Half Way Home by Hugh HoweyHalf Way Home by Hugh Howey

Now, that say five times fast. You know what, it just ends up being gibberish, like most say-this-five-times-fast challenges, so don’t say it.

You guys know I like Hugh Howey. I tore through the Silo series in nothing flat and I really, really want it to be a television series, because I think it would be awesome as a television series, but I’m not in charge of who makes television series, so I can’t make that decision.

This book is another book by Hugh. It’s a science-fiction book, of course. This book is about a group of teenagers. They’re teenagers in one sense, but not in others. These teenagers were grown in tubes and educated by a very expansive artificial intelligence called Colony. The purpose of Colony is to incubate and educate around five-hundred people with different skill sets to set up colonies on other planets. Everything is already provided to these people and ideally they would be educated for twice as long as the unfortunates of this story are.

Porter, our main character, stumbles into awareness amidst fire and rain. Colony has stopped part-way through an abort measure. There are about fifty people alive out of over the four-hundred that the colony had started with. They all count each other. They determine who is ranked highest. They try to act like adults. They talk like adults. They’re educated like adults, but they’re still teenagers in body and somewhat in personality. Porter is the group’s psychologist, or he would have been had he completed his entire training. He knows he’s missing a lot, everybody is. Colony isn’t giving any answers as to why the abort measure was started and then stopped part-way through. The inhabitants of this strange planet find sleep where they can and begin the work Colony prescribes.

They’re building a rocket. People are getting antsy. It’s a miserable existence. One among them is killed only a few days after all of them awoke. Some suspect murder. Some suspect a slip. Nobody knows the real reason. The death shocks the group. They have a funeral. It isn’t long before things start going downhill. Porter suggest a boost in morale to Colony, but Colony doesn’t say what it intends to do. Porter and his friends, Tarsi and Kelvin, create a small group. They sleep together, actual sleep, work together, and eat together. They eat something they call bombfruit. It seems to rain out of nowhere and explodes on impact, but it’s edible.

A couple leaves the camp one day. Porter, Tarsi, and Kelvin want to leave as well. All the while Porter deals with conflicting emotions about his two friends Kelvin and Tarsi. The trio makes their break for it one night. They must cut a new hole in the wall surrounding their colony, but they make it and so do a small amount of other people. An entire group escapes, numbering about ten. They make their way to what looks like a very large tree, in fact, that’s what it turns out to be, but it’s the largest tree any of them could have ever imagined. It towers over a thousand feet in the air. They want to find the other couple who left. They find an arrow when they get to the tree. It points up. There is an up. The group follows it and finds something they never expected to find.

As more comes to light, the group realizes something strange about the force that raised them and educated them. It may not be the nurturing entity they thought it was.

What I liked

I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not usually into books set on other planets. I will read a science fiction book set on Earth in the distant future all day long, but start saying it’s on another planet and you’ve probably lost me. Hugh’s book is not bad as far as interplanetary living goes. He makes it believable. He gives a reason for these people to be on this strange planet and a plausible explanation as to how they got there.

Hugh always seems to have some sort of statement backing his novels. There is a statement in this novel. It’s a statement about valuing profit and money over life. Would someone really send five-hundred people to a far-off planet to murder them if the planet’s resources didn’t pay out? Do you even have to ask that question? There are definitely business moguls who would totally send you somewhere to die as long as they made a profit. They might not come out and admit, but they don’t care about you.

Hugh really seems to catch this idea and trend of worshiping the almighty profit over anything else. I also kind of sense that there may be a bit of a pro-life sentiment in the book, but it’s not something that was jumping out at me and screaming in my face.

What I didn’t like

I never really have too many complaints about Hugh’s books. The only thing I will say is that it’s on another planet, and as I mentioned before, I don’t really do other planets. I love Doctor Who to death, but put other planets in my life in any other context and I lose a lot of interest. My problem with other planets is that we don’t know about them. We can imagine life on other planets all day long, but on Earth, we have evolution, genetic inheritance, and world history. There is a certain way in which things develop. We don’t have trees that are two-thousand feet tall, the closest thing would be Redwoods, which get pretty darn close to being a thousand feet tall. We don’t have giant caterpillars. In fact, I watched this entire documentary all about how animals with exoskeletons could only get so big because of their body type and limitations breathing and so forth. The point in all of this is that some of these things simply aren’t possible through what we know of science, at least here on Earth, maybe on another planet creatures with exoskeletons could be gigantic.

Speaking of caterpillars, they’re only one stage in an insects life cycle. Are these giant caterpillars more like centipedes, which keep their shape, or are they more like true caterpillars, which eventually transform into flying insects? Are there giant-freaking butterflies and moths on this planet somewhere?

