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review 2018-03-06 12:48
Ready Player One = Nostalgic Fun
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
She had raven hair, styled Joan-of-Arc short...Overall, she seemed to be going for a sort of mid-’80s post apocalyptic cyberpunk girl-next-door look. And it was working for me, in a big way. In a word: hot.

This is light, easy, full of '80s nostalgia and fun. An eighteen year old kid living in rough conditions IRL has essentially retreated completely into an MMG in the US in year 2045. He finds himself in a deathmatch with a huge evil multinational, falling in love, and fighting battles we can only dream of. He's conveniently brilliant, and we feel for him because he's charming despite himself. I once spent an inordinate amount of time playing an online text adventure game called "Kingdom of Loathing" - which is not at all like OASIS, but also very much like OASIS in that it lives on pop-culture nostalgia. That's where I first learned about this book.

Nevermind that. There's nothing amazing about this one beyond pure pleasure. I do wonder, if you're too young to have seen Monty Python or played on your Atari (I played Pong for hours on end b/c my father said we couldn't afford more games) or booted up a Commodore 64, would the book be as interesting or funny? I dunno. I really enjoyed this. It was like taking a bath in my younger life.

If you want to read this, treat yourself to Will Wheaton's performance. It's worth it alone to hear him say the following lines when it's time for the elections:

It was also time to elect the president and VP of the OASIS User Council, but that was a no-brainer. Like most gunters, I voted to reelect Cory Doctorow and Wil Wheaton (again). There were no term limits, and those two geezers had been doing a kick-ass job of protecting user rights for over a decade.

That made me giggle so hard - at work, while running statistics. Normally not a funny task.

While this book tries to broach some larger topics, it's probably best to leave those aside. It won't change your life, it won't make you think super hard. It may, however, delight you.

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review 2018-02-28 08:58
all the good adjectives go here
The Leavers: A Novel - Lisa Ko

"...to acknowledge his mother's regret meant

he had to think of what her leaving had done to him..."


I'd guessed The Leavers would be an emotional read for me, but I read things that hit close to home often. This one felt like it both got into and came from somewhere deep inside my bones.


To keep me out of this as much as possible, suffice it to say that my life has a lot of parallels to Deming Guo's. I was/am primed to be completely on the side of the child (Deming) here. I knew that going in. I was talking back aloud to the book when Polly Guo (Deming's mom) started telling her story.


Lisa Ko's talent is such that I shut up fairly quickly. She brought me around. She made me feel for everyone involved. Left to my own devices, without such nuanced and honest emotional portrayals, I would have actively hated Polly Guo. I would have made every excuse for Deming's behavior. (OK, I'm still going to make excuses for his young behavior.) The adoptive parents weren't as well fleshed out, but this was not their story. I'll guess some adoptive parents have trouble with this book, but Deming's feelings are true to my experience at least. He loves everyone and wants to please everyone. When you're the kid who is desperately needed by the parents who choose you, it can get sticky. When you need to know your origin story and your parents can't tell it or identify with it, that can cause ruptures and resentment on everyone's part. When all of your parents crowd into a space that's meant for a smaller group, the conflict can get excruciating. Meanwhile, adopted kids are told how lucky and unconditionally loved they are - all the time, when in fact, that's not always the way it feels.


The real gift Ko gives us is the lack of a wonderfully huge bow at the end of this novel. The answer lies simply in finally figuring out who we, as characters or people, are and finally allowing ourselves to be OK with that.


It turns out I could have saved myself years of therapy if this book had appeared somewhere in the 80s as opposed to last year.

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review 2018-01-03 18:05
Vivid worldbuilding with vintage vibes like a Wes Anderson film in book form.
The Wonderling - Mira Bartok

Disclaimer: reviewing a pre-publication digital proof via Netgalley, so not all images were available, some formatting and text may have changed,etc.


Reading like a classic children's novel, The Wonderling takes you on an illustrated, Dickensian journey of adventure, discovery, and identity.


The character who eventually becomes known as Arthur is a nameless groundling (a talking, humanoid fox child) in a nightmarish prison of an orphan's home. He's essentially good and proceeds through his adventures by being so pure, goodhearted, kind etc. etc. etc. that he wins out over the fiendishly unpleasant and evil cartoonish villains. So, like I said, classic kids lit. Think anything by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but with animal hybrids. Arthur is a bumbling but well-intentioned naif who goes about making friends and allies and more or less sailing through some admittedly hairy situations without much real danger or tension. Creepy settings, but not terrifying. Shoutout to his best friend, a tiny flightless bird-creature - she's an engineer-inventor and consistently saves the day and moves the story along.


