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‚ÄĒpart 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! ūüėČ

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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‚Äôs got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he‚Äôs written a novel, but the manuscript he‚Äôs 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‚Äôs life is crushing his soul, but he‚Äôs 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‚ÄĒeven 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.

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.¬† ūüėȬ† Thanks to Jenn’s Bookshelves for hosting this event at the charming and wonderful One More Page Books!¬†

{Rating 6 out of 13}

Friday Finds ~ July 29th, 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, 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 wish list this week or I downloaded the samples on my Kindle from Amazon.com.

 

  

The Pirates of Somalia by Jay Bahadur
The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
 

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Summary ~ The Paris Wife ~ A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

Before reading The Paris Wife¬†by Paula McLain the only familiarity I had with Hemingway was the look-a-like contest held in Key West, FL every year and some of country singer Kenny Chesney’s tunes and his admiration for the writer.¬† Having just finished The Paris Wife I feel more familiar with the man but am left wanting to know more and feeling left in the dark a bit¬† when it comes to Hemingway.¬† He¬†proved to be very interesting to read about.¬†

I had the great pleasure of meeting Paula McLain and listening to her read from¬†and talk about her exceptional novel The Paris Wife¬†a couple of months ago at the 2011 Gaithersburg (MD) Book Festival.¬† As I started to read her book last week I could hear her effervescent¬†and charming voice reading her words in my head.¬† Quickly Hadley’s voice took over for Ms. McLain and I was happy to have her company for a week.¬† The Paris Wife¬†is a book unlike any I’ve read.¬† It read like a novel told in first person most of the time but at moments a biography about Hemingway popped up from the pages and introduced me to the legendary writer in a very informative way.¬† I found myself feeling like a voyeur into the city of Paris in the roaring 20’s and the lives of Hadley, Ernest and their very interesting friends.¬† I was glad that I had recently seen Woody Allen’s lovely film, Midnight In Paris.¬† I had never read anything by Hemingway¬†nor had I looked into the lives of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the number of other writers introduced in The Paris Wife.¬† Now I want to!¬† Isn’t that what a book should do?¬† Lead you somewhere else!

Regarding McLain’s writing I found the insight directly into Hemingway’s thoughts and experiences brought an additional richness to Hadley’s words and story telling.¬† At times it was heartbreaking to learn what Ernest was truly about but it created even more depth that was just so great to read.

The Paris Wife is an emotional, romantic, painful and wonderful book.¬† It made me glad that I didn’t marry a man like Ernest Hemingway!

{Rating 4.5 out of 5}

I Gave My Heart to Know This by Ellen Baker

Summary ~ I Gave My Heart to Know This ~¬†In January 1944, Grace Anderson, Lena Maki, and Lena‚Äôs mother, Violet, have joined the growing ranks of women working for the war effort. Though they find satisfaction in their jobs at a Wisconsin shipyard, it isn‚Äôt enough to distract them from the anxieties of wartime, or their fears for the men they love: Lena‚Äôs twin brother, Derrick, and Grace‚Äôs high school sweetheart, Alex. When shattering news arrives from the front, the lives of the three women are pitched into turmoil. As one is pushed to the brink of madness, the others are forced into choices they couldn‚Äôt have imagined‚ÄĒand their lives will never be the same.¬†
More than five decades later, Violet‚Äôs great-granddaughter, Julia, returns to the small farmhouse where Violet and Lena once lived. Listless from her own recent tragedy, Julia begins to uncover the dark secrets that shattered her family, eventually learning that redemption‚ÄĒand love‚ÄĒcan be found in the most unexpected places.¬†

Well my dear Ellen Baker, you have done it again!!!¬† I Gave My Heart to Know This¬†is an intricately woven tale of family, friendship, love and loss and it is simply amazing.¬† Ellen Baker’s debut novel, Keeping The House, is one of my all-time favorite novels and her sophomore release sits right up there with it.¬† This book had me reading when I could and even when I really shouldn’t have.¬† Baker’s mastery of character development as well as plot¬†twists and turns kept the pages flying and are what makes her so great and her novels¬†very memorable.¬†

Grace, Violet, Lena, Joe and Jago found themselves in tragic times along with many of our great-grandparents and grandparents.¬† The times were WWII and the U.S. was asked to make the sacrifice and help¬†its military overseas by giving¬†blood, sweat and tears.¬† Grace, Violet, Lena and their friend “Boots” joined the work force as welders and ship builders.¬† Relief from the¬†dangerous work and¬†long hours¬†came from Lena’s twin brother Derrick’s letters from his¬†military base¬†in California and later the Pacific theater.¬† On Lena’s suggestion, Grace and Derrick became pen-pals and soon star-crossed lovers who never met but made plans for¬†after Derrick’s return home.¬† That never came and from that sorrow and heartbreak grew lies, deception and more heartbreak.¬† The family never quite recovered from the loss of the golden brother/son who wanted to see the world.¬†

Baker’s storytelling crescendos throughout the story but reaches great volume when later generations discover hidden letters and secrets that tore the family apart all those years ago.¬†¬†The history of our nation is rich and told well in I Gave¬†My Heart to Know This.¬† Little¬†known facts enriched the¬†everyday¬†actions and helped create a very realistic¬†feeling¬†for the reader.¬† I feel like these characters truly lived there¬†on that rural farm and cried real tears.¬†¬†Though most of the¬†time the vibe of the book is sad and melancholy,¬†I was rewarded with¬†one of the best endings I’ve read¬†as of late.

I can’t tell you with enough urgency TO BUY I GAVE MY HEART TO KNOW THIS ON AUGUST 2nd and while you’re waiting for that day to come TO READ KEEPING THE HOUSE NOW! Sorry for “yelling” but I felt it extremely necessary. ūüôā

Thank you to the lovely, kind, friendly and interesting Ellen Baker for thinking of me when she received her galleys of I Gave My Heart to Know This¬†and felt the need to get one to me as early as¬†she did.¬† I’m sorry it took so long to finally read it!¬† I adore¬†her and our pen-pal friendship.¬† XOXO

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}