“The Martian” by Andy Weir. Crown, 2014. $25.

I started seeing “The Martian” pop up on a lot of “best of” lists a few months ago, and when I found out it was being made into a movie starring Matt Damon, I knew I had to pick up a copy (I love Matt Damon). I’m very glad I did — the book was so engrossing that I finished it in two days.

The basic premise is that an astronaut gets stuck on Mars after a mission, through no fault of his own or his crewmates.

The first section of the book is composed of log entries this astronaut, Mark Watney, writes as he attempts to survive on the red planet.

As the book progresses, we start to hear from those on Earth working feverishly to save him, and eventually from the crewmates who inadvertently left Watney behind.

All of the characters are extremely well-written and easy to relate to. I found myself nodding at their conversations in agreement with the arguments or discussions they were having.

Though the situation is about as dire as situations get, the book never feels too weighty. Watney has an upbeat, never-say-die (literally) attitude, and his log entries keep up a funny, conversational tone. Most other people would see being stuck on Mars as a death sentence, but Watney seems to take it as a challenge.

As you would expect in a book about space travel, there is a lot of technical jargon, but it didn’t create a problem for me. I was able to skim through and get a basic understanding of what was happening without trying to wade through every detail. Plus, I felt like I learned something.

I encourage fans of science fiction, well-written books or Matt Damon to pick up a copy.

— Ellen Zielinski, Baton Rouge

“Watch the Lady” by Elizabeth Fremantle . Simon & Schuster, 2015. $15.99.

Lady Penelope has been a favorite of the queen her entire life, even though the queen despises her mother. Life at court is immediately intimidating for young Penelope because she realizes how quick the queen’s temper is and how easy it would be to be sent to the Tower.

But Lady Penelope is smart and uses her cunning mind to the best of her advantage.

She is forced to marry a man that she does not love. She spends her wedding night in tears and wonders if it’s like this for all women. Shortly after, she finds her husband with another man and learns about his secret sin and why he hasn’t been able to treat her properly. Seeing this as an opportunity, Penelope promises to be faithful to him until they have three sons together.

After that, she will continue to present a united front but be with who she wants to be with.

The little bit of power she earned during this exchange motivates her to delve deeper into the politics around her and use the players in the game like puppets. She manages to turn the tides of the war and be a leader from her home with her children.

This is an incredible book with a fantastic main character. The writing is rich and really takes you to the time of Queen Elizabeth. The story is entertaining and deeply satisfying. Elizabeth Fremantle is a force to be reckoned with in this genre. The previous books in this trilogy do not need to be read for the story to be great.

— Juliette Brandt, Baton Rouge