My Top Reads for April

My Top Reads for April

Surface of Mars with lone astronaur - still from the film The Martian

Oh dear, As usual, I have overcommitted – I just can’t resist the offer of a good book! So most of my reading this month has been for May blogtour posts, which I’ll be posting over the next few weeks.

But of course, I’ve managed to sneak in a couple extra –including a total departure in genre for me!

The Martian by Andy Weir was our bookclub’s choice of book this month, and I absolutely loved it.

But before I visited Mars, I was in the Norwegian mountains with Lucy Clarke’s new book, The Hike, which I had downloaded from Netgalley.


Cover of The Hike by Lucy Clarke shows blue and orange mountainsThe Hike by Lucy Clarke (HarperCollins, hardback and ebook)


Four friends in their thirties set out to fulfil their teenage promise to hike in the Norwegian Mountains, but soon find themselves in danger – not just from the forces of nature, but from their own inner challenges. Liz is on a trial separation; Helena is hiding an unplanned pregnancy, Maggie is missing her little daughter and Joni – an international rock star – is burnt out and addicted to drugs.

They’re all hiding secrets from each other that could affect their friendship. And the mountain is hiding secrets, too – what happened to Karin, who disappeared off its summit years ago? Why do so many lone men seem to be following in the friends’ trail?

It’s all very thrilling, and we know from the outset that there will be at least one death. As always, Lucy Clarke ramps up the suspense in a fast-paced narrative, while never neglecting the importance of the  characters in her story. The women’s friendship is a strong theme in the book, and held my interest as much if not more than the thriller element of the plot, which I can’t disclose without spoilers.

Let me just say it is convincing and very menacing.

A thrilling setting, a chilling plot, and an empathetic exploration of female friendship – and how far friends will go to protect each other – all make this a page-turning read.


Cover of The Martian showing Matt Damon as an astronautThe Martian by Andy Weir (Cornerstone, paperback and ebook)


Before I settled down to read this book, I watched the film, as we are going to “compare and contrast” at our book club’s monthly meeting.

Unusually, for me, it’s hard to say which I enjoyed most. Matt Damon as Mark Watney, the astronaut and botanist stranded on Mars, delivered a great performance.

Then I turned to the book, and discovered right away that the film had been very true to the written story.

Watney is just as endearing on the pages as he is on screen. We meet him as he discovers he is alone on Mars, his crewmates having assumed him dead after a deadly dust storm, and abandoned their mission for their long journey back to earth.

With limited supplies of food and drink, and no way of communicating with planet earth, our hero must call on all his strength, knowledge and resources to survive until the next mission arrives in four years’ time! It seems it will be an impossible task, as Watney himself acknowledges in his dry, witty log of his days on Mars.

Then on earth, an alert member of the NASA staff notices unusual activity on the surface of Mars, and realises Watney is alive. Can Ground Control save him? Can he keep himself alive long enough for them to reach him?

Even though I knew the outcome, I still read this book with my heart in my mouth as Watney endured and overcame obstacles, setbacks and deadly danger in this most hostile environment.

I won’t lie – the physics and chemistry involved in solving his water, food and oxygen problems went right over my head, but his resourcefulness, bravery and humour won my heart.

And though I couldn’t help wondering if, in real life, NASA would spend so many billions on a rescue mission with very little chance of succeeding, just to save one astronaut they’d told the world was dead, I did warm to the collective humanity portrayed in this story.

Science fiction is not my first choice of reading, and without the humour in Watney’s daily log, I might have struggled with this story, but he is such a brilliant character that he won me over from the first page.

I’m still tryng to decide whether I should have read the book before watching the film, but have come to the conclusion it really doesn’t matter – both are good, both are gripping, and both leaving you feeling happy that on planet earth, at least, there is still plenty humanity around.

Let’s hope that when Elon Musk has his way, and mankind does alight on Mars, we’ll take our humanity with us.


Read all my April reviews




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