The art is pretty, delicate, pencil-shaded drawings (though, as noted, not all of it was present in the proof copy). The story is slow, meandering and dreamy in a probably-intentional way. It's long (again, kids lit of the past-style), with masses of description, and will get varying mileage depending on the reader. If you adore illustrated classics, fantastical worldbuilding and simple, traditional stories, or your kid prefers dreamy fantasies of the past over fast-paced modern thrills, it'll be right up your alley. If you're an impatient reader, or giving it to a kid who's a reluctant reader or has trouble focusing, I doubt it'll hold your attention. Some good ideas around art, music, and hope expressed in a very simple style that either lacks in sophistication and depth, or is child-appropriate, depending on your perspective/age. I didn't adore it, but ten-year-old me probably would have happily spent the time to push through.

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review 2017-12-23 00:52
Fed up and gonna do something about it
Thornhill - Pam Smy,Pam Smy

Just to show how long I've had some of these books on the back burner, today's book was actually read around Halloween of this year. Thornhill by Pam Smy immediately caught my attention because of its stark black and white illustration on the cover (and the black edges of the pages). This is one of those times that the cover was not misleading as to the artistic style found within the graphic novel. Reminiscent of Brian Selznick, the art was done with pen and pencil and was entirely black and white. That definitely helped to lend a creepy vibe to the text (although it didn't need much help). This is the story of Mary, an orphaned girl, who spends her time making dolls and writing diary entries about her miserable existence at Thornhill, an all-girls orphanage. The reader is introduced to Mary through her diary entries which are read by Ella, a lonely girl, who lives with her absentee father next to a desolate, run-down building with Thornhill written above its gate. At first, it's rather confusing as to which point-of-view we are seeing and which time period we are inhabiting but I think that's done on purpose by the author. Both girls are very similar especially in terms of their circumstances i.e. they're both very lonely. As mentioned before, the tone is quite eerie but at the same time I felt that it was very realistically written. Alienation, abandonment, bullying, and emotional and psychological abuse are explored in a very interesting way. If you like Gothic horror with a dash of realistic drama then this is the perfect book for you. I read it at Halloween for the ambiance but you wouldn't be wrong reading this on a dark, stormy night either. 9/10 (with a deduction because creepy dolls are creepy)


I mean look at this stunning artwork. [Source: Macmillan]



What's Up Next: Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures by Ben Mezrich


What I'm Currently Reading: it's 3 days til Christmas so I'm all over the place

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-12-16 01:06
Where's a Sherpa when you need one?
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey - Diana Sudyka,Trenton Lee Stewart

When we first met the intrepid, orphaned quartet that made up a large part of the Mysterious Benedict Society we were left feeling that surely this couldn't be the last adventure that they'd be on together...and we were absolutely right. The whole gang is back in the second book in the series by Trenton Lee Stewart titled The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. (Note: A new illustrator, Diana Sudyka, has penned the drawings for this book and forthcoming books in the series.) The beginning of the book starts off with the kids separated and trying to live as close to normal as possible. The reader is once again following the main character, Reynie, as he heads to meet up with everyone on the anniversary of their last adventure together. However, when they are all reunited at Mr. Benedict's house they are met with a very unpleasant surprise. (No spoilers here!!) What follows is a treacherous journey (hence the name of the book) that takes them on boats, trains, and up the side of a mountain in another country. While the central theme of friendship and working together is still present, this book is much darker in tone and a sense of foreboding lingers over every page. (In some ways, it reminds me of the progression of the Harry Potter series.) The illustrations again accompany a portion of the text and even though it's a different illustrator the sense of whimsy is ever-present. Overall, very enjoyable and fun to see how the author expands on each of the characters personalities and abilities. (Constance plays a much larger role in this book.) I have to confess that I've had the third book in the series gathering dust on my desk at work (and a copy of it here at home) but I haven't felt an overwhelming urge to pick it up just yet. I have a feeling this will be one of the first books I get to in the new year. XD If you read the first book in the series then I'm confident you'll enjoy the sequel. 8/10



A sample of the new illustrator's style [Source: Kinder Books]



What's Up Next: The Time Quartet series by Madeleine L'Engle


What I'm Currently Reading: Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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