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The Last-Chance Mission: A Review of Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir book cover. Image on cover shows an astronaut floating through space while tethered to their ship. There is a large sun or planet in the background. Title: Project Hail Mary

Author: Andy Weir

Publisher:  Ballantine Books

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery

Length:476 pages

Source: I borrowed it from my local library.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could deliver, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

Review:

Content warning: Death and serious bodily injuries. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Failure isn’t an option here if humanity is to survive.

There were multiple sections of this book that went into great detail about the physics and math behind the experiments Ryland ran as he attempted to solve the scientific mystery that was threatening to drive humanity to extinction. This was most definitely a work of hard science fiction. I suspect that people who have university-level degrees in math, science, or technology will get the most out of those passages, but I did understand what the main character was saying. Keep pushing through those passages if you struggle with them. They’re important for the plot, but the narrator will often explain them again in other ways later on if you need a refresher.

I loved the foreshadowing. Yes, it was a little more heavy handed than what I’d typically expect to find in this genre, but given the complex and technical nature of most of the problems Ryland needed to solve I think that was the best choice for most people who will be reading this.

The hopeful nature of the storyline was delightful, so don’t be fooled by the urgent and sad vibe of the first couple of scenes. There were so many wonderful plot twists after that point, some of which I didn’t see coming and found quite relieving once they did arrive. As much as I want to go into vivid detail here, I keep my reviews spoiler-free and want you all to discover these moments for yourselves.

Ryland was a well-developed character whose wry sense of humour often made me chuckle. I enjoyed seeing how quickly and (usually) calmly he came up with new ideas when he was in a crisis and his previous solutions didn’t pan out. He honestly reminded me a bit of Mark Watney from Weir’s earlier book, The Martian. While these characters lived in different universes, I enjoyed comparing and contrasting them. Some of Ryland’s strengths were things that Mark probably would have found difficult, so that was an extra layer of amusement for anyone who is already familiar with this author and his previous works.

Project Hail Mary was an amazing adventure that I heartily recommend to anyone who loves hard science fiction.

A Review of Curse of the Nain Rouge: The Legend of Detroit’s Red Devil

Curse of the Nain Rouge: The Legend of Detroit’s Red Devil by Michelle Nunley book cover. Image on cover is of a red, black, and white drawing of a devilish character. Title: Curse of the Nain Rouge: The Legend of Detroit’s Red Devil

Author: Michelle Nunley

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 20, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade 

Length: 5 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author. 

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

There are many urban legends of hauntings throughout Michigan. Some tell of an ominous white ghost, others of mysterious dog-headed creatures. But none is quite as haunting as that of the curse placed on the city of Detroit by a small red devilish-looking creature . . .  The Nain Rouge.

A short 1200 word story that tells the tale of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founder of Detroit, and a curse placed on the city by a small red, sharp toothed devilish looking creature. Detroiter’s call him the Nain Rouge. Based on encounters and sightings throughout history, it is said the creature appears before every disaster throughout the city’s history and long list of misfortunes.

Review:

Some curses exist for good reasons. 

I was surprised in a good way by fact that Antoine was such an unlikeable protagonist. There’s something interesting about seeing how such a selfish, egotistical man reacted to a threat to his city that he didn’t believe in or think should be taken seriously. We all have our own blind spots, of course, but Antoine’s blind spots much bigger and more dangerous than most. 

This story could have used a little more character development. I had trouble empathizing with Antoine because nearly everything I learned about him was negative. Yes, he was a villain, and arguably even more so than the Nain Rouge itself, but even the worst person in the world is bound to have some good in him or herself. While I understand that this isn’t the strong suite of most folktales, there was definitely room here to humanize him a tad before he met up with his nemesis. 

My favorite part of this tale was the ending. It tied up the most important plot strings but also explained why this legend continues to be shared three hundred years after it was said to begin. I couldn’t help but the turn the unresolved portions of the storyline over and over in my mind to see if I could think of a good way to resolve them. There’s something to be said for a legend that could still yet have more chapters added to it!

 Curse of the Nain Rouge was a thought-provoking tale that I enjoyed reading. 

A Quiet Life: A Review of The Retirement

The Retirement by Keith Minnion book cover. Image on cover is of multiple gravestones crowded into a graveyard together. Title: The Retirement

Author: Keith Minnion

Publisher: White Noise Press

Publication Date: January 4, 2021

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 9 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Charles Midwich, a recent retiree, decides to move to a new state, a new town, an entirely new life and lifestyle. What he finds once he gets there, and settles in, is nothing like what he ever expected.

Review:

What is your idea of the perfect retirement plan?

Mr. Minnion’s beautiful writing style sucked me into the plot immediately. He knew exactly when to describe one moment in detail and when to leave other details up to the reader’s imagination. I enjoyed switching between his descriptions of the scenes and characters and coming up with my own theories about the things he only mentioned briefly.

Unfortunately, the author gave far too many clues about what was happening to Charles as this character adjusted to retirement. I had a hunch about the ending from reading the blurb, and I was certain I was right by the time I finished the first scene. It would have been nice to be challenged more here.

