Aaron Week Fourteen – Animal Farm

Animal Farm

by George Orwell


I’ve realized through this project that there are plenty of books that others might deem must reads or classics that I haven’t yet read, Animal Farm is one of those books, often recommended to me and yet I never picked it up.

It’s difficult when approaching such books to feel like there’s anything new or different to be said about the, especially since Animal Farm has been published for close to 70 years. Here goes nothing.

For those of you who might not be familiar with this book, Animal Farm is a political allegory based on the premise of the Russian Revolution, or maybe more aptly the failed promises of the revolution.

Set on Manor Farm, owned by Mr. Jones this book starts with the animals of his farm finally having had enough of being enslaved and exploited for the benefit of their human master.  They rebel and drive Jones and his farm hands out and take Manor Farm for their own, renaming it Animal Farm.

They start out with the best of intentions, passing a set of commandments to live by, sharing the work load and things are off to a great start. Throughout this process the pigs emerge as thought leaders and eventually do all the planning and none of the work, moving into the farm house and beginning their campaign of rewriting the history/rules of Animal Farm.

If this book was required reading for you during school, I’d suggest revisiting it, and if you’ve never read it before what are you waiting for?! And remember, “Four legs good, two legs bad.”

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Aaron Week Thirteen – How I Live Now

How I Live Now

by Meg Rosoff


I will be the first to admit I need to stop reading stories about wars and the end of the world, but I keep finding titles that sound interesting. People, save me from myself, give me suggestions!

Fair warning, there’s the tiniest bit of a spoil in this review. I don’t give away any plot points, just a small factual observation. Okay, ready?

Daisy is fifteen and like most fifteen year olds she thinks her step mother is evil, in all fairness, she’s probably right. With a new baby on the way her parents ship her off from Manhattan to England to live with her aunt and cousins she’s never met. War breaks out, the power goes out, England is occupied, she’s separated from most of her new family and things are just not going her way.

It’s a quick and decent read and because it doesn’t have a traditional happy ending How I Live Now is a strangely thought provoking book. After reading it I discovered that there’s a movie version that was made in 2013, so I suppose I’ll have to check that out. I feel it’s a safe assumption that the book was better than the movie.

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Aaron Week Twelve – The Shell Collector

<h2>The Shell Collector</h2>
By Hugh Howey

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In a seemingly not so distant future the ocean is dying. Year after year the ocean is growing warming and water levels are rising, threatening cities, redefining beach front property. As a by product of the warmer water temps, seashells are becoming more and more rare, leading to the mass popularity of Shelling.

Maya Walsh is a reporter for the Times for the last few years she’s been working on a series of articles exposing the Wilde family (owners of Ocean Oil, destroyers of the planet), each one focusing on a different Wilde, with the ultimate goal of bringing down Ness Wilde the current generation in charge of Ocean Oil.

Ness Wilde has become somewhat of a recluse, but after the first of four articles on his family is published in the Times (about his great-grandfather) he asks Maya to come to his home for an interview. Maya refuses until approached by the FBI who are also interested in Wilde. Next thing you know Ms. Walsh is traveling around the world with Ness in the name of journalism trying to balance the desire to destroy him and the hope that he really isn’t a monster hellbent on continuing his family’s legacy of destroying the planet.

Great premise, interesting storyline for the most part, but in a departure from the other stories of Hugh Howey’s I’ve read this book seemingly tries to appeal to a broader audience and gets a little Nicholas Sparksesque. Not a terrible book, but certainly not the authors finest.

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Aaron Week Eleven – The Defiant: Grid Down

The Defiant: Grid Down

by John W. Vance


I was less than a chapter into this book and I started making fun of it. I’m sorry, but with things like…

He was so handsome and charming.Abigail

and (at the end of the book, no spoilers)

Oh my, he’s so handsome.Alexis

He was and charming too.Abigail

It was just a little much.

