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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Rachael Week Eleven – An Abundance of Katherines

I guess I was on a John Green kick since this was the second week in a row that I picked up one of his books. This one was an easy read, a definite coming-of-age book.

It follows Colin and Hassan, 2 friends living in Chicago. Determined to make the most of a summer and to pick up the pieces of Colin’s breakup with girlfriend Katherine, they take a road trip southeast.

Colin has only dated girls named Katherine. 18 of them to be exact. Starting with elementary school girlfriends (which I think don’t really count) to Katherine XVIII. He is a child prodigy who won money from a public TV show “KranialKidz”. He constantly anagrams words people say, words he reads, etc. He is also trying to create a formula for successful relationships. Hassan keeps him grounded by telling him when stories he tells are “not cool”. Hassan really is the best friend you wish you had all your life.

Anyway, a high school struggle of girls and boys later, Colin and Hassan figure out where life is supposed to take them after meeting a family and boarding with them for a summer.

 

The book was just fine, I enjoyed the footnotes, mathematical equations and foreign languages I learned along the way.

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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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Rachael Week Ten – Looking For Alaska

Totally didn’t know this was by the same author as The Fault in Our Stars, but it is. Also was unaware that it’s technically a YA book, but it was a quick and easy read that kept my attention.

John Green molds some interesting characters (I know this now as I am keeping the author trend with my current book) that are likeable and complex. Miles is a high schooler who longed to go to a boarding school in Alabama (didn’t know that existed, it probably doesn’t in real life) to find “The Great Perhaps”. Regular high school is not fulfilling enough for him. Miles loves biographies and famous last words. His roommate Chip takes him under his wing and that’s how Miles meets Alaska, an extremely complex but appealing girl.

It’s some pretty typical high school drama, but a few twists and turns make it interesting and heart wrenching. A good redemption for some of the crappy things I’ve read so far this year.

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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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Rachael Week Nine – The Dead Key

It was a gamble reading The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley. It was a free download in the Kindle store the day I came across it. Everyone knows how free downloads can go, either blatant misspellings or basically a porn novel, but I guess I was feeling crazy that day.

It was neither a porn novel nor riddled with misspellings. I’ve only read a handful of mysteries in my life, so it was a step outside my comfort zone. It was an exciting two-narrative storyline that follows one woman through a building survey in 1998 and a secretary at the same building (a bank) in 1978. Both women end up wayyyy over their heads in a crazy, twisted mess of getting caught up with the wrong people. Sort of. I’m now fascinated by safe deposit boxes, something the book centers around.

Overall, if you download it for free, worth it. I’m not sure I would’ve dropped money on it, but it kept me entertained for 1.5 days. Something I needed after having to drop 2 books less than halfway through before finding this one.

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Fred Week Eight – Snowball

Yes, I started late, and yes I’ll probably fail miserably to reach the goal with an eight week handicap. Excuses are boring though! On to the book.

Snowball is at times interesting, insightful, surprising, and mundane. Exhaustive is the best word to describe it. The book tracks the life of Warren Buffett, the Omaha based investor that has spent most of his later years as the richest man in the world. From his childhood tossing papers on doorsteps, to his collegiate career, to his more famous pursuits as a billionaire investor, the tale zigs and zags through the 20th century as it follows Buffett’s life and the lives of his closest friends and family.

Much of the 800 plus pages dealt with minutiae that was only vaguely related to what I wanted to learn about the man. Schroeder describes at length his relationship with his wife, kids, and various women with whom he shared platonic and romantic relationships with. She dives into the moment by moment details of Susan Buffett’s death, then transitions into a detached account of his actions in the “Too Big To Fail” era of 2008-2010. My disappointment in Schroeder’s preoccupation with the parts of Buffett’s life that didn’t involve him getting rich are at the center of the conundrum the book has. It’s a well written biography focused on the personal life of a man who attracts interest almost entirely due to his professional exploits rather than his personal life. Warren Buffett is the anti-Kardashian.

Would I recommend you read this book? Well. Yes.

Snowball left me with a less than satisfactory sense of how Berkshire Hathaway became the world leading financial juggernaut it is as of the time I’m writing this. To my great disappointment, I still don’t know how to be the Warren Buffett of my chosen profession. What it did leave me with however, is a new appreciation of what a human life can accomplish, and how our society values those accomplishments. Warren Buffett has spent (and continues to spend) his life rolling that snowball of money into a ever larger entity. His personality, life experience, and unique way of thinking have allowed him to make decisions on a whim that have made Berkshire more money in an afternoon than I will make in a lifetime. He also chose to give nearly all of it away.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will receive the grand majority of Warren Buffett’s amassed wealth. Their mission statement is predicated on every life being equal, and is firmly dedicated to the pursuit of improving life for every individual around the world.  I’m applying this to my life in a fairly simple way: I’ll live out my 60ish years that I have left on this earth striving to be the best at my chosen field. If I do well, the parts of the world I influenced will be better for knowing me.

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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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