Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Summary ~ Ready Player One ~ At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

Are you ready to take a ride? Because that is what this book has in between its covers. A roller coaster ride into the future with some wonderful visits of nostalgia along the way. I can honestly say that Ready Player One is unlike any book I’ve read because it is SyFy and totally out of this world. It is like many books I have read though because of the human emotion and relationships built between the four main characters along the way.

Wade is just another teenager who hates his life, hates where he lives and wishes for something more. His sanctuary is a virtual reality where he finds peace and can be the best version of himself. This sanctuary is called OASIS and it is an online universe created by a mastermind software designer. The world has fallen apart because no one wants to look right outside their door. Instead they would rather live a virtual life in OASIS. Wade attends high school on the school planet in OASIS and his best friends are people he only knows virtually. Everyone creates an Avatar to meet their needs, be it almost true-to-life or something completely unexpected.

When Halliday, the designer and developer of OASIS dies his will is made public. It states that the first person to complete the ultimate computer game will win his entire fortune and control of OASIS. Let the race begin! Ready Player One is a wonderful story that takes the reader on a memorable and wild ride through the depths of an online world and into our past, specifically the 1980’s. From video games to movies, the challenges that Halliday created for the Gunters (honest to goodness Halliday fans who love him and all he stood for) and the Sixers (of course there are bad guys!) are fun and clever.

It’s not hard to understand why Ready Player One is a perfect read if you are a Geek, 80’s fan or just plain love action and adventure. Author Ernest Cline’s movie FANBOYS (2009) is a Geek fest of a film and a cult favorite. I agree with the critics who say that you don’t have to be a videogamer to enjoy this book. In my case I love to play the occasional video game (God Of War anyone?!) but I never dabbled in RPG’s like D&G, I love 80’s movies and music and I loved Ready Player One.

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}

Thanks Katie at Random House for offering me a brand new copy of Ready Player One to read and review. You must have read my mind that I wanted to read this! Also thanks to Mike at Books On The Nightstand podcast for you contaigous enthusiasm about Ready Player One. It’s all your fault! 😉

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

 Summary ~ War Horse ~ In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey’s courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer’s son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?

War Horse is the story of Joey and his master Albert.  They meet on Albert’s family’s farm when his father buys Joey at an auction.  Joey tells his story like other literary horses before him, most well known is Black Beauty.  Joey’s a wonderful spirit and narrator who finds himself sold into the British Calvary in WWI.  A scary time for any soldier, he is faced with devastating conditions, heartbreak and danger.

War Horse was published in 1982 and is a young adult novel.  There was definitely a hallow feeling to the story.  In my opinion, when compared to young adult novels such as The Book Thief (one of my all time favorite books!) and The Boy In The Striped Pajamas which both take place during WWII, War Horse is a very light read.  Yes it covers the difficult topic of war but it is an easier read by far.  Easier on the mind.

I had to read War Horse because every time I saw the trailer in the theatre I found myself crying uncontrollably.  I had to find out what happened in the story so that I would hopefully stop crying but I discovered this morning that even though I know that all ends well, that movie horse makes me weep like a little girl.  Hubby says I am not allowed to see the movie. 

I’m glad I know the story though and enjoyed Joey’s voice and liked the story that Michael Morpurgo set him in.  I would recommend War Horse for advanced middle school aged readers and with the film coming out December 23rd it would be a great opportunity to read the book before going to the theatre.  If you are lucky enough (and I have my fingers crossed that I will be) War Horse has also been adapted for the stage.  It is a five time Tony Award winning play in New York City brought over from London.  The most incredible attraction to the play is the fact that the horses of the story are life-size puppets handled by the most amazing puppeteer.  The visual impact of these puppets is breathtaking!

{Rating 3.75 out of 5}

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

 Summary ~ Domestic Violets ~ Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.

The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.  Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.) Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.

This is a GREAT book!  Reading Domestic Violets was such a wonderful experience.  I laughed out loud, gasped out loud and never felt let down by debut novelist Matthew Norman.  Norman brings to the literary world a wonderful character named Tom Violet.  He is funny, sad, confused, lost, brilliant and the kind of guy you wish was a reality instead of someone living in the pages of a book. 

Domestic Violets begins with Tom in a very intimate moment with himself.  He is facing the probability that he has erectile dysfunction and it is the funniest opening to a novel that I have ever read in recent memory.  Norman’s writing is fresh and vibrant.  The story is character driven and the reader gets to know some great literary characters.  I just loved Tom, his young daughter Allie and their little dog Hank.  Tom’s wife Anna is someone who I felt guarded against only because I loved Tom so much though he was not perfect himself.  Tom’s the son of a Pulitzer Prize (among other huge literary awards) winning novelist who he has placed on a pedestal ever since he was a very little boy.  The shadow that Curtis Violet casts on his son makes for a great story filled with relationship development that was so fun to read about.  The supporting characters and sub-plots were written so well too.  I never once had a problem with where the story was going and loved the twists that Norman sprinkled throughout.  I also loved that this book took place primarily in Washington, D.C.  Norman really used the city well in the book and it became another wonderful character.

