Ready Player One Book Review

Ready Player One Book Cover Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Science Fiction, Dystopia
08/16/2011
Audible
374 pages; 15 hours 46 mins

Synopsis (from Penguin Random House):

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. 

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

 

My Review:

I’m going to sound like a total book nerd (which I am), but I LOVE being in book clubs. It’s a great way to meet new people, to socialize with friends, to make it a habit to consistently read, etc. But, my absolute favorite thing about being in book clubs? Being exposed to books that I normally wouldn’t pick up on my own. My encounter with Ready Player One is a perfect example of this.

One of my co-workers suggested this book for my work book club. I didn’t know much about the book going into it – just that it was long and it was something in the realm of science fiction. In the spirit of being exposed to something new, I went into it with an open mind and decided to go with the audio book title, which is narrated by Wil Wheaton.

Wil Wheaton

Credit: sciencefiction.com

So, as the synopsis described, Ready Player One takes place in 2044, where the world is very different from current circumstances. Most people live in dire poverty, so to escape, they log into the OASIS, a virtual reality world where members can do anything – go to school, work, explore, etc. Wade, our protagonist, is just a typical teenager who spends most of his time in the OASIS. The book starts with Wade recounting how the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, died suddenly without any heir to his fortune. Instead, he creates an elaborate treasure hunt. Whoever is able to follow the clues and find the easter egg will inherit all of Halliday’s money. Ready Player One follows Wade as he navigates the OASIS and the real world trying to find Halliday’s egg.

Let me start by saying that I was completely blown away by Ready Player One! It is literally one of the most EPIC books I’ve ever read. Cline has created a future with painstaking detail. Seriously the amount of imagination and creativity that went into crafting the OASIS and the real-life world that exists in 2044 is amazing. Also, Wheaton’s narration is incredible – he is exactly the person who should have narrated this book. He perfectly captures Wade – his enthusiasm and his frustration came to life with Wheaton’s voice.

The story itself grabbed my attention from the jump. Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt filled with riddles and quests? Think The Da Vinci Code on video game crack. Wade is the quintessential underdog and you can’t help but root for him. There’s a ton of character development around Wade, but even the supporting characters are well defined.

As I said before, every bit of this book is so detailed that you can’t help but literally lose yourself in the worlds Cline has created. The 1980s play a HUGE part in this book. Cline is a huge 80s buff, and so weaves in countless references – movies, TV shows, songs, bands, video games, the list goes on. I loved the feeling of nostalgia I got when Cline referenced a show like Family Ties, but even more, I loved looking up the references that I didn’t get. As I listened to the book, I felt like I was on my own treasure hunt.  

I gave Ready Player One 5 stars because it delivered on every front for me – creative & original story, exciting narrative, and a protagonist that I came to know and love. This book is basically Cline’s love letter to the 1980s, wrapped up in fast-paced thriller. Whether you’re into video/computer games or not, I highly recommend Ready Player One. It’s a story that will capture your imagination and take you on a crazy and gripping ride!


 

Next Up: I’ll be posting next week on my favorite book of 2015 so far, and the book’s author, who I got to recently hear speak at my local library. Check back soon!

The Kind Worth Killing Book Review

The Kind Worth Killing Book Cover The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
Thriller, Suspense
02/03/2015
Audible
312 pages; 10 hrs 18 mins

Synopsis (from Harper Collins):

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.

But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .

Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda's demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth.

Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

 

My Review: 

Whenever my husband and I have to go on a trip, I always try to find a good audio book so that we can listen along on the drive. It makes the boring road trips go by faster. We don’t always have the same taste in books, but he’s usually on board with a good thriller. So, I usually do some research on Goodreads, find a title I think we’d both like, and then order it through Audible. The last book I ordered for us to listen to together was The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson.

This is a thriller about Ted & Lily, who meet at an airport and instantly connect. Ted opens up to Lily about Miranda, his cheating wife. Lily then offers to help Ted kill Miranda. From there, the story takes many unexpected twists and turns. The story is alternately told from Ted, Lily, Miranda, and a police detective’s perspective. Lily’s narration also alternates between present-day and background on how she learned so much about killing people.

I enjoyed The Kind Worth Killing. The story was interesting, and I liked learning about the background of each character, especially Lily. She was definitely the main character, and I liked how smart, capable, and shrewd Swanson made her. Lily was a woman who could take care of herself. She didn’t always make choices I would condone, but still there was something to admire in how calculated and thought-out her actions were.

There were quite a few plot twists that I didn’t see coming, and I enjoyed how Swanson kept me guessing. The ending was great – everything seems to be tied up quite nicely and then Swanson ends with one last surprise. It definitely stayed with me and I found myself thinking about the book and the ending for a few days after, imagining what happened after the story ended.

