Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Five Towns

The Five Towns by Leslie Tonner

The Five Towns is a very descriptive look at suburban life from 1950 to 1980. Three decades of family drama, prejudice, bigotry, rumors, gossip and community standards. Tonner has a strong narrative and point of view with the ability to tell more than one side to a complicated story with beautiful style. I was immediately fascinated by the everyday life of people within The Five Towns. There were so many different stories to tell from the Jewish family moving from the city looking a for a new start, to the gentiles who felt as if their way of life was being infringed on, to the pregnant maid who was struggling to survive while supporting her mother and daughter. The stories were there. The execution was there. But the stories diverged midway through the novel and never quite found their way again.
It honestly felt like Tonner was trying to hone in on one family and in doing so felt the need to eradicate the other families from the story entirely. Characters that we had been introduced to early on in the novel and were prevalent throughout the pages would disappear and we would learn of their fate in the passing words of an unremarkable character. Or characters would die in a way that was supposed to seem tragic but in my opinion seemed forced or unnecessary. The storylines flatlined later in the book and the main characters began to lose interest to me.

This novel started out strong and held so much promise but the further I got into it, the less of my attention it held. I was intrigued enough to finish and I really did enjoy Tonner’s writing style. I just wish the plot had been well rounded and felt finished instead of abruptly executed.I give this 3 out of 5 stars.                                                                                                                                              

Thank you Netgalley for the advanced review copy I was given in exhange for an honest review. 

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

                Do you like action packed, suspenseful, science fiction novels? If so then The Martian will be your dream come true. This novel follows Mark Watney, the only man currently on Mars. He was part of the United States Ares 3 mission. When the crew of six was forced to evacuate Mars, Watney was hit by an antennae and pushed off course. The rest of the crew was forced to leave him on Mars assumed dead, which makes sense because he had an antennae poking out of his side, so they could survive. What follows is his fight to survive. And he does put up a fight against insane odds to make it back home to Earth.
                Mark Watney is such an easy character to root for. He was very well developed and had a great sense of humor throughout the novel. He was imaginative and yet a realist. Watney always kept in mind how slim his chance of survival was and yet he fought against it. The question throughout the novel was whether or not he would survive and he wasn’t the only one asking that question. The people at NASA and his surviving crew members were as concerned about his life. Once it became obvious that Watney was alive it was a round the clock battle to come up with ways to keep him alive. This is where storytelling in this novel should be commended. Watney’s point of view was given through written log entries which I though was extremely successful. Weir though also included what was going on with the surviving crew and people back at NASA which provides the reader with a well-rounded view of what is really happening. I didn’t want to read a Mars version of the film “Castaway” and that’s not what this is.

                I only had one real issue with The Martian: it got repetitive. Really repetitive. I guess this is where the different point of views became a hassle. Moments of discovery were relived in the different points of view and that could be tiring, especially near the end of the book when there was literally one life or death situation after another. This is also a very math heavy novel. If you aren’t into math and dubious equations/calculation then this might not fit for you.  Beyond that though I enjoyed this novel. There was a high level of suspense until the very end of the novel and it was extremely unpredictable. These situations have to be. It’s space! I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars. Great science fiction that assures I will never leave the planet because catastrophe is waiting. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott with Larry Platt

Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott with Larry Platt

                There is a commercial for SportsCenter that always plays in my mind when I think of Stuart Scott. It’s him and Scott Van Pelt, they’re in suits hyping each other up, acting like they are about to run out on the field instead of on to a set. Right before their segment starts they rip off their suits, that breakaway like basketball warmups, to reveal their real suits. They walk on to the set, have their seats and begin their segment. I loved it. It’s still one of my favorite commercials of all time and they are both hilarious. When I think back on Stuart Scott and the energy and fun he had doing his job I always remember that commercial. I don’t remember the first time I ever watched him on SportsCenter. He just always felt like a familiar face. He was always at the NBA playoffs and Monday Night Football. When I wasn’t constantly seeing his face, I realized that the worst may be coming. When I turned to ESPN on January 4th and heard of his passing I caught my breath. I reacted in a way that I hadn’t been expecting. Tears started to swell in my eyes. I couldn’t think of anything to say besides “wow” all day when anyone mentioned it to me. I watched each tribute as they came and was simply stunned. I didn’t find out about this memoir until right before its release and knew I had to have it. His story would always live on through his own words and I wanted to read what he had to say.
                Every Day I Fight is a passionate memoir written by a man passionate about life, his daughters, his job, and sports. Stuart talks about his family and upbringing in North Carolina as the last of four children. He explains his love of sports and being physical as a young child, a love that never faded as he got older. He describes the moment he realized he wanted to go into broadcasting and his fight through rejection after rejection. He talks about meeting his wife and the two children they had together. Stuart talked about being a black man working at the predominantly white ESPN. He was open and honest about keeping his integrity and wanting to honestly represent himself. He talked about the support he received by the executives at ESPN who were supportive of him and his battle with cancer. Stuart described what life was like having cancer. He talked of his earlier eye troubles and the many corrective surgeries he had from his teenage years. Stuart detailed the fight to live, survive cancer and be there for his daughters.

                I thoroughly enjoyed reading Every Day I Fight. It was beautifully narrated and Stuart’s candor and humor was obvious throughout the pages. But so was his pain. There were so many heart-wrenching moments throughout this memoir: from the injuries to his eyes, the chemotherapy treatments and the way he spoke about his daughters. When I started reading this memoir it felt like a love letter to his daughters. I felt like he put his thoughts on paper so they would know how much he loved them and that he was fighting for them. His daughters were at the core of everything. Battling cancer wasn’t easy but he fought like hell to live every day, working out after chemo, traveling when he could and continuing to work at job that he loved. Passionate. I could use that word and that word alone to review this book. It was amazing. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.