir

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If you ask me for the genres I don’t like, I would first mention horror, followed by science-fiction. But guys, that was before I read The Martian!

The Martian Andy WeirMark Watney is left alone in Mars during a sandstorm, when the crew had to evacuate and thought Watney was dead. But he is not. The astronaut has no way to contact Earth to tell them he is alive, and the next mission to land on Mars is scheduled in 4 years, so this man has a problem. The fact that the food he has would feed him only for less than a year before starving to death doesn’t help either. But Watney is a resourceful guy and soon he comes up with a plan: plant potatoes on Mars!

The adventures of Watney on Mars will keep you glued to the book. The story is told through daily entries he keeps in case he finds a solution to send them, but soon we start knowing what’s going on on Earth and also with Watney’s crew on their way home. This astronaut is a genius for the way we works on staying alive and getting a way to communicate with NASA, and he is also very joyful despite the situation he is in, so the book is going to lift your spirits. It talks a lot about science, though, but I think it is explained very well even for non-science people so that anyone can follow Watney’s operations.

The martian quote

Watney’s wisdom

I listened to the audiobook, being this the first fiction novel I haven’t read in Spanish before that I have listened to, and I think the narrator totally becomes Mark Watney. It’s like he is real and tells you what he is doing. I was so engrossed in the novel that, near the end, I had to stop, take a few minutes to think about the possible outcomes of the story (because the reader doesn’t have the slightest idea about what is going to happen), sob a little in advance in case he didn’t get it, and then continue with the book.

I really recommend it.

rakin5I think that the film will be on theatres in October, and it looks really good, doesn’t it? Be careful if you still haven’t read it and you plan to, because the trailer reveals most of the story:

What I’m reading – mid-August

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I hate summers, but this one is being remarkable tough in so many ways. The main issue has been my father, who had a scheduled – but serious – heart surgery last Wednesday. My family and I have spent long hours there in hospital with him, and I don’t know what’s wrong about the place, but it leaves you exhausted. Luckily, he is the best of patients, and has been following all the prescriptions and doing all the exercises the nurses and doctors command, and he is at home now, with a long way ahead to make a full recovery, though.

reading mid augustI have begun a couple of books these days, which is not a reading habit that I have, but I suddenly found myself in the hospital, the day of my father’s surgery, with nothing to read and long hours ahead in the waiting room, so I started the last novel of Arturo Pérez-Reverte (Hombres Buenos, still not available in English), which my father had just finished the night before, already hospitalized. It starts well and it’s set in the nineteenth century, a time that I know quite well due to the Law text books that I have to study, and also thanks to some historical fiction novels that I have enjoyed in the past.

Besides, I started a book that I purchased at the beginning of the year: As you wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by the actor Cary Elwes, which is a delight. If you love The princess bride (the film and the book), not reading it would be inconceivable ;) My father is also a fan of the film, so these last days I’ve been telling him anecdotes that I’ve read on the book and we had had a lot of fun.

With all the drives up and down the hospital, I have been disconnected from the blogging world and I forgot that I had organized a joint reading with my Spanish fellows! You know that I run a reading challenge for people to read in English, and I organize activities from time to time. We are reading With every letter, by Sarah Sundin, and it is still free on Amazon, if you want to join us. We are commenting the book on twitter with the hastag #WithEveryLetter.

And that’s all for now. I took this afternoon off, and hopefully I will come back to my daily routines tomorrow.

Hope you have a nice week!

Handmade love letter-inspired bookmarks

Who is feeling crafty AND corny today? :mrgreen:

I spent the last couple of days searching snail mail accounts and pins on Pinterest and Instagram, and I got inspired, not to look for a penpal, but to make some bookmarks based on love letters ♥.

