Monthly Archives: April 2015

Review – Morgan’s Got Game

Morgan's Got Game

 Title: Morgan’s Got Game

 Author: Ted Staunton & Bill Slavin

 2014 – KidLit

 Rating: 4/5

The Story: Morgan and his friends used to play soccer tag at recess, but now all his friends are playing Dragon’s Gold on their new Robogamer Z7 handheld gaming systems. Morgan wants to play too, and when his parents finally relent, he joins his friends in the library at recess. But everything isn’t as it seems. Curtis thinks Aldeen is playing a fake Z7 and challenges her to a game. Will Morgan step in and help Aldeen or will she be humiliated in front of everyone?

The Opening Line: It’s recess.

Thoughts: Oh, the joy of finally getting that new toy that begets instant inclusion with everyone at school! I remember days spent on my elementary playground trading Pokemon cards or something similar, at least until they were banned on school grounds. To have that specific toy or game or device is to be part of something, which is so important for kids and teens. To not have that thing is to be excluded, isolated, and alone. I remember when the DS was released, that feeling of wanting one so badly. Of feeling left out because my family was poor and couldn’t afford all the newest toys. So in that aspect, this book was spot on.

I also really enjoyed the gaming aspect. I play a lot of video games, and while the game described seems more casual (think Candy Crush instead of The Elder Scrolls), it does capture the joy of finding a cheat, the frustration of getting bumped down a level, and the competitive spirit that gaming brings out in us. The novel also made a great point (from an adult point of view, at least) about the balance between technology and other forms of entertainment. At one point Morgan’s father sends the kids outside to play when they come over to enjoy an afternoon of Dragon’s Gold. While I’m an avid proponent of gaming and its benefits for all ages, there is a balance to be found, and I’m glad this book addressed it.

My final thought concerns the friendship between Aldeen and Morgan. We find out that Aldeen’s family is poor, and we are given hints that her Z7 may not actually be a functioning unit. But she is desperate to be part of the group, hence the ruse. While I ultimately disagree with her plot to swap her Z7 with Morgan’s and then password lock it without telling him, I think Morgan’s heart was in the right place as he tried to help her out.

As a simple, early reading novel for kids, this does the job admirably well. It’s relevant to a child’s life and interests and makes friendships and doing the right thing the center point of the plot. The language and topic are simple, yet compelling and ultimately very readable for kids. And most importantly in a novel written for young kids, it’s just a fun read about something that is a major part of a typical kid’s life in today’s society.

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Review and Fellowship of the Worms Discussion – The Martian

The Martian

 Title: The Martian

 Author: Andy Weir

 2014 – Fiction – Science Fiction

 Rating: 4/5

The Story: Mark Watney is a crew member on a manned mission to Mars. When a ferocious storm necessitates the mission’s end just 6 days in, Mark is left behind after his crew sees him whipped away and struck by debris. However, Mark is alive and now must figure out how to survive on the harsh landscape of Mars until help arrives.

The Opening Line: I’m pretty much fucked.

Thoughts: This was one of the hit books of 2014, so I went in with a ton of hype and anticipation. Luckily, the book held up under pressure, and I ended up loving it. As an engineer and botanist, Mark used a lot of tech speak that I had trouble understanding and following, but I think that probably gives the book more authenticity and and accuracy. When I reached a passage like that, I would try my best, reach the end, and think “I didn’t understand that at all…but yay! He survived another day!” Overall, the book was a quick, engrossing read that I highly recommend.

Fellowship of the Worms Questions

1. Does anybody else have a bit of a crush on Mark Watney after reading this? 

Meh, not really. I mean, the guy is super smart and resourceful and has a sense of humor. He’s also really resilient. But I can’t say he made my heart race or anything. I think I would have to see him in a more normal, non-survival setting to get more of a feel for his actual personality.

2. Do you think the crew was right in leaving Watney behind?

Yeah, I do. All signs pointed to him being dead. They saw him get struck and disappear, then his vital signs indicated that he was dead. I think to stay and search would have endangered the rest of them. Unfortunate for Mark, obviously, but I definitely think they made the right choice. And they knew going into this career that it could be dangerous, they knew what they were signing up for. I did love how the commander struggled with her choice for the rest of the book though – I felt like that really showed her humanity.