The entire time I was reading this book I was waiting for them to discover that they were just really tiny and were living in the grass with the bugs. Admit it, it’s a possibility.


I liked it, even if it was on another planet.

alien planet, caterpillars, colonists, colony, half way home, Half Way Home by Hugh Howey, hugh howey, kelvin, other planets, porter
Fiction, Howey-Hugh, Mystery, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction, Social Commentary, Young Adult

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Chew on this by Eric Schlosser and Charles WilsonChew on this by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson

I have a thing for books about food, not cookbooks, but books about where food comes from, what’s in it, how to grow it, how to make it, what it does to your body, and so on. I enjoy learning about all of that. You should know about all of that; I’m not saying you have to enjoy it, but you should know about it.

This book is by Eric Schlosser, who also wrote Fast Food Nation; I’m going to be hitting that one soon. Both books are about how fast food has changed our nation, but they’re also about the history of fast food, which is interesting, believe it or not. Food used to be a  very slow thing. If you wanted biscuits and gravy, you made those darn biscuits and that darn gravy from scratch. There weren’t cans of biscuits you could pop open and put in the oven. There wasn’t pre-made gravy mix that was just-add-water.

Fast food really became a thing when people started creating hotdogs and hamburgers. Hamburgers were created for a fair. People liked them, so the man who created them kept going with it. This was over a hundred years ago by the way. It wasn’t until much later that the McDonalds opened their restaurant, which wasn’t exactly the first of its kind, but eventually came to be.

There had been other hamburger restaurants before McDonald’s, a lot of them, but people used to bring the food to your car. You sat in the parking lot and you ate your food. McDonald’s was really the first restaurant that made you come inside, order your food, take it to a table, and then clean up your own trash. McDonald’s was also one of the first places that allowed for an assembly line approach to making food. You’ll see this today if you go to any fast-food restaurant and peer into the kitchen. Ray Kroc was the man who came up with McDonald’s franchising and uniformity.

The uniformity is the killer here. That uniformity drove McDonald’s to only buy one type of potato, to only buy meat from one place, and to only expect one particular flavor of chicken. McDonald’s fries tasting the same anywhere isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it’s a bad thing when it forces many potato farmers out of business. McDonald’s only wanted one particular type of potato, so other potatoes began to be seen less and less. Singular companies began to get huge off the business from McDonald’s, which didn’t buy from the cheapest place, keeping a competitive market open, they bought from the most uniform place. This one place was able to buy up more this and more that and eventually become the biggest, but it wasn’t only with potatoes.

Beef is a big business to McDonald’s as well. They wanted all the hamburgers to taste the same, so all the beef had to be the same type and fed the same way. This fueled the rise of large feedlots in the United States. McDonald’s is the biggest buyer of beef in the country. As you may or may not know, cows aren’t supposed to eat corn, or other cows for that matter, but both have happened at feed lots. For the most part feeding cows to other cows has been nixed, but cows still chow down on corn, which is not good for them. The slaughterhouses aren’t the nicest places either, you wouldn’t really expect a slaughterhouse to be a nice place, but the United States falls way behind other countries. Europe uses a mainly humane was of killing their food animals, but gassing them, but here in the United States, we still stun our animals and hope they’re dead; they’re not always dead.

This book makes no mention of Temple Grandin. Because of Temple our slaughterhouses have gotten more humane over the past twenty years or so, but they’re still a long ways behind other countries.

Fast food has infiltrated our schools and hospitals. Students are overweight. Schools have had to fight to get fast food out. Fast food fights to get into war-torn areas. Burger King was one of the first American business in Kuwait after war broke out there. Nothing says Justice like a Whopper.

What I liked

There is a lot of this information I am already familiar with. There was some that was new though. I think the history of fast food restaurants is neat. These were people who did think outside the box to create these new businesses. They brought cheaper food out to the masses. If it wasn’t for fast food, there would be a lot of people who never get to eat out. I mean we all like higher-priced restaurants like Romano’s Macaroni Grill, but not everyone can afford meals that are $14 a piece, or higher. I have to hand it to the fast food industry for providing a night out for people with less money, but the stuff is still gross.

I think this book was pointed more towards young adults. I have started reading Fast Food Nation and it’s so much more complex than this book, but by the same author. This is a book a teenager could read and could understand quite well. I have to hand to Eric and Charles for creating something that teenagers might actually enjoy reading.