I don’t have any scrapbooking material, so I took a few things from here and there (it was on a Sunday afternoon and I couldn’t buy anything for my crafty inspiration) and this is the result:

love letter bookmarks 1

Materials:

  • Cardboard
  • A paper bag, whose colour I liked because it looks old, but you can also use scrapbooking paper.
  • A cream-coloured piece of paper for the envelope and the love message.
  • Sealing wax and a seal; mine has the letter I on it.
  • Some ribbons, dry leaves, etc.
  • Scissors, glue, a pencil and a ruler.

love letter bookmarks 2

First, cut the cardboard in four pieces of 20×6 cm and glue them to one side of the bag. Then cut the leftovers.

For the envelope, I just took one I had at home and I used it as a template for the cream-coloured paper. This way you don’t have to waste several envelopes to make the bookmarks.

I wrote the sender and the message with one of my typewriters, but you can perfectly do it with a printer and the typography you like most. However, don’t forget to write everything before cutting the paper, because a tiny piece of paper is difficult to handle on a typewriter or on a printer.

I choose the quotes from Word Porn, which is a page I like a lot. You can also write a quote from any of your favourite books, or even create a poem by yourself!

Then I cut the pieces for the envelope and the message, and then I tore this last one, carefully, at the borders. You can try to burn it a little as well if you are not likely to burn your house, like I am. Then it’s time to glue the written parts on the cardboard.

love letter bookmarks 3

In order to “seal” the envelope, I watched this video and I did it in my bookmarks. Be careful and don’t put the wax seal too close to the flame, because it actually burns (I learned it the hard way, right?).

Then it’s time for the details: I glued two ribbons in one corner, but I didn’t have enough for all the bookmarks I was doing, so for the last one I glued a couple of dry rose petals. I think they look better, but you know that dry leaves are fragile and don’t last forever, so it’s up to you. You can also cut pieces of paper in a heart shape to decorate, or add some pretty stickers if you have at home.

I like to keep it simple, but there are no limits to your imagination ;)

Do you like the result? I hope so!

Thanks for reading!

love letter bookmarks 4

love letter bookmarks 5

My messy thoughts on “Go set a watchman”, by Harper Lee

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By this time I assume everybody knows about the plot of Go set a watchman, so I am going to speak my mind on the entire book. Consider yourself warned in case you don’t want to read spoilers.

go set a watchman harper leeTo me, the book has two different parts: the one in which Jean Louise remembers her childhood in Maycomb, full of funny anecdotes, and the conflict in the present because her father and boyfriend seem to be in favor of segregation, taking into account that we are in the fifties and the bus boycott has just happened.

You can’t read Go set a watchman without keeping To kill a mockingbird in mind, so I have to say that the memories Jean Louise talks about are what all of us wanted to read. To my pleasure, they were not the same the author told in To kill a mockingbird, so if you enjoyed the latter, you now have a wider picture of the childhood of Jean Louise, and it is just as lovely as we knew in the previous book: she getting into trouble and being rescued by her brother, father, and a new character, Hank, who is now her boyfriend and Atticus’ associate. The trial of the black man charged with rape is slightly narrated, but it is not the same and it’s not an important part of the plot in this book.

The problem comes with Atticus. He is an old man now, but in Jean Louise’s memories he is just as we knew him in To kill a mockingbird. So the reader has to get over the idea that a man who time ago believed in equality now fights for segregation, based on the fact that black people were illiterate and couldn’t have an opinion based on true knowledge and, therefore, they are going to ruin the country. I mean, I know that people can change their opinion, but I only see it plausible if they change from being an asshole to being a nice guy, not the opposite, and I just think that this new Atticus is not a realistic character (you may disagree and debate mentioning nazism, for example, but I need to think people change only for the good). Wouldn’t be more normal that a man who believes in equality and has lived through this value for all his life now fights for the black people to have an education and be at last really equal to the white men and women? That’s what I expect for a man like the Atticus of Jean Louise’s childhood, in both books.

Hank is a completely different issue, though. He says he has to find his place in the village, since he comes from a poor family and, even when I don’t share his point of view, I can see it makes sense for a man to choose a party he thinks it will open doors to him.