I don’t want to talk too much about this book actually because I want you to read it.  I want you to hopefully enjoy it as much as I did.  Domestic Violets should be on your to-be-read/purchased list!  I also have to recommend a visit to Matthew Norman’s blog The Norman Nation

{Rating 5 out of 5}

I would like to thank NetGalley.com for providing me the opportunity to review an advance copy of Domestic Violets.  It is currently available in stores.

And The Winner Is…

… KEWHITE!!! 

Karen (great name by the way!), please e-mail me your mailing address so I can forward it to Ellen Baker and she can send you your copy of I GAVE MY HEART TO KNOW THIS

To everyone who did stop by Planet Books and enter the giveaway I truly appreciate your time.  I hope you will continue to visit me here and see else I’m reading.  I hope to have more giveaways in the future as well!

 

Friday Finds ~ August 5th, 2011

Friday Finds ~ July 8th, 2011

This was my favorite meme to put together when I get the time.  I like looking at the book covers and putting them all together.  It makes me want to go to the book store!  Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing fabulous book blogs,  Amazon.com, Washington Post.com, NPR.org, Books On The Nightstand Blog, The Millions, The Daily Beast and various other places on the Internet, checking out the book section of Hubby’s Entertainment Weekly Magazine and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that either made it to my Goodreads To-Be-Read shelf this week or I downloaded the samples on my Kindle from Amazon.com.

   

  

The Warsaw Anagrams by Richard Zimler
The Echo Chamber by Luke Williams
Once Upon A River by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Conquistadora by Esmeralda Santiago
 

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Summary ~ A Visit From The Goon Squad ~ Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

 

 

 

Pulitzer?!  What?!  Seriously?!  Okay, fine.  There’s always next year I guess.  A Visit From The Goon Squad was a cluster &%!@ of a book in my opinion.  I didn’t even start to grasp it until someone suggested that I should read it like I would a collection of short stories.  That made things easier but I continued to have issues.  Who is telling this story/chapter?  Why is this book getting soooo much praise, attention and awards?  Who is that guy?  Where did they go?  Scattered is a good way to describe the vibe of this book.  Now on the other hand I did enjoy some of the stories/chapters.  I related to some and was simply drop jawed at others. 

I just returned from One More Page Bookstore’s monthly book club meeting and this was the book we discussed.  It was interesting that out of the dozen women in attendance it was almost half and half on loving/hating A Visit From The Goon Squad.  It was an interesting discussion about the why and why nots of opinion and I gained insight on the book that I was lacking over the last few days while I was reading it.  “It reflects the scattered ways our lives move forward.”  “The disjointedness is what I hated about it.” “Those were some unlikable and tragic characters.” “The power point journal which is chapter 12 was my favorite!”  I did not like that chapter so much but will go back to reread it. 

I am torn on this book.  If I was giving it a rating based on the fact that it is categorized as a novel I give it a lower score (I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.com) but if I was to rate it on it as a collection of short stories I would rate each separately.  In that case, because I agree that that’s the way the book should be approached, I give it 6 out of 13.  There are thirteen chapters so that is where that number comes from. 

This is not a light read nor is it a book that can be considered an easy read in my opinion.  I think it should be read.  I think it should be questioned and discussed.  I don’t regret reading A Visit From The Goon Squad and though I don’t ever re-read books (except for Where The Red Fern Grows) I would heavily consider re-reading this one later down the road after a few visits from the goon squad.  😉  Thanks to Jenn’s Bookshelves for hosting this event at the charming and wonderful One More Page Books

{Rating 6 out of 13}

Guest Post & Giveaway from Ellen Baker

I am thrilled to welcome author Ellen Baker back to Planet Books!!  Today is the pub day for her sophomore novel I Gave My Heart To Know This.  Ellen asked me if I would host a giveaway contest for a signed copy of her new book here on Planet Books so of course I’m obliging!  In addition Ellen has written a post describing some of the research she did for her wonderful novel.  I hope you’ll take a moment to read along and then leave a comment on this post with your name and e-mail address to be entered in the drawing.  I will select a winner using Random.org on Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 so please leave your comment by midnight Monday, August 8th.  Happy reading & good luck!

