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The Martian by Andy Weir

In The Martian by Andy Weir, Mark Watney is stranded on Mars with minimal resources and his crew thinking that he is dead. Despite his situation, Mark still keeps his sense of humor. In the first lines of the book, Mark writes, “I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked. Six days into what should be the greatest month of my life, and it’s turned into a nightmare” The language Mark uses makes him seem realistic to readers. He has a very sarcastic sense of humor which also makes him seem real. Mark is funny and instantly likable. He doesn’t seem to care about offending the reader with his word choices. Also, Mark rambles on and on about the things that could go wrong when creating water and explains the scientific procedure that goes with it. Mark is a very well thought out character which makes the story enjoyable.

The chapters are written like diary entries, each titled Sol followed by the day number. A Sol is a day on Mars, which is about 39 minutes longer than a day on Earth. It also switches back and forth between focusing on Mark and focusing on NASA. I think that this is an interesting way to structure a novel because it makes the novel seem more realistic. No one who is stuck on Mars is going to write a novel about their day, but someone might keep a diary. I enjoy this story structure because it makes it easier to know what Sol events happen on.


There is also a sense of urgency to the book which keeps the reader interested to find out what will happen next. There is urgency for Mark’s survival, but Mark keeps the mood light by cracking jokes.

I really enjoy this book so far and I am very excited to find out what will happen to Mark Watney.

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrick Backman part 1

I wasn’t sure what kind of book My grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry was going be. And even almost halfway through the book I wasn’t so sure.

It’s a about a 7-year-old named Elsa who is sent by her grandmother to deliver a bunch of different letters saying sorry to people she has wronged in some way. There is also a interesting, though sometimes rather confusing, component of fantasy to this book. Before she died, Elsa’s grandmother would take her somehow to the magical Land of Almost-Awake. At the start of the book I was quite sure that this Land was just a figment of Elsa’s imagination caused by all of her Grandmother’s fairy tales. However, as the book went on characters from the Land of Almost-Awake started dropping into the real world. For example, Elsa realizes that the dog (somehow living by itself in a closed flat surviving seemingly solely on chocolate) that lives by her is actually a wurse, which is a mythical creature from The Land of Almost-Awake. Perhaps, I thought, the wurse was just a dog that Elsa just believed to be a mythical creature. But then in came another character named Wolfheart; a mighty warrior who defended Miamas (a part of the Land of Almost-Awake). Here I decided that perhaps this was, in fact, a fantasy story. I was hoping that the next half of the book would clear that up a bit.

This book largely centers on the theme of being different. Elsa’s grandmother was extremely eccentric and Elsa herself was mature beyond her age. This caused her to be constantly bullied at her school. Her only way to escape from the difficulties of being different from everyone else is her grandmother. When she dies, Elsa doesn’t seem to know what to feel. He is of course incredibly heartbroken, but also begins to feel very angry at her mother, who she claims doesn’t care as much about Elsa’s grandmother (her mother) dying. Later Elsa’s relationship with her mother greatly improves as she learns about her mother’s childhood, however Elsa becomes furious with her grandmother for dying (and various other things).

Elsa is also shown struggling to deal with her parent’s divorce and her resentment for her likeable stepdad, George. She feels frustrated because she can’t find any reason to dislike him other than the fact that he is in her eyes trying to take the place of her father. She also feels excluded from her father’s life and new family as she is only allowed to see them once every two weeks or so. I hope that she and her stepdad and father are able to come to understand each other better by the end of the book.

I’m wondering how the author is going to wrap up the whole book in the next half because it seems to me like the story is only just starting.

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“Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down is the newest novel from celebrated young adult author John Green about Aza, a high school student with obsessive compulsive disorder who becomes involved with a billionare’s disappearance. The first section of the novel mainly focuses on Aza’s developing relationship with Davis, the son of the missing billionare whom she had known as a child, as well as her best friend Daisy. A striking aspect of the book was the way that Green portrays Aza’s mental illness, in a manner that is indescribably heartwrenching and detailed. Her nervous habits, anxious thoughts, and hypochondriac tendencies are introduced in the first chapters, including her self-description as “a skin-encased bacterial colony” (Green 3).

