2016 Reading Challenge: The Martian

WOWZA.

Guys, THIS BOOK!

By now everyone knows the story of this book. And I imagine most people also know that it was originally self published. I know just about every person alive has an opinion on this book. This will be mine.

I cannot praise this book enough. I don’t know if the science is 100% accurate, but it doesn’t matter. He made me believe every single word of it. It’s odd because this is both one of the funniest books I’ve read while also being one of the most hopeless.

I admit that I’d seen the movie beforehand, but as great as the movie and Matt Damon were, they don’t come close to the original.

  • The writing style
  • The humor
  • The SCIENCE

I loved every one of those things in this book. I talked about the language used in my book as being unnecessary and forced. This book showed me the difference between a true professional and an amateur. He used cussing throughout the book, but you know what? IT WORKED PERFECTLY. I’m not sure why people criticize authors sometimes for using language that we use every single day of our lives. I don’t think it makes any sense. So I imagine there would be individuals who’d say they’re turned off by the language in the book. My response would be that THEY LEFT HIM ON MARS. IT ISN’T GOING TO BE SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS.

Whew. Moving on.

I enjoyed the interaction between all of the characters because I felt that it most represented how people actually interact instead of how characters typically interact in books and on TV shows. It never feels natural to me.

I have nothing negative to say about the book. How often does that happen with me!? But I can’t write this post without talking about Mark Watney. He’s very likely the funniest character I’ve ever read. Which is crazy because he was left for dead on Mars! I enjoyed all of his scientific explanations for the crazy things he was doing to stay alive, though I understand why they were largely left out of the movie.

There is one other part of this book I want to talk about. Rarely does all of humanity get behind something. Actually, it doesn’t happen. But in this book that’s exactly what happened. Billions of people were behind Watney. They were working to get him food. They were praying for him. They were coming up with rescue plans. It comes down to something Bill Nye said throughout Unstoppable. He said earth is our only home for now, but I’d take it a step further. Earth is our only home but every one of us is human. We spend enormous amounts of resources, money, time, and human capital just trying to tear each other apart. We kill mercilessly and needlessly. And we view our own brothers and sisters as enemies. I think our possibilities as humans are limitless, if only we could recognize the potential that we’d have simply by working together. We could go to Mars faster than we anticipate. We could cure disease for everyone, not just the West. We could end military conflicts that go on and on with no end in sight. We could raise the quality of life for every person on earth. And we could live in a more prosperous and peaceful world. If only we could recognize that there’s a common ground between every one of us.

Thanks, Andy Weir. For writing a book that shows us exactly what humanity is capable of if we simply work together. Now let’s get to moving closer to that vision.

This satisfied the requirement to read a book set in a foreign country. I mean, Mars is another planet! Ha!

Have you read The Martian!? What did you think?

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2016 Reading Challenge: Texas Rising

This is it! The final homestretch!

The latest book I read for my 2016 reading challenge was Texas Rising by Stephen L. Moore. It’s about the Texas revolution and the decade in which Texas was an independent state.

The book was very well done. It gave the reader plenty of information about well known battles and landmarks, such as the Alamo and Goliad. We know those stories down here in the state, but I imagine the average reader doesn’t.

Though I’d firmly disagree, I know people tend to say history is boring. But this book wasn’t. If you take a moment to realize who was fighting and who was sacrificing everything, then you can’t possibly become bored with the book. Imagine if the world were different today and there were no military installations throughout your state. Then it was invaded. But no one was there to fight them off. So leaders traveled throughout the state trying to recruit any willing volunteer to fight for the cause. That was Texas.

What made the book even more interesting for me was reading about present day locations. The county in which I live actually played a role in the revolution. How cool is that!?

But with this book being about events that took place nearly 200 years ago, there was bound to be some things that leave you wondering why. I imagine you’re aware of the Trail of Tears. Easily one of the low points in the history of this country. But Texas wasn’t much different. At first Texas leaders thought they could buy peace with the Native Americans. But soon realized that it wouldn’t work and made every attempt to forcibly remove or kill every Native American in Texas.

