Mini Reviews #9: My First Time Reading a Self-Published Book

by - 4:38 PM

The Martian by Andy Weir

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 and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars' surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark 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's not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

5/5 cinnamon rolls.
I didn't initially expect to like this book, as sci-fi is rarely a genre I enjoy. Furthermore, survival stories like this always freak me the frick out, as I can't stop thinking about what would happen if I were in the same situation and tried to survive. (Usually death, as I have no survival skills whatsoever.) However, The Martian was a Christmas gift from my grandmother, who's one of my best friends, so I couldn't exactly refuse to read it.

From the very first page, I was instantly sucked into the story of Mark Watney, the crew of the Hermes, and everyone back at NASA. Weir's voice throughout this book was incredibly strong, not just with Watney, but with the whole cast of characters. I was too busy laughing and learning interesting science facts to be afraid.

I rarely rate a book five stars, but this one blew me away. It was an excellent way to start off my 2017 reading year!

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic

Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He's short, he's fast, he's got a ton of potential—and he's the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn't need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil's not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil's new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can't walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he's finally found someone and something worth fighting for.

4/5 aggravated Aarons.
Holy crap, this book.

I went into this book with high hopes but low expectations, and I finished reading with both surpassed. Sakavic's writing is extraordinarily compelling and real, and I really loved Neil. So why only four stars, you ask?

Sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape are issues that hit very close to home for me for reasons I'd rather not discuss, and I definitely felt like they were dealt with poorly in this book. There were no repercussions for what some of the characters did, and the almost paralyzing fear that comes from being sexually assaulted or threatened with rape was in no way portrayed. I understand that it may have been realistic for there to be no consequences for the actions of the offending characters, but the fact that there should have been consequences should at least have been discussed. The Foxhole Court seemed to make light of something that countless people suffer through, sometimes with horrific results for their psyches and bodies, every day. The incidents I'm referring to comprised only a small part of the book, but the way they were dealt with (or, rather, not dealt with) cast a shadow over the remainder of the story for me.

Overall, however, I enjoyed this story and the characters; I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the next couple books come my birthday. However, if you are triggered by or sensitive to stories of sexual assault, I would not recommend this book.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

4/5 demonic butlers.
Precious Ramotswe, the no. 1 lady detective in Botswana, explodes out of the pages in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency ready to transform the life of anyone who reads this book. In a novel part poignant memoir, part fast-paced mystery short stories, Smith weaves a beautiful and bittersweet tale of the trials and tribulations of the inhabitants of Africa - exploring both their lifelong struggles and everyday joys. This story is as real and striking as Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, as quirky and charming as the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman, and sure to delight fans of either.

If only Mma Ramotswe were real and people like her more common, I think the world would be a much better place indeed.


Let's chat! Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What are your recent reads? Comment below, and remember that you are all very beautiful pickles. <3


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  1. I love The Martian so much!! Such a great book!

  2. Amazing review Ellie! My husband is a massive fan of The Martian as well and enjoyed the movie even more so. Your grandmother sounds absolutely wonderful! I'm planning on reading The Foxhole Court series soon too! A great friend of mine also swears by them and can't wait to get started. Thanks so much for sharing Ellie, really enjoyed them <3

    1. Thank you!

      Oh, she is :)

      I'll be interested to hear your thoughts!

      - Ellie

  3. Ooh, I haven't read any of these. The Foxhole Court sounds intriguing, but I'm one of the few definitely sensitive about sexual assault. The Martian sounds like a good read, though-- I'm going to try to read this one before seeing the movie.

    I feel like a butt because I haven't been able to comment often on your blog-- I'm such a busy person with junior year honestly, I barely have time to comment, write my own posts, or interact with bloggers unless it's on social media and it's during times like these where there's an insane amount of free time that I actually can catch up reading blogs-- I actually haven't been following you (???) but I swear I will go and change that in a bit. I didn't write it in my recent post, but I'm going to try to comment (including yours) on as many blogs as I can every day.

    xoxo Morning

    1. It's really awesome; I hope you enjoy it.

      No worries! High school takes up a ton of time. Two-thirds of the stuff I post was written weeks ahead of time. Ahhhh, I look forward to it! Your comments are always so thoughtful and sincere.

      - Ellie

  4. Many friends have recommended The Martian to me - although like yourself, sci-fi just never seems to really hit home with me. But who knows? Perhaps I'd enjoy this book.

    Thanks for sharing, Ellie!

    1. It's definitely a lot more realistic than most sci-fi, so if unrealistic aliens with goggly eyes are what's turning you off, you'll probably like this better!

      - Ellie

  5. I'm so happy you liked The Foxhole Court! I recommend it religiously (obviously xD), but every time somebody tells me they actually picked it up, I turn into a bundle of nerves as I wait to hear what they think. I definitely agree with you on the sexual assault front, and that's the one big dislike I have about the first book. The rest of the books are less problematic on that front, though, as far as I remember. (The second is probably my favorite) :)
    I haven't read The Martian, but I thought the movie was pretty good, so I want to pick it up one of these days! I love science fiction but don't read a lot of it, which is a shame. I just never know where to start??

    Lovely post, Ellie! <3

    xx a || not gary cooper

    1. I KNOW THAT FEELING EXACTLY. I likely won't be getting my hands on the next two until my birthday (late March), but I'm already dying of anticipation!

      I don't usually enjoy sci-fi, but this is definitely a very realistic science fiction. It delves into astrophysics, which I find interesting, a bit (and doesn't get dry). I think you'd like some of the humor in it :)

      Thank you!

      - Ellie

  6. I watched the movie and I loved it. I loved the Martian so much, it was great. I loved how terrifying that movie made space look- I mean, usually people are writing about poetry and galaxies and stars but the Martian was terrifying and I loved that realistic side of space we got to see.
    If I ever see the novel, I'm definitely going to buy it. I can't help it, I love gathering up things that I enjoyed and I'm pretty sure the novel will be worth it.

    1. I need to watch the movie! If you ever read the book, I hope you like it :)

      - Ellie


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