When I was working as a curator of a World War II museum in northern Wisconsin, I’d been surprised and fascinated to learn that dozens of warships had been built on Lake Superior waterfront.  In the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, thousands of workers had toiled at several shipyards – hard to imagine, when you wander the ghostly waterfront today.  But I was inspired by photographs of the women who’d worked in these jobs to try to imagine it. 

Only after I started to write did I realize I had no idea what it really takes to build a ship – let alone dozens of them.  My initial thought was that my female protagonist, Grace Anderson, would fall in love with a man named Joe who came into and out of the shipyard each day on a supply train – but I didn’t know if a train had made deliveries to the shipyard.  Happily, by digging through records and consulting with the local railroad museum, I was able to learn that my imagined scenario was possible.  Next, to get an idea of what Joe’s work days would have been like, I interviewed a man who’d been a brakeman for many years, beginning just after the war.  He told me what it was like to slog the length of the train in deep snow and bitter cold; about the hand signals he’d used to communicate with the engineer. 

But what, exactly, would Grace be doing at the shipyard in the meantime?  First, I had to wrap my mind around the vast scale of everything.  Referring to historic photos of an actual shipyard, I wrote an early scene about Grace at my fictional yard in which she climbed up to the top deck of a stories-tall cargo ship.  I imagined the men working all around, the hot smells in the air, the noises of the machinery, the challenge of not tripping over the cables and hoses that littered the ground.  That scene didn’t end up in the novel, but it did give me the sense of how small a person must have felt in those surroundings – and how much work would always have been underway at once.

After getting the visuals in my mind, I hunted for details in shipyard newsletters, which included reports on everything from the various work departments to men’s and women’s team competitions in bowling, baseball, curling, and basketball – as well as intriguing items like: “The baldheaded boys in the front row will approve of the girls in the yard wearing sweaters, but the Safety Department doesn’t.” 

Next, I interviewed some local experts who answered questions that had come up in my research and shared some extra details, including the job of a loftsman.  I hadn’t known that the ships’ original plans were transferred into full-sized paper cuttings of each of the ship’s pieces and laid out in the “loft,” a football field-size room covering the entire upper story of one of the yard’s huge buildings.  From the paper cuttings, basswood templates were made, and these were taken to the punch shed, where men used them to cut the ship’s steel components.  I decided to make Grace’s uncle Chief Loftsman, so she’d be aware of what went on in that department and could share it with the reader. 

The more I tried to write about the work that Grace and her friends would have done, the more I realized I needed to learn (at least in general) the sequence of construction of the ships.  At the University of Wisconsin-Superior archives, I looked at the plans of the C-1 Cargo ships, which were being constructed at the local yards in 1944.  (The yards didn’t hire women until late 1943, so my timeframe was set for me by that fact.)  Also at the archives were copies of job orders, along with reports of official sea trials and of jobs completed.  These materials gave me perspective on all the many jobs large and small that needed to be done on each ship.  I began to appreciate the complexity of the process, and the choreographed way in which workers of all the departments (including shipfitters, pipefitters, pipetesters, outfitters, welders, burners, chippers, insulators, layout men, tank testers, foundation men, and on and on) labored together to get the job done right and quickly. 

From other interviews and sources, I got a sense of the mood of the time.  Most people said that everyone willingly worked the long hours and did the hard work because they wanted to do their part for the war effort.  They admitted the money was good, too.  A man who’d worked at the shipyard as a teenager, before being drafted into the Army, shared with me a copy of a novel he’d written in about 1950 about working at the shipyard, and his descriptions were invaluable.  Finally, the source I ended up referring to most often was a 20-page written memoir of a woman named Carol Johnson Fistler who’d worked as a welder.  I was able to borrow several incidents from her, including a time when she was assigned to crawl into the narrow bilge to make a weld and ended up sick from smoke inhalation, and another time when she was in a rowboat welding on the side of a ship and nearly fell in; she was rescued only by her foreman’s quick thinking. 

As I learned more and more, and wrote more and more, the setting of the shipyard became an adversary for my characters – the long hours, the physical demands of the job, the dangers … and, of course, the changeable, often brutal weather.  Another of my favorite sources was a Superior Evening Telegram article which describes May 1944 as “the warmest, coldest, cloudiest, foggiest, sunniest, rainiest, and snowiest May in several years.”

After studying newspapers and newsletters, ship’s plans and work orders and memoirs and interviews and manuscripts, I had to decide what could fit into my novel.  There simply wasn’t room for all I learned.  (I always thought it would be fun to have Grace and her friends on the bowling league!)  Notwithstanding my fascination for details, my task was to make them as unobtrusive as possible, integrating them into the background so the characters and their story come to the fore.  The research becomes like set decoration – only the beginning, providing the backdrop against which the drama plays out.