What I didn’t like

This book doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of fast food. This book only involves battles that surround fast food. It’s more of a summary of what fast food has touched over the years. This book isn’t about what actually goes into your fast food. How about those flame retardants? How about radiating meat? How about some more details about how cows were eating cows? How about even more details about that? Cows eating cows is outlawed, but cows eating chicken protein isn’t really outlawed.

This book is more of a gateway book. It could pull you into the world of learning what goes into your food, but it’s not the hard stuff. It’s not the information you’re really going to want to know about what is going into your food. This book is the book where you decide to go further down the rabbit hole or you decide to step away and live happily with your ignorance.


I think this is a good book to get teenagers, and anyone else for that matter, thinking about their food.

charles wilson, chew on this, chew on this by eric schlosser and charles wilson, chicken, eric schlosser, fast food, french fries, history of mcdonald’s, mcdonald’s, potatoes
Health, History, Non-Fiction, ponder provoking, Schlosser-Eric, social commentary, Wilson-Charles

I’m on Twitter!

I'm on Twitter!I’m on Twitter!

Well, I’m on Twitter; look me up and follow me asheart111. I may get more sophisticated with this whole thing as I learn more about Twitter, because I am just now coming to Twitter. There’s my first Tweet over there. It was about Mary Poppins and the fact that she just ups and leaves the children she is in care of randomly, without any notice or warning. I also did #MaryPoppinsisnotagoodnanny. Maybe it should have been #supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? Like I said, I’m not too good at this yet, so bear with me.

I joined Twitter because I was reading an article about another author and they were extolling the virtues of Twitter. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was probably a good idea to be on Twitter. I forget which author it was, maybe it was Margaret Atwood or maybe it was someone else, but whoever it was, I’m now on Twitter.

So follow me and get very short reviews of the books I read.

#veryshortreviews…hashtags don’t work here.


follow me twitter, hello twitter, I’m on Twitter!, tweet, tweeting about mary poppins, twitter, twitter person

Mary Poppins Opens the Door by P.L. TraversMary Poppins Opens the Door by P.L. Travers

Whoop-de-doo! Mary Poppins can open doors. Oooohhh! Aaaahhh! Doors! Who would have thought it?!

It’s true Mary Poppins can open doors. She really can. I mean, with all the other magical things Mary Poppins can do, you would think that opening doors would be the first on the list, but apparently not.

Mary Poppins comes back again, this time on Guy Fawkes day, which is something that intrigues me. Apparently on Guy Fawkes day, the fifth of November, you can shoot fireworks off. I hear it’s like Independence Day in the United States. So Mary comes out of a firework and marches straight into number 17 Cherry Tree Lane as if she owns the place. She measures the children, they’ve been terrible.

The kids go under the sea. They visit one of Mary’s strange relatives. They ride on candy canes like witch’s brooms and then Mary Poppins leaves through a mysterious door after a big party celebrating her departure.

What I liked

Mary has some crazy family. I like them. Also, where do I get myself one of those Mary Poppins’ bags? The umbrella as well, I want the umbrella. That blue coat everyone keeps talking about sounds pretty nice as well.

What I didn’t like

These Mary Poppins books are running into one another. This book is over two-hundred pages long; it’s not a small book and I read every page, but it began to be difficult for me to keep up what Mary did in which installment. Is this the book where she went into the side-walk painting or was it another book? Obviously, the movie people had a hard time of that as well because I have seen elements from all three books, thus far, in the movie. There is still one more book in the series, which is not a fourth visit from Mary, but stories that could have happened on any of her previous visits. So the fourth book is going to be even more confusing.

Mary seems to do the same crap every single time. Someone goes into something that you usually can’t go into. They visit one of Mary’s strange relatives. Mary talks to animals. Someone sells something weird in the park. This was before crystal meth, so it wasn’t meth. So yeah, same types of things.

Plus, if I were the Banks parents, I would have gotten good and tired of Mary randomly showing up and disappearing. Make up your mind woman! You’re not a good employee.


Where in the world does Mary Poppins come from?

annabel, barbara, jane, john, marry poppins opens the door, Mary Poppins, mary poppins bag, mary poppins leaves again, Mary Poppins Opens the Door by P.L. Travers, mary poppins shows up mysteriously, michael, p.l. travers
Books set in Europe, Children’s, Classic Fiction, Family dynamics, Fantasy, Fiction, Travers-P.L.

Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. TraversMary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers

Once again Mary Poppins shows her face, but it’s in a very unexpected way. The children are out in the park flying a kite when they tug and tug, but something all together different is at the end of their kite string than when they began. It turns out that it’s Mary Poppins. They pull her down out of the sky and she’s back. She tells everyone to gather up their things because they’re going home for tea.

