Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Published: 16th August 2011 (print) / 5th April 2012 (audio)Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Crown Publishers / Random House AudioBooks
Pages: 374 / 15 hrs and 40 mins
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Format:
 Paperback/Audio
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

In the year 2045, 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. 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. 

I loved this story. I loved that Wade was able to geek out about his love of videos games and it was a widely supported thing. I also loved how Cline brilliantly and so creatively managed to combine popular culture and video games with a futuristic dystopian setting while also making it feel so retro at the same time.

It was a good move on Cline’s part to establish that Wade was obsessed with all things 80s. It made sense in terms of Halliday and it helped include as many references as possible without needing to explain it to the readers too much. Knowing Wade is the kind of stickler for details and knowing so much, it also made sense to have so many references about every song that plays or game that’s mentioned. The moments of convenience where Wade knows what something is to tell us, the uninformed reader, doesn’t come across as unbelievable because it has been long proven that Wade knows obscure details and is proud of it.

The world and future Cline has created sounds both amazing, terrifying, and also pretty much believable. The detail he included is astounding because so often it doesn’t mean anything but it expands on the OASIS universe or real society just that little bit more. I loved that when Wade was logged into the OASIS you felt like you too were immersed inside the virtual reality and I could easily imagine every move he made inside the system. Cline’s writing explains the futuristic dystopian world wonderfully and creates a vivid image of that society is like at both ends and across the country and how it connects naturally with the OASIS system.

There is everything to love about this book if you like the 80s, or are a fan of videogames. The 80s references are abundant, and the joy in reliving movies and games from a less technological time is brilliant. It gave me a great appreciation of how far videos games have come, even if a few of them were fabricated the familiar concept was there; creating avatars, inventories and points, not to mention the solving of riddles and treasure hunts. The other retro joy was remembering arcade games and seeing familiar games in the spotlight again.

The 2045 setting allowed Cline to take from both worlds, not so far in the future that a focus and having believable knowledge and access to 20th century media wasn’t possible, but also far enough ahead that based on current technology and gaming trends, it is also highly believable that we could get to that stage with minds like Halliday at the helm.

There are a myriad of surprises in this book, you never know what to expect because you don’t know what kind of world Cline has created and when anything is possible inside virtual reality, anything is possible. What I found interesting was that I actually found this quite believable. I could see that if such a system existed that there would be those who would try and monetise it and make it more exclusive. I could also see that when there is a mass fortune on the line people can get desperate.

Cline’s imagination is astounding. He has created a world and a virtual world that brings together so many vast and obscure references that even though I knew only a few, I still loved that they were there. I had so much trust in him that these games and characters existed I didn’t even question it. This is just one of the reasons I loved this book. It is so clever, and the OASIS is such a fantastic world that the inside jokes and references make it a better experience, and the excitement Wade has as he hunts for the egg is shared by the reader. Well, this reader anyway.

It’s not just the references or the structure, the characters he has put into this world make all the difference as well. The development and understanding of online relationships is wonderful and I found myself wishing that such a system like OASIS existed because it sounds amazing. Wade’s online connections as Parzival with Art3mis, Aech, and all the other online avatars demonstrates a great community and allows Cline to show off more of this amazing OASIS that he has created and allows him to show more sides of its functions, away from just hunting for the egg.

I listened to both the audiobook and read the physical book. The audio was read by Wil Wheaton and he did a great job. It was especially more enjoyable because Wil himself is mentioned in the book as well as multiple Star Trek references.  I like to think that even if you didn’t like or play video games or even if you don’t like or understand a lot of the references you would still enjoy this book. It has mystery and suspense, and there are twists and turns and surprises that make it an engaging read. Like a video game there are battles and side quests, and there are levels that you must go through even if you don’t realise it when you read. An important part too is that Cline keeps the timeline realistic, understanding that with all puzzles there can be short bursts and long waits, and Cline fits his story into this mould perfectly.

I think I could go on about this book forever but I won’t. I urge you to read it if it’s something you think you would like, even if you don’t think you will give it a go. It’s an adventure and a mystery and it’s dystopia all in one.

You can purchase Ready Player One via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

QBD | Fishpond | Dymocks

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Angus & Robertson | Wordery

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

Published: 26th August 2014 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Illustrator: Scott Campbell
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Who have YOU hugged today? Open your arms to this delightfully tender, goofy, and sweet tale.

Watch out world, here he comes! The Hug Machine!

Whether you are big, or small, or square, or long, or spikey, or soft, no one can resist his unbelievable hugs! HUG ACCOMPLISHED!

