Missing the Hype Around Two Buzzy Books

Sometimes, the blogosphere goes crazy over a book, and you read it and fall in love. But sometimes a book that garners tons of praise leaves you feeling underwhelmed. The second thing happened to me with two books in recent months.

Tender | The Martian

Tender by Belinda McKeon


Set in 1990s Dublin, Tender is told from the point of view of Catherine, a sheltered girl leaving home for the first time to attend university in the big city. She quickly develops an intense friendship with James, a charismatic photographer struggling with what it means to be gay in a culture that doesn’t accept open homosexuality. It’s a compelling psychological novel, and I loved how it pulled me into Catherine’s growing obsession — right up until the end. Just when the story reaches peak intensity, McKeon pulls away for an ending that provides a tidy resolution without showing readers how the characters got from point A to point B. I would have liked to see more of that character development on the page, and the last chapter felt like a let-down after the rest of the book’s dark power.

The Martian by Andy Weir


Six days into the first manned mission to Mars, a dust storm forces the crew to evacuate. On their way to the Mars Ascent Vehicle, debris strikes Mark Watney, leading his crew to believe him dead and to leave the planet without him. But Mark, the mission’s botanist, is still alive, and now he must find away to survive on a planet that is trying to kill him. With immense patience, extreme cunning, and a healthy does of gallows humor, he solves problem after problem. But will it be enough to get him home? Honestly, I liked The Martian better as a movie. This novel reminded me why plot-driven novels aren’t typically my jam; for most of the book, I was just wondering how many more problems Mark would have to solve before NASA inevitably rescued him. Additionally, as a visual learner, I had trouble following some of Watney’s engineering fixes; I was able to understand them more easily on the screen than on the page. This wasn’t a bad book; it just wasn’t for me.


16 thoughts on “Missing the Hype Around Two Buzzy Books

  1. Sorry to hear Tender didn’t work for you (I loved the end!), but I pretty much hated The Martian, so I know what you mean about that one. The movie was a bit more enjoyable for me, but I still just found the whole thing ridiculous 😉

  2. I can see what you mean about The Martian. Most of the science stuff totally went over my head – I got to the point where I just ignored those passages. I did delight in the use of the F word and the snappy dialogue in general. And I loved the parts that took place at NASA, where they are all trying to figure out a) how to get him home and b) how they are going to present the whole thing to the public. It probably does work better as a movie but I will never get over how they neutered Kristen Wiig’s character so that she could be the dummy they explained stuff to.

  3. I haven’t read Tender yet, but I definitely get how The Martian isn’t for everyone. I wasn’t expecting too much from it — lots of jokes, plenty of problem-solving is pretty much what I wanted from it, and that’s what it delivered. The movie was fun too — such an amazing cast!

  4. I have seen mixed reviews about Tender on the blogosphere. I am anxious to read The Martian, but…well…when? Not sure. I think I’ll like it. Though it could always go the other way…thank goodness we do not all like the same books! 🙂

  5. I DNF’d Tender, but I did like The Martian. However, I read it knowing I was going to see the movie the next week, which I do think makes it more enjoyable. It works better on the screen.

  6. I enjoyed the film The Martian, but I was not as crazy about it as everyone was – I think I only saw it because I am a huge Jessica Chastain fan. So, you’re not alone! I never even considered reading the book.

  7. I couldn’t get into The Martian either. I didn’t give it much of a fair shake (I think I only got a few dozen pages in before quitting), but there’s only so much reading time, you know?

    I’ve seen a lot of good buzz for Tender, but the premise has never grabbed me. I’m sorry it let you down right at the very end! That’s even worse than it being so-so from the start.

  8. I loved Tender, but I had completely the same experience with The Martian – I couldn’t even get past the first chapter. Now I’ve seen the film adaptation (which I didn’t much love either) I’m glad I didn’t persevere.

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