With that being said, there was something about Charles I really liked. He was a conscientious man who thought through every decision he made carefully. I also appreciated how calm and polite he was no matter if he was ordering honey fig scones at the local bakery or taking a quiet stroll through the cemetery. This was one character I’d love to eat scones with, so don’t be frightened off by the horror tag if this isn’t a genre you normally read.

The Retirement was short, thoughtful, and worth checking out.

Risky Wanderings: A Review of Leprechaun Luck

Leprechaun Luck: A Witch of Mintwood Short Story by Addison Creek book cover. Image on cover shows silhouette of a witch holding a broom over her head. She's standing outside by a village and the moon is shining down on her at night. Title: Leprechaun Luck – A Witch of Mintwood Short Story

Author:Addison Creek

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 1, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 48 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and Lemmi, Charlie, and Liam are determined to have some fun before going to watch the guys play baseball. What happens next is unexpected, to say the least, but Lemmi and Charlie are determined not to miss the baseball game. Now if only the leprechaun would tell them where Liam is . . .

Review:

It’s always a smart idea to beware of deals that seem too good to be true.

Lemmi had wonderful conflict resolution skills. It was refreshing to see how she responded to challenging moments and how hard she worked to find solutions that were agreeable to everyone. This is something I’m always pleased to find in stories, especially mysteries. We need more characters like her around to set good examples of how to solve problems that can quickly escalate if they’re not handled swiftly.

There were some things about the character development in this story that never quite made sense to me. Lemmi and her friends were described as people who appeared to have a good deal of experience with magic and the supernatural world. It came as a surprise to me to see how trusting they were in unfamiliar situations that clearly had magical or supernatural origins. While they did mention the danger they might face briefly, they didn’t seem to take them seriously or think critically about the decisions they were about to make. I really wish more time had been spent exploring why this was the case as it didn’t make sense to me.

The dialogue made me chuckle. Not only did all of the main characters have great senses of humour, they were also skilled at using a comment a friend made as a jumping-off point for more jokes. It’s always delightful to see that level of banter among a group of characters who clearly appear to know each other well and genuinely enjoy everyone’s company.

This short story was part of a series, but I had no problem at all jumping into it as someone who wasn’t at all familiar with this universe. All of the necessary backstories were provided for us new readers.

Leprechaun Luck is a good pick for a lighthearted St. Patrick’s Day read.

Rural Frights: A Review of Cabin for Rent

Book cover for Seth Tucker's Cabin for Rent. Image on cover is of a cabin surrounded by a dark woods and with a muddy lake in the foreground of the shot.

Title: Cabin for Rent – A Short Horror Story

Author: Seth Tucker

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 19, 2018

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Learn about the macabre history of the cabin on the lake, as you take a boat ride to view this unique property. Despite its dark past and mysterious disappearances, this beautiful secluded get away will take your breath away and you’ll never be able to leave.

Review:

If you love local legends, keep reading.

This is one of those short stories that works best if the reader knows as few details about it in advance, so I’m wording this review carefully.

One of the unique things about it that I can share is that it was framed as one half of a conversation. That is, you read Jimmy’s responses but not the things his companion says that urge him to share the dark history of the property they’re viewing on their boat ride.

Anyone reading this review also knows that local legends also play a role in what Jimmy has to say. He was someone who had deep roots in his small, rural community and knew all sorts of things that outsiders wouldn’t have even thought to ask about. This gave the tales he told an extra layer of fright as I put all of the pieces together.

One of my favourite parts of the storyline was how well I got to know the unnamed visitor even thought he never had a single line of dialogue and the audience only had the faintest clues about his physical appearance. Jimmy’s responses to the questions he asked were so detailed that none of this mattered. I knew the visitor exactly as well as I needed to in order to get sucked into their conversation and the hints about what was going on at that property.

While I did figure the ending out in advance, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for it in any way. There were enough clues along the way that it wasn’t so important for the audience to know what was going on as it was for the visitor to figure it all out.

Yes, this was firmly rooted in the horror genre, but it wasn’t gory for anyone who might be wondering about that. It relied on psychological horror, a slowly growing sense of doom, and some strategically-placed hints to make the audience shudder instead. That’s exactly what I seek out when I wander into this corner of the speculative fiction genre!

Cabin for Rent was an immensely satisfying read that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys horror or dark science fiction.

I’ll Show You My Drafts Folder If You’ll Show Me Yours

Why, yes, I did write the same sort of post last summer! It was such a smashing success that I’ve decided to do it again. Last year’s peek at upcoming posts has since been edited to include links to everything that I ended up writing. Some of the stuff listed below are ideas from last… Read More

Top Ten Tuesday: Unpopular Bookish Opinions

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl It’s going to be interesting to see how everyone responds to this week’s prompt. I wasn’t sure if I could come up with enough responses to justify participating this week, but luckily I did. 1. Sometimes the movie is better than the book. For example, The Hobbit was a… Read More

My Review of Bipasha Basu’s Unleash 30 Minute Fat Burning Cardio Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to provide medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine.  I’m reviewing this workout simply because I enjoyed it and think some of you might, too. I’m not being… Read More