Something that I found to be unique and slightly curious about the novel is that Aza never physically describes herself with common traits such as eye or hair color. Rather, her personality is shaped by her myriad of anxieties, an introduction which establishes her character much more efffectively than a traditional exposition.

Of course, the signature elements which I can only describe as “John Green quirks” do appear throughout the first portion of “Turtles All the Way Down”. For example, Aza and Daisy are each paid a large sum of $50,000 for their willingness to hold important information from the police while the eccentric missing mogul Russell Pickett leaves his grand fortune to a reptile in order to discover the secret to eternal life.

At this stage, “Turtles All the Way Down” is an intriguing and mysterious novel that manages to capture both heartwrenching moments and the nonstop rollercoaster that is teenage mental illness. Though the characters (aside from Aza) do seem very one dimensional, I have a hope that they will continue to grow and develop.

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Digital Fortress by Dan Brown: 1/2

Recently, I discovered the novel The Da Vinci Code, and I read it over the summer. I enjoyed the novel, since it sparked my curiosity and reminded me how much I love history. Honestly, I would have to say that The Da Vinci Code is on my top ten list of books that I’ve read. I wanted to see if any other of author Dan Brown’s novels could set the bar even higher.

I thought this novel would be related to the character Robert Langdon and his many thriller mysteries he gets to be a part of, but this novel has entirely different characters. I admit, it was disappointing to find this out, but I’ve come to enjoy the novel, in a different way. Brown beautifully intertwines technology, the modern day, and a race against time into a story that everyone can enjoy.

When the National Security Agency’s (NSA) invincible code-breaking machine called TRANSLTR encounters a code it can’t break, the agency calls in head cryptographer Susan Fletcher to help on the situation. What she discovers is terrifying: the code is so complex that it would significantly weaken the entirety of U.S. intelligence. Caught in between betrayals and lies, Susan battles to save the agency she loves, her country, and her husband. It’s a crucial battle to destroy this code made by a genius that threatens to cripple the NSA.

Sometimes, all of the technology explanations are too overwhelming and I don’t understand an entire section of a chapter, but the fact that it’s overwhelming draws me in. My favorite part of the novel so far is David Becker’s story line. His experiences are like the action-packed adventure of The Da Vinci Code, and are always suspenseful. At times, I found it hard to stop reading because each chapter was a cliffhanger.

So far, I am immensely enjoying the novel, and I plan to finish it quickly. Perhaps I’ll read another Dan Brown thriller next.

 

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Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 1/2

Having already written a review of the first book in the LOTR trilogy, I had already stated many things Tolkien had done to make an outstanding novel. However, as I read on in the third book (I had already read the second book already during September/October), I realized there were some things that I found out that only reading the first book wouldn’t be able to offer.

Each book in the trilogy is hundreds of pages (pages are hard to describe because each different printing of the story has different size pages, text, etc. The publisher of the novel I’m reading made the whole trilogy a total of 1285 pages. It is difficult to maintain a form of writing even for a few hundred of pages, but Tolkien stretched one story into over a thousand pages. The continuity of the text shows how much effort was made into creating the story, making it an even better book. I have gotten used to the different style of writing in the book, having read two previous books already using the same style. However, the new words have me constantly using a dictionary since I have almost never seen them before.

The story continues from where The Two Towers left off, this time starting with Pippin and Merry’s story. For those that don’t know, each book has two “sub-books”. There are two stories going on in each book. It almost seems like the two stories are completely different, but Tolkien somehow manages to tie them all together. Conflicts rise and situations seem grim, but the main characters always pull through in the end.

The book can get boring at times, so an eye for details is necessary to catch everything Tolkien writes. Obviously, you need to read the previous two books in the trilogy before this one, but the entire story is seeming to be an exceptional work of art.

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“Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly

Part 1/2

“Lilac Girls” is a story of resilience, hope, and transformation. It centers around three women living very different lives. Caroline Farriday is an employee to the French consulate, living in New York. Kasia Kuzmerick is a teenage girl living in Poland. Herta Oberheuser is a young and determined doctor in Germany. There is only one factor that connects these three women- World War II. Throughout the first half of the novel,, the reader is able to experience the lives of these three characters and begin to understand how they will eventually intertwine.