This endearing story encourages a warm, caring, and buoyantly affectionate approach to life. Everyone deserves a hug – and this book!

I love this book because it is simplistically sweet, a great story about a boy who just likes giving hugs because it makes him feel good and he thinks people will enjoy them as well. There is humour and heart, and it’s great to see the Hug Machine embrace (pun 100% intended) all manner of people and things in the effort to make them feel good. The Hug Machine takes us through who he hugs, why he hugs, and the ways he keeps his energy up whilst hugging all day long.

Campbell’s story is a delight to read but it is supported wholly by his illustrations as well. The expressions of the Hug Machine make this book because while the people and animals he hug may look confused at times, the serious and loving expression on his face while he hugs adds another great level.

What I love about this is that it is pure. It’s not moralistic or filled with lessons, not that some can’t be learnt from this, but it reads solely as a fun story about a little kid who loves to improve people’s mood and day with a hug.

You can purchase Hug Machine via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Fishpond

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

Amazon | Amazon Aust

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews

Published: 7th June 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orchard Books
Pages: 282
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

Note: I received a copy from the publisher for review

Ugh, my heart!

My heart!

I don’t think you understand, my HEART IS ACHING!

What have you done to me Drews?!

So they were the notes I’d written down whilst I read this book. Not much changed by the end of it. I was astounded and moved and just in awe of Beck. I hugged this book when I finished. Actually hugged it. I’ve done that with maybe 2 or 3 other books ever.  Before that I spent the whole book wanting to hug Beck himself, I loved him from page one and by the end I was ready to fight for him come hell or high water.

With the anticipation and impatience I felt waiting for this book I’m so glad it was everything I thought it was going to be and so much more. I haven’t felt a love like this for a character for a while. A true character who is a victim of circumstance, a true sweetheart, and a lost soul unsure what to do. He is brave and strong and every time we get an insight into his thoughts my heart swelled and my love for him grew.

Despite being Beck’s story, there are really four people that are the focus of this novel: Beck, Maestro, Joey, and August. Drews balanced their stories really well, even through Beck’s eyes we get adequate focus on their lives and stories that give them depth as characters in their own right. Nothing feels rushed or glossed over. Information comes naturally and we discover little things about each character gradually, not through clunky exposition or info dumps. Their lives are also perfectly intertwined back into Beck’s that it all still feels about him and his experience.

I loved these other characters too in their own way. Joey was one who had my sympathies and broke my heart as well for different reasons. Drews balances the 5 year old mind very well; Joey has no tact, she’s excitable, impressionable, but she is also a loving sister. There are times as you read when you have forgotten her age and with skill and mastery Drews throws it in your face and reminds you just how young and fragile she can be.

Drews use of language is fantastic, there are wonderful sentences filled with beauty and pain that encapsulate Beck’s thoughts and feelings. August too has some brilliant insights that Drews perfects in a single sentence. I have many favourite moments from this book but the single sentence “marshmallow with burnt skin” is my all time favourite and it is Divine! I read that and just thought perfection.

There is so much I want to say about this book, the language, the story itself, the ending, the middle. All of it was perfection in my eyes from start to finish. I don’t want to give anything away because the pockets of surprises and the big surprises are what make reading this story so great. I will be rereading this book so many times because while it crushes my heart it also makes me so unequivocally happy and who wouldn’t want to relive that over and over again?

You can preorder A Thousand Perfect Notes via the following

Publisher | Amazon AUS

Book Depository | Greenhouse Agency

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble | Waterstones

Hachette Australia

 

Bloom (The Order #1) by Nikki Rae

Published: 28th FebruaryGoodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 290
Format: ebook
Genre: Dark contemporary romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Given to The Grimm Order as an infant, Fawn was raised in a world shaped by the rich and powerful. When she was sold at the age of nine to a Suitor, Fawn believed he would protect her from the “Mainworld”, where those who know nothing about the Order live. Living with the cruel man who bought her freedom, she finds just what the Order is about: money, control, and status for the Owner and humiliation and abuse for those they own. 

Unwilling to accept the expectations of being Owned, Fawn goes from golden girl to maid, content to live in the shadows of the Order as long as she isn’t Owned again.

It’s been ten years since she disgraced her former Owner’s name, and now the brooding Frenchman Elliot Lyon wants her. Master Lyon is kind, smart, and unlike any man she’s met. She doesn’t want to admit it to herself, but Fawn is drawn to him despite constantly planning her next escape. 