At the house everyone is glad to have Marry Poppins back. Mr. Banks’ old governess is coming for a visit. She doesn’t seem to like anything, even Mary Poppins. Mary soon runs her off when she lets her pet lark out of its cage. The governess simply decides she can stay no longer.

Something else amazing happens. The children are told to stay away from the house for a while. When they come home they have a new baby sister named Annabel. Annabel can talk to the birds and hear the wind, but she forgets it within a week, all babies do.

The children go with Mary Poppins to visit her cousin who mends things, but it’s an off day for him and everything he wants to do he does the opposite. They must go and get a bowl mended because Jane broke it. After she broke it she was sucked into the bowl and was almost taken hostage by the painted people who lived there, but she called to Mary Poppins and Mary got her out, but left her brand new scarf behind. The cousin just goes all over the place and everyone ends up on their heads.

The children see a circus of the stars. They see the moon and they see the sun. All the constellations dance. Michael had wanted the moon. The children go on to have an adventure with some strange balloons meant just for them.

When Mary Poppins first came back she told the children she would stay until the chain broke. The chain belongs to a locket around her neck. She will not tell the children what is in the locket. One day they go on a strange carousel ride, of which Mary Poppins does not return from. The locket flings off of the ride and the children finally learn what is inside of it.

What I liked

Mary is up to all of her nonsense again. She definitely has a very interesting family. One uncle floats in the air and a cousin gets weird days, she’s also cousins with a snake. Who else out of the rest of us can say that? None of us.

P.L. seemed to have something of a reverence for newborn babies. I thought her little sayings about where babies came from was rather neat.

What I didn’t like

Mary Poppins is not a very good employee. While it is true that she does very good work while she’s around, she just up and disappears. It doesn’t seem like nannying would be the type of position you could just up and leave. It’s not as if it’s a job at McDonald’s making hamburgers. Mary Poppins is the caretaker of children and probably shouldn’t be randomly leaving and then showing back up.

Mary Poppins does seem wonderful, but if I had kids, I doubt I could put up with her comings and goings.


Why are these people so mean to Robertson Ay? Poor guy.

annabel, banks children, barbara, chain, jane, john, locket, magic bag, magic carousel, Mary Poppins, mary poppins comes back, Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers, michael, moon, p.l. travers, stars, sun
Books set in Europe, Children’s, Classic Fiction, Family dynamics, Fantasy, Fiction, Travers-P.L., Young Adult

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue ParkA Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Sudan is a place I don’t know much about, but in this book I learned a little more. This book involves two separate children, both living in Sudan.

Nya lives in Sudan in the year 2008. Salva lives in Sudan in the year 1985. Salva’s family is well-known in the area and somewhat affluent. This doesn’t change the fact that they leave the village in the dry season, everybody does. There isn’t any water there. They must go live around a big lake. The lake shrinks to nothing and everyone must dig for water in the mud. Waterborne illnesses spread rapidly.

Nya’s job is to walk to the lake every day with a large container to gather water for her family. She digs down into the mud to collect water. She does this day after day after day. Sometimes her little sister comes along, but after a time the little sister becomes ill. It’s from the dirty water. Some men show up at the lake and start doing something; it turns out to be something great.

Salva is in school one day when shots ring out in the village. His teacher tells the students to run into the bush, don’t go home. Salva joins up with a group of people walking away from the village. One day they stop for the night and leave Salva behind because he’s a child. Salva keeps going. He finds another group of people. They’re walking away from Sudan and into Ethiopia. Salva’s uncle happens to be in the group of people. They travel on. A young man around Salva’s age is taken by a lion. They keep going. Men attack the group and Salva’s uncle is killed.

The group keeps going onto a refugee camp. They eventually make it, but the refugee camp is packed with people. It’s hard to get anything and find anyone. Salva stays in this camp for several years, but it closes and Salva leaves the camp with a group of boys. Salva leads a group startig out with 1500 boys to another refugee camp. It takes over a year for them to reach the camp, but 1300 boys reach the camp.

A group begins to pay for some of the boys to leave the area and  go to the United States. Salva is taken in by a family in New York. He is able to go to school and college. He finds out his father is alive and is able to go and see him in the hospital. Salva begins to start a project for Sudan.

Salva creates a group that drills wells for the dry areas of Sudan so the people can get water all year round. The well drilled in Nya’s village was a project created by Salva’s group. Nya is able to have water because of Salva’s group.

What I liked

This story is actually based on Salva’s life. Salva is real. He does have an organization that drills wells in Africa. He spends half of his year in the United States getting money to drill wells and then he goes to Africa with his team and drills wells. Salva actually did go to the refugee camps and go with a large group of boys to another camp. The group was called the lost boys.