The novel is written from the perspective of the three women, each chapter switching between characters. At first, it was difficult for me to remember events that happened in a certain character’s story because it had been a while since I had read about them last. This was due in part to my inability to read the book consistently. However, once I had some time on my hands and I was able to binge-read, I found it much easier to recall facts from each woman’s life. Disregarding my original confusion, I greatly enjoyed the perspective from which the story was written. The first person allowed me to gain personal insight into the character’s minds, and I learned a lot about them from what their brains had to say.

The plot of the first quarter of the novel was clearly meant as a lead-up. Facts were introduced that laid the groundwork for the rest of the book. While it was slightly dull at times, I understood that this part of the novel was necessary, so I wasn’t bothered. It didn’t take too long, however, for the novel to become interesting. As each character struggled with their own battles, I found myself to be intrigued with the lives of each of them. Caroline’s work at the consulate becomes more and more hectic as she works to provide care for people across the globe, Kasia is taken as a prisoner of war and struggles to retain hope, and Herta is stationed as a doctor at a concentration camp, where her heart slowly turns to stone as the Nazis instill their morals into her.

I found many similarities between this book and “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah. I also thought it was similar to “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doer. I loved both of these novels, and after reading the back cover of this book, I had an idea that the plot would be quite similar. Not only were the plots extremely comparable, the perspectives were as well. All three of the books switched between characters, and this provided the reader with details that wouldn’t have been accessible if there was only one story line. A clear connection between this book and the others is found on page 74, after Kasia goes on an underground mission: “Was I now part of the resistance? I’d delivered money. I would take the oath tomorrow and make it official.” Kasia shows obvious resemblance to Isabelle from “The Nightingale” and Marie-Laure from “All the Light We Cannot See.” All of them join an underground movement to help their country in the hard times. Their patriotism binds them together. This is only one example I found, and there was an abundance of them throughout the first half of the book.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the novel, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the rest of the book.

 

 

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

1/2

The novel And Then There Were None has held many titles. Over the years, the names have changed to fit modern and more appropriate times. However, all of the name changes have not affected the intriguing plot of the novel. Agatha Christie, the “queen of mystery,” creates a suspenseful story that draws the reader in. The book centers around ten people trapped on an island slowly being hunted down to the lores of a nursery rhyme. They come to the realization that one of them is the murderer and they must find out who before it is too late.

While reading this novel, I’ve found that one of the unique characteristics that is a foundation to the book is the setting. While in the beginning the characters are in trains and automobiles, the plot largely takes place on Soldier island, an isolated “dream” island mansion off the Devon coast. This isolated setting proves further mysterious given the time the story takes place. The late thirties to early forties time period prevents the characters from contacting the mainland via modern communication. The confined location gives an eerie feeling filled with danger and suspense.

However, the ominous setting is only matched to the superb plot. Even though I am only halfway through the book, Agatha Christie has filled the first half to the brim with plot twists. Once the reader begins to believe one aspect of the book, the story swivels in a different direction. For example, after three characters, Blore, Lombard, and Armstrong, figure out there is a “homicidal lunatic” on the loose, they begin to search the island for an eleventh person. After searching the nooks and crannies of the mansion, they learn that another body has been found and that the murderer is one of them, creating conflict and aggression between characters. Every time that the reader feels one step closer to solving the mystery, another element appears and the reader is thrown off direction. Christie crafts the novel to be a thrilling and unpredictable plot.

Although the plot and settings may be impressive, I did find the begining to be slow and monotonous. The author began the book switching perspectives between all ten characters. I quickly forgot names and constantly had to reread parts of the chapter to find out who is who. While the author may have been trying to distinguish characters, I felt like the characters were melding together. Christie talks about the characters’ reasons to come to the island and gives a brief background about the characters’ pasts. This might be important to learn more about the characters, but their pasts are once again brought up later in a more interesting and intriguing plot twist.

In summary, the first half of And Then There Were None was astonishing. I was drawn in by the suspenseful story and setting. While the introduction was slow, I quickly moved past that trying to unravel the mystery of the queen of mystery. I look forward to finishing the book and figuring out the answer to one of the most unique mysteries of Agatha Christie.

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