I actually was going to read this book prior to The Paper Magician, but put it down five pages into the prologue. Not to be one to hastily judge a book by its cover or by the first chapter, I picked it back up and gave it another go. First, the positive, EMPs are cool, it’s an easy read, and there are probably fewer grammatical errors in the book than in this review, but then again I’m not the one claiming to be a writer. Yes, that’s all I could come up with.

Honestly, with an editor this book could be quite a bit better. There’s massive redundancy in almost every dialogue, the author at one point spells a characters name differently (Sofie, instead of Sophie), at least three times a chapter I found myself thinking “well… that made no sense.” or ” that was a strange exchange/internal monologue”, and a lot of the dialogue felt extraneous.

Conceptually this book is similar to the TV show Revolution, power goes out, everyone panics. While done before, it is an interesting premise and apocalyptic stuff is my jam. We follow Nicholas and his family and Bryn and her sister taking on the challenge of the new world, which since humans are literally the worst quickly devolves into rioting, looting, attempted rape, and killing. Great. It doesn’t take long until Bryn moves on from being an asshole to her neighbor Matt to brandishing a gun and nearly getting everyone killed.

You’ll also get snippets from Vincent, a Marine returning from a six month tour and Michael, someone who may or may not have something to do with the blackouts. I think Michael’s storyline has the most potential to be interesting, but it isn’t really delved into much in this book (this is volume 1, I’m assuming a second volume is in the works).

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Aaron Week Ten – Miramont’s Ghost

Miramont’s Ghost

By Elizabeth Hall


A story about a castle built in Manitou Springs, Colorado in 1897 and suddenly abandoned three years later would seem to have a lot of promise to be an engaging and interesting ghost story, however, this book ends up being more of a thriller with just a dash of ghostly influence. Also, the majority of this story takes place in France long before the castle is even built.

Young Adrienne Beauvier is clairvoyant, at a young age she tells stories of things she couldn’t possibly know, family members try and pass it off as an overactive imagination, but her grandfather the Comte de Challembelles knows the truth, his late wife had the same gift. After the passing of her grandfather, Adrienne grows more withdrawn, and shares her visions with no one, not even her governess Lucie who she confided in as a child.

Skip ahead a few more years and Adrienne is shipped off to America to live with her overly controlling aunt and cousin in his grand new castle in Manitou Springs. Things get dark, people get hurt, the plot twists and twists some more.

Despite the often repetitious sentence structure I enjoyed this book quite a bit, at least until the last four or so chapters. The end of the book feels rushed and quickly thrown together and was incredibly unsatisfying. To be fair, I read this book because it was free through Kindle Unlimited and I was in a hurry to find something to read.

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Aaron Week Nine – The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician

By Charlie N. Holmberg


An anonymous donor gives young Ceony a chance to pursue her dream of becoming a Smelter (a magician who works with metal) by paying for a years tuition to Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony rises to the challenge and completes her education in just a year, only to find that her dream of becoming a Smelter is not meant to be, as the normal choice of which type of magician one wants to become is not presented to her and instead she is assigned to be a Folder (a paper magician).

As one might imagine she begrudgingly begins her apprenticeship under Emery Thane certain it will be miserable and yet suddenly Lira, an Excisioner (a practicer of flesh magic, see also, the bad guys) appears in Emery’s cottage and nearly kills both of them. Ceony then must venture out on her own on an impossible quest to reclaim something stolen by Lira in order to save all of the known universe… well, okay, not really. Unprepared and armed only with her very limited spells of paper birds and fish, she travels to the coast in pursuit of Lira.

Bottomline, while the formula of The Paper Magician is nearly identical to a dozen other books out there, it has the advantage of being set in a whimsical and unique setting. A quick and relatively interesting read to pass a few hours.

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Aaron Week Eight – Neverwhere

Neverwhere

By Neil Gaiman


When in doubt, read Neil Gaiman.

Neverwhere is a dark tale of London Above and London Below. Two worlds existing, one with no knowledge that the other even exists.