Some events of this book are fictionalized. Nya isn’t real, but her story was probably very much the story of many young women in that particular area of Africa.

I learned more about Sudan. I hadn’t known much of Sudan to start with. I knew it was a big country, but hadn’t realized that the northern and southern areas often warred with one another. I think Salva is a really neat guy. He’s done so much to help the people of his home country. He puts a lot of his time into this and has spent years on this. He has been able to help so many people. Salva started out at the bottom, but was able to create something really amazing out of his misfortune. Salva is a truly admirable person.

What I didn’t like

It’s sad that Salva was separated from his family like he was. I’m glad he was able to find that some of his family was still alive. It’s sad that the Sudan has been so war-torn. Families were separated and little girls have had to walk miles to get water. I’m glad that people like Salva were able to help the people out, but there is still a lot that needs to be done there.


I think this book was an effective way to tell the story of the Sudan.

a long walk to water, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, civil war in sudan, dried up lake, linda sue park, salva, sudan, walking to water, war in sudan
Books set in Africa, Coming of age, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Park-Linda Sue, Social Commentary, Young Adult

The Namesake by Jhumpa LahiriThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

I have watched the movie based on this novel several times. I actually own it. The movie departs from the story a bit, but most movies do.

This book is about two generations of an Indian family. The book centers around one young man, but we have to learn his back story before we learn about him. His mother is named Ashima. His father is named Ashoke. They had an arranged marriage in India. Ashoke was studying in the United States and took his new bride home with him. How Ashoke came to be in the United States is the interesting thing.

Ashoke used to visit his grandfather, who loved Russian authors. They would read the Russian authors together for hours and hours. After a time, it becomes apparent that Ashoke’s grandfather is going blind. He asks that Ashoke come and read to him. Ashoke begins the long train journey. On the journey he meets a man who has traveled the world. This man tells him to really travel and not just travel in his mind.

The train journey is cut short. The train crashes. Many of the cars derail. Many of the passengers are dead. Ashoke is alive. He was reading his copy of short stories, containing The Overcoat by Nickolai Gogol, a Russian author, when the train crashed. Ashoke is alive, but he knows the men will pass him by if they don’t see that he’s alive. He’s able to move just a bit. One of the men spots Ashoke and says he saw the man by the book move. Ashoke is taken to the hospital and spends months recovering.

He goes on to study and then get his degree. He travels to the United States as recommended by the man he met on the train, who is now dead. He marries Ashima and starts his life in the United States.

The first child born into the relationship is a boy. Ashima’s grandmother has picked out the names, but her letter has not come yet. The hospital tells the couple that the baby cannot leave the hospital without a name. They decide to call him Gogol after the man Ashoke credits with saving his life. Gogol grows. He gets a little sister. He doesn’t want to change his name. He grows up. He experiences life.

When he’s of a certain age, he decides he does want to change his name. He changes it to Nikhil, a name his family had picked out for him. He clashes with his culture. He never reads the book of shorts stories his father gave him. When Nikhil is still young, his father dies of a heart attack. His death sends Nikhil into a strange half-life. He helps his mother do everything and leaves relationships behind. Time moves on and Nikhil is eventually introduced to a girl he once knew. They hit it off, but things aren’t always pleasant. Everyone moves on. Nikhil finally has a chance to read the book of short stories that shaped his entire life.

What I liked

I’ll be honest with you, if I had to pick my name, I probably wouldn’t pick my name, but I don’t really know what I would pick instead. Names can have a big effect on your life. In this story, Nikhil/Gogol should have been using his name as a sign of strength, but he relied too heavily on the downfalls of Gogol’s life.

I liked how this story showed a family of immigrants finding their way in society in the United States. I really liked how they kept so many of their customs. It’s nice to have customs and traditions. For many of us, traditions are everyone arguing drunk over the Thanksgiving Turkey about politics. That’s what happens at my family’s house, but without the drunk part. There is no alcohol at our family gatherings.

This book just goes to show you that you can’t rely on family traditions and parental wishes alone. You have to find your own way in the world. You have to find where you fit in among traditions, but also in your own life.

What I didn’t like

Gogol is kind of a loser at times. He is. I think he’s too mopey. He should have been able to find his place in the world sooner than he did, but that’s life. We have troubles along the way and we eventually find a balance of sorts.


I liked this interesting look into Indian culture meshed with the culture of the United States.

books about indian people, gogol, gogol ganguli, india, indian culture in the united states, jhumpa lahiri, namesake book, nickolai gogol, russian authors, the nakesame, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Books set in Asia, Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Lahiri-Jhumpa, Romantic Fiction


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