The Natives were violent toward Texas Rangers and settlers, but what were they supposed to do? What would you do if someone knocked on your door at home and said they were taking ownership of the property? You’d fight like hell to keep what’s yours. They did. But it wasn’t enough and peace eluded everyone.

As someone who enjoys history, this book was a great read. Texas history is both similar to and different from US history.

I hope that in 200 years Texans will look back on the current period and realize how much better and more equal life is for them than it is right now. History only repeats itself, unless it doesn’t.

This satisfied the requirement to read a book that takes place in your favorite city or hometown.

2016 Reading Challenge: Unstoppable by BILL NYE

I love Bill Nye. I follow him on Twitter, which makes us best buds. RIGHT?

Seriously though, one of the hardest things for me to accept within the last decade of my life was how much difficulty I have with scientific concepts. I remember struggling all the way back in middle school. Give me a paper topic and I’ll write you a 98 paper the night before it’s due. Give me a lesson on history and I’ll likely never forget it. Give me a literary masterpiece to analyze and I’ll write a damn good paper and remember the story for years to come (looking at you, Dracula). But put me in a science lab and I’ll crumble. Perhaps that’s why I majored in a social science?

My point is that science is difficult for me. But this book is written FOR ME. One thing I do know is that climate change is real, it’s happening right now as I type this, and humans are contributing to it. You’ll hear people say “I don’t believe in climate change.” all the time, and that’s fine. But there is no “believing” and “not believing”. Not with this.

Which is why this book is so important. At some point all of us will have to face reality because our planet is the only one we have at the moment. It’s our only home, and we’re doing our best to leave the issue of climate change to be dealt with by our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We’re just kicking the can further and further down the road. And our continued inaction will come back to bite us. There’s no doubt about it.

Bill Nye is pushing 60. He didn’t have to write this book. He’s under no more obligation to help save our planet than the rest of us. He wrote this book looking at the future, but also looking at the present. The people of today are going to be the ones who begin making the necessary changes to help preserve our planet, our planet’s resources, and our way of life. Because humankind has never had a greater say in the future and preservation of our planet than we do today.

I know many of you aren’t interested in my videos, but I implore you to take a look this one time. Not because I care about views or subscribers, but because this book is not just entertainment or a good story, it’s IMPORTANT. This is the first time I can say a book I’ve read is more than a book.

2016 Reading Challenge: MY BOOK

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I’m in the midst of a mad dash to complete my 2016 reading challenge. I finished two more books over the weekend to see if I can ultimately complete it.

But today I’m talking about MY BOOK. I wonder if I’m making history right now by reviewing my own work. Hm. Anyway, let’s go.

Divided Within is set in and around Houston and follows Andrew Banks as he works his first case as a private investigator. His first client happens to be a teenage girl who suspects there’s something really wrong between her parents that they aren’t telling her about, only it’s much worse than she could have imagined.

A little history before I get into the good stuff. I wrote the book over the course of the first months immediately after I graduated from college in 2013.

Although it’s my own work, I still had problems with it. The first thing I noticed is I obviously forgot how to use commas. Seriously. I’m not sure what was going on. There were commas where there should have been periods and then there was nothing where there should have been commas. Ugh.

The other thing I didn’t really like after my reread was the language. It was unoriginal. It’s a crime novel, but I felt I used cussing at weird points in the story. I don’t feel like it worked.

The other thing that I definitely recognize, though I still don’t have a problem with is the story. I won’t get into the specifics because some of you all might actually want to give it a read now, but one of the complaints I received when I first published the book was that the story was unbelievable. And it is. But I’ll keep saying it over and over again that I don’t read any fiction to read something that’s entirely realistic. If that’s what I want then I’ll watch the news.

After more than three years my favorite aspect of the book is still Andrew and Sydney. I found a few points in which I didn’t like their dialogue, but their relationship is great. So many detectives have a new love interest every other book, but not Banks. You know that just from reading this first book.