I gave it 4 stars because I felt the story dragged a bit at times. This very well could be the result of the audio book narrators, but it was just a bit slow for me. The backstory on each character was great, but there were some sections I could have done without, mainly because I wanted to get past the background and back into the action. Still, overall I liked the book, and would be interested in reading more by Peter Swanson. I’d recommend trying it as a traditional book or ebook. Let me know if you’ve read it and what you thought!


 

Next Up: Check back soon for my review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline!

Bird Box Book Review

Bird Box Book Cover Bird Box
Josh Malerman
Dystopian, Post Apocalyptic, Thriller
05/13/2014
Kindle
272 pages

At a Glance:

Malorie and her children live in constant fear. Five years ago something began to wreak havoc on Earth. No one knows exactly what it is or where it came from, but once a person sets eyes on it, they become uncontrollably violent and eventually kill themselves. Most survivors, including Malorie and her children, never leave their homes for fear of accidentally encountering one of these mysterious creatures. But now, Malorie must find a way to get her children to safety, and that means going outside...where THEY are.

 

I’m back! It’s been an absolutely crazy six months, but I really, really missed blogging. So I’m back and going to do my best to keep putting out reviews for you guys to read. And I’m going to start with a book I read at the beginning of this year. Enjoy!

My Review:

So, full disclosure, I’ve been on quite the post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction kick as of late. Not sure why, but the genre has really hooked me. The genre has also caused me to stay up nights thinking “what if?” and “could this happen??” and “holy crap is the end coming?!”

the-end-of-the-old-syllabus-is-near

LOL. Anyways, Bird Box was the book that first got me into this genre. It’s a very interesting concept. Earth has been taken over by some sort of creature. And whenever a person looks at one of these…things…they go crazy and end up committing suicide. So now nobody ever goes outside without blindfolding themselves. The main character, Marjorie, lives in seclusion with her two young children. She has trained them, from birth, to use their other senses so that they can function extremely well in a world without sight. She eventually realizes that it’s not tenable to continue living in the old house they stay in, so the three of them have to venture outside to try to get to a safer place.

One of the things I like most about post-apocalyptic or dystopian fiction, is getting to learn about how people live. In this new world that they’re living in, how have the daily functions of live changed? By this I mean finding food, shelter, water, etc. I just find it fascinating to learn about how people persevere through, what may appear to be the most mundane of tasks, but in reality are the actions that make the most difference.

In Bird Box, the story alternates between present day and flashbacks. I loved this because you slowly learn the events that led Marjorie to be living alone with her kids. You slowly start to see the adaptations Marjorie had to make to make life in her new reality possible. You can see the progression of events that turned Marjorie from a fun-loving woman into a hard and no-nonsense mother. This alternating format also allowed for the suspense to really build. There are two very climactic points in the narrative, and I found myself racing through the book to find out what happened.

Overall, I really liked Bird Box. There were definitely moments where I wanted more…more explanation, more back-story, etc. But, I think Malerman did a great job crafting a suspenseful story that really draws the reader in. If you’re into that delicious shiver of anticipation you get from a proper thriller, give this a book a try!

Next Up: My recap of BookCon 2015! I’ll be posting about all of the fun panels I attended, and ALL of the goodies I picked up. Check back soon!

 

All The Light We Cannot See Book Review

All The Light We Cannot See Book Cover All The Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr
Historical Fiction, World War II
05/06/2014
Kindle
531

 

At a Glance:

Marie Laure lives in Paris with her father, the master of locks for the Museum of Natural History. Marie is also blind, but her father has, through a miniature model of their neighborhood, done his best to teach her to utilize her remaining senses to be somewhat independent. They lead a quiet and happy life, until the Nazi's invade France, and Marie and her father are forced to flee to Saint-Malo, on the Brittany coast, in hopes of temporarily evading the military.

Werner, an orphaned German boy, displays a talent for mechanics. He is given a place at an elite Nazi Youth Academy, where he is able to develop a radio tracking system. He is conscripted into the military, and uses his radio to track members of the Resistance. Eventually his job leads him to Saint-Malo.

All the Light We Cannot See is the telling of Marie Laure & Werner's stories, how their paths connect, and their experiences during World War II.

My Review:

Hi Guys! I’ve been so excited to share this review with you because All the Light We Cannot See is, by far, my favorite book of 2014! This book was chosen for a monthly book club that I’m in with a few girlfriends. I had heard a lot of good things, and as you all know, historical fiction is my jam, so I felt like this would be right up my alley. I was not disappointed at all! This is one of the most beautiful and unique books I’ve read in a long time. So let’s get into the review.