My copy of the book

My copy of the book

This is not a second part of To kill a mockingbird; it was written to be an independent book, just from another point of view, and I really understand why it wasn’t published in the first place. Not only Atticus can’t be considered a plausible character for what the author wanted to talk about, but the conflict between him and Jean Louise is left for the very end of the book, which is too hasty, meanwhile the first half is quite slow.

Perhaps I’m under the influence of To kill a mockingbird, but I can’t say this is a good book. I’ll just keep Scout’s lovely anecdotes and go read another book. You should do the same.

rakin2Go set a watchman
Harper Lee
Publisher: Harper Collins
288 pages

The day I purchased a typewriter

Everything started with this Olivetti M40 of my grandfather

Everything started with this Olivetti M40 of my grandfather

It’s hard to believe, but that day was actually last Wednesday, instead of being several decades ago. I was dusting an old typewriter I have in my office, which belonged to my grandfather and now is a mere decoration item – that I love so much – and I told my father how I wish it could work again. My father looked at me with an offended expression on his face and replied that the machine worked perfectly well, except for the new ribbon and all the cleaning it needed. So I shyly asked for ribbons in the office supplies shop I always go, and they actually had them!

Later that morning, I just watched the Olivetti working and I knew I needed my own, so that very afternoon I purchased one in a secondhand goods shop for 20€ and I happily started to write letters to my grandmother and a couple of friends. It’s not an ancient machine – I think that it could have been made in the late seventies – but it’s enough for me to cannot put my hands away from it. I have called it “Sophie”, for the pleasure of having my own typewriter with its own name. How exciting is to hear it coming to life!

My beauty queen, Sophie. It's an Olivetti Studio 46

My beauty queen, Sophie.
It’s an Olivetti Studio 46

The owner of the shop told me that recently a woman has purchased three small typewriters there because her children liked to write short stories with them, even though they have a computer, of course. So I suppose those children will be the last in the world to say that they wrote on a typewriter when they were young, and that makes me feel nostalgic.

I’m still wondering what I will use it for. For a start, it is perfect for writing letters and I have already sent some written with it. I receive letters from time to time, and these last days I have realized how lucky I am to have friends that surprise you in Christmas or summer holidays with a letter or a postcard, taking into account that it’s more messy, slow and expensive than just sending a text message or an email, but the effect on the correspondent is far more memorable, isn’t it? I’m really grateful to have people who care of me and spend a little of their time to make me smile from time to time.

I would also love to have a little bit of imagination in order to become a writer thanks to my darling Sophie, just as those children who write their own stories with theirs. If it wasn’t so disgusting, I would lit up a cigarette and fill the room with smoke while writing my masterpiece, like the old geniuses of literature. But it will have to be for another time.

So tell me, do you have a crush at the sight of old items that seem useless today, or it’s only me?

Do you also feel sentimental at the sound of a typewriter?

Thanks for reading

Her sister’s shoes, by Ashley Farley

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I received this book in order to participate in a book tour
organized by iRead Book Tours.

Her sister's shoes Ashley Farley

Her sister’s shoes is a family saga about three sisters whose lives are far from perfect. Jackie, the oldest, is a cold and selfish woman whose marriage is about to end abruptly, but she is only concerned about keeping up appearances. The second sister, Samantha, is struggling with her teenage son, Jamie, who had a terrible car accident some months ago and he is not only in a wheelchair, but with a terrible depression that Sam doesn’t know how to cope with. Finally Faith, the youngest sister, lives in fear of her husband, who is becoming abusive towards her and their little daughter.

Sam, Faith and their mother, Lovie, are just reopening a seafood market the family have owned for years, and it feels like it should be changing their lives for the better, but this doesn’t happen – the sisters will have to learn how to rely on each other in order to overcome their problems.

This is a charming story about love and trust in your family members, who are the ones who will always be there to support you. I liked the main characters, especially Samantha, who has to do all the hard work, putting the others together and making them open their eyes, but she is actually not as strong as she looks in the outside. The secondary characters are also lovely, and I really felt so sorry for Faith’s daughter, and also for Jamie, who manages to avoid focusing on his own suffering when he learns that his little cousin needs his help.