I still find it crazy that I wrote this thing, but I did and it’s mine. It satisfied the requirement to read a self-published book for my 2016 reading challenge.

Have YOU read it!? Have you ever tried to review your own work?

2016 Reading Challenge: The Strain

Guys, I’ve held off with my reading challenge update because it’s going to come down to the wire! I know no one really cares if I complete it or not, but I came up with it. I want to finish! So I won’t tell you how close I am just yet.

My latest read was The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The story is eerily similar to that of I Am Legend. A virus tears across NYC and causes people to morph into vampires. Only in this story they are all controlled and connected to one another via The Master. A vampire hundreds of years old who can move from one host body to another whenever the need arises. An old pawnbroker, two epidemiologists, an exterminator, and a not-so-hardened criminal lead the fight against the vampire outbreak. But their most difficult opponent may very well be a wealthy businessman who has assisted The Master in exchange for eternal life.

First, I’m a big fan of the TV show based on this trilogy of books. So I did not go into this blind like I imagine readers before me did. But I still had some problems with it. The difference between this book and the other two vampire novels I’ve read (Dracula and I Am Legend) is that it goes from unbelievable to acceptance very quickly. The basis of the spread of the virus is a plane that arrives in NYC full of dead people. All but four people on board appear dead, except they’ve only been turned and not actually killed for good. It was only a night or two after this that the main characters of the story accepted that vampires were overrunning the city.

While reading this book I never felt invested in any of the characters. Which is saying something because it took me nearly 11 hours to finish! I didn’t like how chapters jumped from one perspective to another without any warning. I usually don’t mind if it’s done in different chapters rather than the same one. There was at least one 75 page chapter that I found ridiculous. 75 pages!

You’re reading this thinking I hated the book. I didn’t. I enjoyed it. The vampires are different from just about any I’ve ever imagined, which I already knew from the TV show. They had to be my favorite part of the book. Their brutality and gruesomeness is awesome, but so is the manner in which they’re killed. You have this old guy who walks around with a cane that isn’t really a cane. It’s a sword he uses to decapitate the vampires. He has an armory of weapons and devices he’s put together over the years as he waited for the war to begin.

I applaud the authors for their modern take on the vampire, but it did feel more like a copy than an original. The Count is still the greatest evil I’ve ever read in any book and Robert Neville fought the good fight ON HIS OWN. Those two books are simply on a different level from this one. This book wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t great. Maybe the other two books in the trilogy will be improvements. Overall I’d rate it about a 3.8 or 3.9 out of 5.

This book satisfied the requirement to read a book that’s your favorite color of my 2016 reading challenge.

What’s your favorite vampire novel!?

2016 Reading Update

I’ve started and finished reading two books within the last week. Which means I’ve now finished 10 percent of my overall reading goal of 50 books this year. I know I’m WAY behind, but I’m currently out of work. Perhaps I have time to catch up now?

I read one book for my 2016 Reading Challenge and one from Amazon’s 100 Books Everyone Should Read List. Which means videos for both on the way this week!

After nearly seven months of 2016 are you on track to complete your goal for the year?

2016 Reading Challenge Book #3: Paper Towns

I know I’m not exactly leading the pack when it comes to my 2016 Reading Challenge, BUT at least I am reading something, right? Right.

This time around I decided to read John Green’s Paper Towns to mark off the young adult book from my challenge. In the video I didn’t get into the plot too much because I know people don’t like spoilers, but after editing and watching it back again I’ve decided that I’m going to be more in-depth in future videos because it just comes across as awkward when I’m referencing parts of the story but haven’t really spoken about them. So that’s just for future reference.

Also, I know yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday but I released a really important video. I laid out what my future plans are for my Johnny Reads YouTube channel. It’s two minutes in length, so I’ll leave it here for you just in case you didn’t catch it.

And here’s my video on Paper Towns. Now watch and tell me if you’ve read it and what you thought of it!

PS: I haven’t seen the movie just yet.