As my synopsis said, All the Light We Cannot See tells the parallel stories of a French girl (Marie Laure) and a German boy (Werner), their experiences leading up to and throughout the War, and how their paths eventually cross. There is also an ancillary story of a mysterious and beautiful diamond called the Sea of Flames, which has the power to grant immortality to its owner. Unfortunately this immortality comes with a steep cost – while the owner lives forever, those around him or her are cursed:

” ‘The curse was this: the keeper of the stone would live forever, but so long as he kept it, misfortunes would fall on all those he loved one after another in unending rain.’ “

So, the first thing I want to say about this book is that is has the most beautiful, detailed, and illustrative writing. I haven’t read anything else by Doerr, so I can’t say if this is just how his writing always is, but wow. Seriously, wow. At every point of the book, I felt like I was there, experiencing everything with these characters. I could actually see the bumblebee frescoes in the Hotel of Bees in Saint Malo. I could smell the seashells in the laboratory of the the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle. Here’s an excerpt where the author describes the seaside town of Saint-Malo:

“Saint Malo: Water surrounds the city on four sides. Its link to the rest of France is tenuous: a causeway, a bridge, a spit of sand. We are Malouins first, say the people of Saint-Malo. Bretons next. French if there’s anything left over. In stormy light, its granite glows blue. At the highest tides, the sea creeps into basements at the very center of town. At the lowest tides, the barnacled ribs of a thousand shipwrecks stick out above the sea. For three thousand years, this little promontory has known sieges. But never like this.”

Amazing.

One thing I noticed is that this is a very different perspective on World War II. Typically, in the WWII accounts I’ve read, the focus is on the 6 million+ Jews who were systematically murdered through mass genocide. But, what many of us don’t know is that the Nazi’s also targeted non-Jews: Roma (i.e. gypsies), people associated with Resistance efforts, homosexuals, and both physically and mentally disabled people. There is no consensus on how many of these people were also mass-murdered, as many records were destroyed by the Germans, but experts guess around 5 to 6 million.

What I liked about this book is that it shed light on these victims and told their stories. Marie Laure and her family were French citizens, non-Jewish, and were still targeted by the Germans. There were many reasons why Marie Laure & her father had to leave Paris, but I think one was that he was afraid of what the Nazi’s would do to a blind girl, who didn’t conform to their standards for the “ideal race.”

Werner, a German boy, was  not the typical Nazi Youth that we’ve all learned about. He knows he has a talent that is valuable to the Reich and leverages it to improve his situation and his future. But, he is also able to compartmentalize, and not become completely brainwashed by the Nazi indoctrination. As Werner goes through the Nazi Youth Academy, and later his military job, he questioned the things he saw around him. And that was a big theme, especially with Werner’s storyline: questioning whether something is really right even though everyone else is doing it. We know, based on history, that most Germans did not question. They absorbed Hitler’s propaganda, and perpetuated his atrocious acts. And while Werner did not vocally question the Nazi beliefs, he did not let himself get swept up in their frenzy. He knew that, in order to survive, he had to act like he believed, but he didn’t actually have to believe.

All in all, this is an amazing book. I can’t praise it enough. I highly, highly recommend it to anyone. I really think this is a book that could appeal to any reader. At 531 pages, this book may seem a little lengthy, but I felt that I wanted to take my time while reading, to really savor all of the prose. This is not a book you’re going to want to rush through, simply because you’ll miss all of the stunning details and imagery. Give it a chance, I promise you’ll enjoy it!

Of Marriageable Age Book Review

Of Marriageable Age Book Cover Of Marriageable Age
Sharon Maas
Fiction, South Asian Fiction
03/14/2014
Kindle
530

 

At a Glance:

Of Marriageable Age is the story of three different characters: Savitri, a servant girl growing up in British-ruled India; Nataraj, the son of a small-town doctor in South India; Saroj, a headstrong girl growing up in Guyana. How these three characters are linked forms the crux of the story, and takes readers on a journey from India to South America to London.

My Review:

I really wanted to like this book. I’m a big fan of South Asian fiction (I’ve enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, Indu Sundaresan, and many more), but I found Of Marriageable Age to be a really bad example of the genre.

In the beginning, it was interesting to read from the three different perspectives of Savitri, Nataraj, and Saroj. I was engaged in trying to figure out how the three characters were connected. But, due to bad writing/editing, it quickly because confusing and error-ridden. From a simple plotline perspective, the story didn’t make sense. I’m all about a plot twist, but Maas employed too many and the story became addled. The writing was very lengthy and I found that the story dragged in many places. In addition, I felt that Maas’ details were redundant, which added to the lengthiness.

Overall, I was not impressed with Of Marriageable Age at all, and would not recommend it to anyone