3. Do you think it’s realistic that Mark could have kept his sense of humor throughout his ordeal?

Definitely. People tend to cope with trauma in a variety of ways (psych major coming out here!), and humor is a common method of coping. Isolated and facing almost certain death, Mark could just as easily given up and killed himself. Instead, he made life bearable by surviving and by laughing.

4. Matt Damon is going to be playing Mark Watney in the upcoming movie version of The Martian. How do you feel about the casting decision? 

I don’t watch a whole lot of movies, but I guess Matt Damon is okay. He’s that guy from the Bourne movies, right? Honestly, though, this question is way outta my league. I don’t even know if I’ll see the movie yet.

5. How many times did you think Mark was really, truly, going to bite it? 

Like, every page…he would have some successes, and then a disaster would come along and screw everything up. Honestly, even with his qualifications and crew member roles, I don’t know how he was so resourceful. It’s just a good thing it wasn’t me up there. My math is atrocious so I would probably calculate something wrong the first day. Seriously, though, it was kind of a stressful book.

Great questions, Katie! As always, it’s been so fun reading along and seeing what everyone else thought!

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Sunday Sagacity – Ups and Downs

SUNDAY

Welcome to Sunday Sagacity, my twice-monthly reflection series that I created to chronicle my year-long goal to instill discipline in my life in some key areas. Each week, I’ll very briefly touch on each of those areas. I’ll talk about my victories and my failures, and hopefully gain the motivation and accountability I need to carry out my goals.

We’ve been hit with a bout of rainy, cold weather, driving me back inside and to the couch. Also, the search for a new library assistant continues to drag on, leaving me working a ton and consistently exhausted. But there are bright spots as well. I’ve hurdled my way through a ton of shorter books, novellas, and comics, relieving some unneeded stress on my reading goals and obligations. We’ve celebrated some birthdays. And April is just about over, ending one of the busiest months of the year, at least for me.

Anyway, on to the updates.

Money – I’m still consistently adding money to my savings account. I’m also developing really great habits that are helping me to view money differently. For instance, I’ve discovered that it’s great to go ahead and grab about $40 in cash at the beginning of each pay cycle to cover my gas needs for that cycle. This way, I don’t end up spending money in my checking account, running out of gas, and having no expendable money to spare. I also never use a full $40, so if I ever forget to grab lunch, I can run out and buy a quick, cheap fast food meal using the cash in my pocket. Although I’m still spending way too much on fast food, at least now it’s mostly expendable money instead of money I don’t really have.

Quiet Time – As always, very up and down for me. I’m struggling to find a rhythm, but I have taken some time out to at least read a chapter or two from my Bible. This is something I really need to work on.

Physical Health – When the weather has been nice and our schedules convenient, we have spent some time shooting hoops in the park. Also, for my roommate’s birthday, I got her a Skip-It, so we’ve done that at least once. And she wanted us to experience one of her favorite things ever, so we spent a Saturday playing disc golf at a local course. It was pretty fun and it got us moving.

Healthy Eating – This is a mixed bag. At home, we have our fast food consumption down to about once a week for a weekend lunch. In addition, we’ve also been trying to incorporate some fruits and veggies into our meals, and we don’t keep many snacks around. We cook just about every night, so I feel pretty good there, although we could still use some work on our meal planning. Work usually gets me though. If I don’t forget the lunch I packed, a coworker will want to go out. But I’m trying to restrain myself to only spend money I’ve dubbed expendable. Still a work in progress, but doing pretty okay generally.

Intentional Living – One weekend my aunt and grandma came up and we went to the home and garden show held at Rupp Arena. We also spent some time shopping, and of course we went to Ramsey’s to celebrate their birthdays. Then my roommate had a birthday, so we played disc golf, had lunch out, and marathoned Star Wars for her. My life group attendance has suffered, though. We didn’t have life group on Easter Sunday. The next Sunday, my roommate went to the ER. And last weekend, I just couldn’t handle going out to a restaurant across town and being social. I plan on going tonight though.

Hopefully I’ll get a new coworker soon, which will allow me a new, more regular schedule, free time in the evenings, and some Saturdays off again! At the point hopefully I can get rested up and continue to make progress on goals.

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