Even the prettiest flowers have thorns, and Master Lyon is hiding secrets that will uproot everything she thinks she knows about him.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

Once again, Nikki Rae has delivered. I will admit I was wary when I first began reading. It’s different, it’s certainly uncomfortable and dark at times, but nevertheless, it is everything that makes Rae’s books wonderful.

There were some scenes that made my stomach turn, which is interesting because this is not Rae’s first dark, sinisterly book. Nor the first with such a dark subject. It wasn’t the concept though, nor the overall situation, just a few scenes that made me feel uneasy as I read. Which I guess was the point. It made my stomach turn but I couldn’t stop reading. My own heart was pounding alongside Fawn’s. My own heart was thudding in my chest because I wanted to know what was going to happen because clearly anything could. I was engrossed, I stayed up late to read, I had to drag myself away at the end of lunch hours, trying to read another sentence, another paragraph.

Rae gets us inside Fawn’s head as we plan, assess, and discover all there is to her new world and her new situation. We discover things about her past life and her experiences with seamless transitions and carefully placed words. I felt the touch of fairytale in there and I loved the society and its secrets hidden in the modern world. Rae brings us into this dark world and the grand forbidden estate. We’re drawn into Fawn’s new life and feel her uncertainty and her defiance, her trepidation but admire the inner fire that keeps her going. An important thing to note is that while it is of a darker sexual nature, it isn’t too terrible, but there are also a few scenes of descriptive violence. In context and in the world in which Rae has created it makes sense, but certain scenes were hard to read.

I finished the final chapter very late at night and immediately wanted to leap into the next book. Rae takes you on an emotional journey with secrets you may or may not guess, and moments wrought with suspense and suppression. Everything you think you know or guess will get turned on its head on a whim. By the end you wish you knew what to expect but are delighted and scared when the story changes direction and you cannot fathom just where this story will take you.

You can purchase Bloom via the following

Amazon

The Name of the Star (#1) by Maureen Johnson

Published: 29th September 2011
Goodreads badgePublisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 372
Format: Book
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Jack the Ripper is back, and he’s coming for Rory next….

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

Upon finishing this book I was experiencing a myriad of emotions and feelings that the first draft of this review was, for the majority, unhelpful gushing and exuberant praise. I was on a high of delight and amazement at what I had just read. Nothing wrong with that, but rather unhelpful for a review.

I cannot ignore though that a full 330 words were devoted entirely to going on about just how wonderful this book was. I experienced so many feelings and emotions throughout this book, especially during the final chapters, that I was on the edge of my seat and unsure where it could possibly lead, excited and impatient and nervous of what was going to happen.

I have been a long time fan of Johnson through her guest vlogging, her books, and following her hilarity on Twitter, but only recently have I been able to snag a copy of her Shades of London series which I have been dying to read for years. And can I just say I am so glad I finally got to read this because it is the greatest book ever! It is such a Maureen Johnson book as well. Her personality and own quirkiness shine off the pages and through her characters.

I strongly recommend you read this book, it really is all kinds of amazing. It’s a Jack the Ripper story like no other and it sucks you in and holds you while it simultaneously messes with your mind and makes you amazed and wide-eyed at the cleverness of it all.

The story follows Rory, a girl from southern USA who is sent to boarding school in London. She soon becomes embroiled in a series of murders eerily similar to that of Jack the Ripper. From there it becomes a story about murder and mystery, with a unique and clever paranormal element as well. Johnson’s writing is light and funny but also manages to be delightfully creepy in all the best ways.

The characters are unique and have their own stories to tell. I liked Rory’s charm in that she was a bit odd but she was who she was and wasn’t ashamed. I loved the differences between the UK and the US and the cultural clashes that are evident. I also loved that the story was slowly revealed. I revelled in the shocks, the surprises, and the delights. I made so many gasps and various other noises while I read this I’m sure people nearby were looking at me weird.

Other characters like Jerome and Stephen are wonderful. Jerome, in particular, is all kinds of adorable and while it took some time to warm to Rory, I loved Jerome immediately. I liked each character’s quirky nature and that they brought their own strengths to any situation. There is a wonderful sense of UK boarding school culture as well as a nice look at the streets of London through the eyes of a newcomer as well as its citizens. You get a taste of the culture and the mystery the old city has to offer and it is easy to fall under the spell through Rory and her own fascination.

When you read this book I suggest you keep the second in the series nearby because the moment you finish that last page you will want to dive into the next book right away. It is a wonderful story and it is a ghost story like no other.

You can purchase The Name of the Star via the following

Wordery | Book Depository | Fishpond

Dymocks | Amazon USA | Author Website

Barnes and Noble | Readings | Amazon Aust

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