Richard Mayhew seems happy, or at least content with his life in London Above. One small act changes all that, when Richard stops to help an injured young girl he finds his life yanked away from him, he falls through the cracks into London Below and no one Above seems to remember or even notice him.

Plunged into a world he doesn’t understand, Richard manages to track down Door the young girl he helped in London Above thinking she might have the answer to getting his life back. Everyone he talks to however tells him there’s no chance of getting his life back, he then embarks on a harrowing journey to help young Door solve the mystery of who murdered her family and why, along the way an Angel tells him there is indeed a way to get his life back, but will he survive long enough in London Below to find out how?

From an Earl who holds court in a train car, to monks guarding a key deep in some treacherous marshes there is rarely anything resembling a dull moment in this book.

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Aaron Week Seven – All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr


Finally a book that is completely different from what I normally read! All the Light We Cannot see has been on my reading list since day one of this project, sadly I kept finding excuses not to start it.

All the Light We Cannot See follows the life of Marie-Laure LeBlanc and her locksmith father who is in manages the locks at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, which sounds like an awesome job. Apparently not content with being a ridiculous locksmith, in his free time he builds intricate models of the city to help his blind daughter learn to navigate.

You’ll also be introduced to Werner, a German boy living in an orphanage with his sister Jutta, who has an affinity for fixing all manor of things, especially radios, despite this talent he seems fated to a future of working the mines when he’s old enough. Word of his talent spreads through the town and he begins repairing radios for the locals, eventually Werner is called on to work on the grandiose Philco radio of a German officer, many have failed to repair it before him, but Werner quickly fixes the radio. This naturally impressers the officer and Werner is fast tracked out of the mining town to compete for entrance into an elite Nazi school, because of course one small event like fixing a radio can change your life forever.

Weaving bits from before, during, and after World War II together a beautiful story unfolds and the lives of Werner and Marie-Laure brush by each other and then suddenly crash together. Go read it, even if it’s not your normal cup of tea.

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Aaron Week Six – The Martian

The Martian

By Andy Weir


A riveting tale of interplanetary travel, exploration, and the hardships of growing potatoes on Mars. Set in a much happier time, a time when NASA has not only a budget, but a budget large enough to send manned missions to Mars. The Martian eerily chronicles the story of Mark Watney’s fight to survive in the aftermath of a sandstorm that forces his fellow crew members to abandon their mission and leaves Mark stranded on Mars with no means of communication.

In reality, I would probably freak out and give up pretty quickly if I was stranded on mars, despite that fact I still kind of want to get stranded on Mars. Or the moon, the moon would be a nice compromise.

I’m not smart enough to know if the science in The Martian was up to snuff (I’ll wait for the XKCD explanation), but it was certainly impressive and kept me simultaneously in awe and feeling very stupid. At the end of this book, I was back to the childhood dream of wanting to be an astronaut, to explore the unknown.

Like space? Read this book. Like science? Read this book. Like inspiring stories? Read this book. Like Potatoes? Read this book.

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Aaron Week Five – Departure

Departure

By A.G. Riddle


As much as I try and branch out, I almost always find myself returning to the comforting arms of science fiction.

After reading a few chapters, I started comparing Departure to Lost in book form, admittedly an oversimplification on my part. Similarities beyond a plane crash and a few crazy twists/sci-fi improbabilities quickly fade away the deeper you get into the storyline. Speaking of which, as you might have surmised Departure follows the misadventures of a seemingly random group of people who are in a plane crash, in a not at all original “twist” the people that really were random in this equation die. Now that we have the red shirts out of the way, the real fun begins. Mr. Riddle really does a fantastic job of slowly weaving the lives of the remaining individuals together, in the past, the present, and the future. Confusing, I know.

While I may be incapable of experiencing emotion in the real world, a good book seems to elicit an endless supply of emotional reactions. Including, but not limited to chills, I tell you, chills. Most definitely worth a read in my opinion. Maybe just not on an international flight.

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