I have to say that the story was very predictable in the end, but I suppose this predictability comes with the genre itself, so I would have been really shocked if the end was different! In any case, I think happy endings are what you are looking for in these kinds of books, right?

And finally, I would like to comment briefly about the setting: the story takes place in a small town in the coast of South Carolina, being it so idyllic that you can’t believe people might not be absolutely happy in such a place. I also felt that the story needs a prequel to talk about how Lovie and her husband ended up there and made their living by fishing and selling the food in the street at the beginning, and then building their own market. I think it makes for a lovely story too.

To summarize, I think Her sister’s shoes will please women’s fiction readers who want a joyful and engaging summer read with lovable characters.

rakin4

Her sister’s Shoes
Asley Farley
380 pages
Published by Leisure time books

Author’s website
Book on Amazon.com

Book on Goodreads

Second life, by S.J. Watson

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Second life S.J. WatsonJulia’s little sister, Kate, has been murdered in Paris and she thinks the police aren’t doing enough to solve the crime, so she decides to investigate on her own, signing in the dating webs Kate had been using to see if some of the guys she met online is the murderer.

Julia had been through drugs and alcohol abuse in the past and, even though she is perfectly healthy now and has a wonderful life with her husband and Kate’s son, Connor, raised by the couple since he was a baby, she is still struggling with some of the issues that she left apart in order to get out of her addictions. Eventually, these dating sites will absorb her as well.

The story is told by Julia. The reader can feel she is unstable, even before knowing all her background, but at first you think it’s because of the shocking news about her sister. She feels guilty for so many things and makes a number of wrong decisions, so when everything gets out of control, you can’t stop reading.

This is the first novel I read by S.J. Watson, and the first thing that caught my attention after finishing it is that he is a man! I couldn’t believe this book hadn’t been written by a woman, and there it is. I felt every emotion the main character felt in the book, all the fear, the excitement, the guiltiness… I have been taking a look on GoodReads and I have seen I wasn’t the only one who thought S.J. Watson was a woman after reading his books.

So, if you are a thrillers-lover, don’t miss Second life; it will get you glued to its pages, for sure.

rakin4

Second life
S.J. Watson
Published by Harper
978-0-06-239799-7
432 pages

New books – June 2015

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It’s time to show you my new books!

There has been a book fair here in my hometown a couple of weeks ago, so I had the perfect excuse to buy here and there and, besides, I have received a few books from publishers and from a giveaway I won.

Here you go:

new books 1The outcast and The river of no return were the books I purchased in the Book Fair.

Back in April I participated in Dewey’s 24 hours readathon and, as always, since I’m kind of an addict to the mini-challenges, I participated in many of them and I won the one hosted by Darren. The prize was £15 to spend in The Book Depository, and I choose Everything I never told you, Leaving time and Sharp objects. I still can’t believe how cheap books are in that web!

And finally, I received Second life (which I have already finished) and The wolf border from Harper. I’ll review them soon, because they are for sale this month.

new books 3

I also have a couple of new ebooks:

Her sister’s shoes (Ashley Farley): I’m participaing in a book tour of this book, I think it’s my kind of read.

Duet for three hands (Tess Thompson): I was browsing on Amazon Spain but this book wasn’t available in my country so I contacted the author and she kindly sent me a copy! You know she is one of my favourite romance authors, and I really wanted to read this one – I have already started it!

new books 2So that was it!

You see I have plenty of books to enjoy after I finish my exams next week :D

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey

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Spark The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brainShort review:

Buy this book, borrow if from the library or a friend, download it illegally… Whatever, but grab a copy and read it immediately.

Normal review:

OK, so by now you all have heard about how good exercise is for your heart, lungs, muscles, joints, etc., BUT have any of you heard about what exercise does to your brain functions? Don’t worry; you can learn it with this book.

Spark begins explaining the biochemical process of exercising regarding your brain, but it’s not exactly about the “runners’ high”; it’s about the neurotransmitters released in the neurons, the factors that make neurons create new receptors, and the process of producing new brain cells in order to increase your brain functions. I had only heard about getting more oxygen in the brain thanks to exercise, and therefore making your brain work better, but the fact that you can increase the number of neurons and their connections between each other ONLY by exercising has blown my mind.

So well, the author explains this, and then he goes throughout a series of chapters where he talks about a specific matter, including normal situations as well as psychiatric conditions, and how exercise affects that situation or disease. The chapters include anxiety, depression, dementia, ADHD, chronic pain, pregnancy, menopause, learning and education, etc.

I could talk to you about every one of these chapters, but I think it’s better if you read the book. However, here are some random ideas from the book that I want to share:

  • Exercise changes your pain threshold so you don’t feel as much pain as if you don’t practice any exercise.
  • Stress makes your brain work slower and your neurons die.
  • Women over 30 who don’t exercise loose 1% of their bone mass per year.
  • Overweight people are more likely to suffer from dementia at old ages.
  • Exercise is now beginning to be used as a treatment for some conditions. Not as something to do besides the treatment: as the treatment itself.
  • To get benefits from exercise you only have to do 30 minutes every day, which I think it is something everybody can commit to do.

So I really want all the people I know to read this book and began doing something about it. After all, we are responsible for our own mental and physical health, and to me, the idea that you can increase both at the same time is terrific.

Summarizing: read this book right now!

PS: I would like to talk about the first chapter, in which the author tells about a new program in some schools in Florida where students do exercise every day first thing in the morning and they have increased their ratings in the rest of the subjects. Besides, the Physical Education class in these schools is not the one we once knew and suffered: here the students have heart monitors and they can choose among a wide variety of sports, being rated only by how hard they had made their hearts work.

I was very surprised by this way of focusing PE in children, because I have always been rated for my performance in different sport tasks, and I had a good average in everything except for running. As an adult I began running with a heart monitor and I noticed that I run above the maximum of my heart rate according to my age, so I didn’t get good grades at running in school, but I was probably working harder than any other of my classmates.

I think that PE has to change and become the subject which teach us how to live healthily for the rest of our lives.

Getting the picture, by Sarah Salway

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I received this book thanks to Dean Street Press
in exchange for a review on my blog.

I had never heard of Sarah Salway before, but when I got contacted by Dean Street Press I saw that she is a poet and I’ve always thought that poets have something special in their narrative works, so I picked up Getting the picture to see if I was right – and I was!

getting the picture Sarah SalwayGetting the picture is an epistolary story told through the letters, emails and voicemails of several characters. The main character is Martin, a man in his eighties who once had an affair with a married woman called Mo, and she finally chose her husband over him. He has never forgotten her and his never-sent letters to her is what we are reading, even though she passed away a few years ago.

Martin is living in a nursing home because Mo’s widower, George, is also there, and he wanted to get to know the man she preferred to spend her life with. George, meanwhile, writes notes to the house manager of the nursery in order to let her know all the complaints he has towards the staff and the other residents, as well as voicemails to his youngest daughter, who lives in France. On the other hand, we have George’s oldest daughter, Nell, who is the one who tries to bring the family together, being all of them so adamant of the needs of the others. They still don’t know, but it’s Martin the one who will change their family life.

The author lets us get the picture step by step through the unique voice of all these characters, all of them with a background the reader doesn’t expect. We know that Martin’s curiosity, to the point of living under the same roof as Mo’s husband and getting in touch with her family, isn’t right but, at the same time, we also think that he deserves the explanation she never gave him. The fact that Mo, the character the story goes around to, isn’t there to say something makes you wonder how she would feel.

To me, this has been a delightful story whose turn of events was surprising; with human characters you end up worrying about; and with an original narration, through letters, that I always find enjoyable because they let you know the characters in more depth.

rakin4Getting the picture
Sarah Salway
240 pages
ISBN: 9781910570104 (ebook)/9781910570432 (print)

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