BOOK REVIEW: Ernest Cline “Ready Player One”

ready-player-one-book-GalleyCatTitle: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: Science Fiction

My Rating: 4.5/5 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.

*Summary provided by Goodreads.

My Thoughts:

This book was amazing. This was a treasure trove of geeky, 80’s awesomeness and I adored it from start to finish. This was National Treasure inside a vast, limitless virtual world with references to a wide range of classic games, film, music, etc. This was absolutely perfect.

I can’t say enough good things about Ready Player One. The pacing was surprisingly flawless considering the length of the book and the time range/information that this covers. It’s a rags-to-riches story about dedication, quick thinking, clue-solving, etc.

The story starts with the death of James Halliday, creator of the OASIS, a vast and ever-growing virtual world, and lover of all things from the 80’s. He describes in a video made before his passing, a competition: whoever can find the Easter egg that he’s hidden in the OASIS will win his inheritance, which is sizable to say the least. Halliday leaves for the world one clue, and for 5 years, no progress is made in the search for the egg.

Wade Watts, our main character and total underdog, has no real chance of coming out on top. He doesn’t have the money to pay transportation fees to travel through the OASIS, which means he can’t do two things: actively search for the egg or level-up his character. The only world he’s allowed on is the planet where he attends school virtually; sadly, there are no monsters there to kill for experience, and there is nothing to search. All he can do is study everything there is to learn about Halliday, his thousands of obsessions, and master all of the video games he can get his hands on.

Then, by crazy chance, Wade solves the first clue.

What follows is a wild ride through the endless OASIS in a search for the egg. Puzzles must be solved, clues must be cracked, games must be won, and now there’s competition as other players begin to catch up. After 5 years, the game has finally begun, and Wade can now put to use all the facts and knowledge that he has gathered.

It’s impressive how dedicated Wade was to this game. He spent 5 years watching all of Halliday’s favorite movies and TV shows, playing all of his favorite games, listening to all his favorite music, reading all of his favorite books, hoping to find some clue as to the location of the egg. Wade doesn’t just watch/read/play/listen to once; he’s got most of Halliday’s obsessions practically memorized to the point of concern. Like I’m worried that this may have not been super healthy.

I can’t stress enough how incredible this book was. It was interesting and engaging and I didn’t get bored once. I was hooked from beginning to end, and never once did my enjoyment of the story waver.

So a minor complaint: it seemed that Wade had a way of solving clues at, like, the perfect time. He would always be conveniently listening to something or watching something that would jog his memory just the right way to make the answer become clear to him. It seemed a little too perfect, but dang I loved the story so much that I don’t even care.

Another slightly bigger complaint: Ernest Cline was such a tease with that ending! I was not satisfied by it at all; I felt like I needed so much more. I wanted him to give us a “6 months later” bit or something, but instead I felt it was abrupt. I wanted to know what happened after, so I felt let down.

Otherwise, this book is a crazy, wild ride. I’d recommend this to anyone and I think people of all ages can enjoy this, even if you’re not big into gaming or the 80’s. It’s a timeless story with some really awesome features, characters you can root for, and a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.

 

Ernest Cline: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Sarah J Maas “Crown of Midnight”

covers_244928Title: Crown of Midnight

Author: Sarah J Maas

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

 

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

*Summary provided by Goodreads.

WARNING: this review will contain spoilers for both the first and second books of the Throne of Glass series. Proceed with caution.

My thoughts:

This is it. This is the book where things start to get crazy. And we’re only at book two.

Sarah J Maas is a genius crafter and creator, her books constantly taking wild turns, revealing shocking secrets and being chock-full of action, wit, humor and feeling. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: her stories only get better and better. She one-ups herself every dang time and it is emotionally exhausting, can you please just chill, SJM?

I remember reading the book the first time around and being like, “Oh, this is cool, an assassin with a mysterious past and woah now, what’s this about summoning monsters and Wyrdmarks and what?” Then I read the second book and I was like, “Okay, cool, I know what to expect now, there’s some magical/supernatural elements and some creepy Valg things and HOLY CRAP, CELAENA IS FAE?” And it just kept getting better as the books went on. Every time I opened a new one, I’d think, “I know what’s coming, I know this world now, it’s all good,” and by the time I was finished, I was on the floor gasping for breath because wow.

Plus that huge reveal at the end? I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming, and I can’t say that lost princesses are a super original story trope. But you have to admit, that reveal was so dang satisfying. Chaol slowly putting the pieces together, the facts slowly dawning on him and the book ending with him finding out? It was brilliant.

The scenes under the library were so chilling and creepy that I quite literally had to read with my back against a wall so I could see the entire room. I don’t care that I’ve read this before and I know what happens, it’s downright terrifying.

I have to say that I docked half a star for two reasons: I thought it was sort of ridiculous that Celaena didn’t realize that Asher was playing her. It was obvious to me from the beginning that he was being shady, and so that whole part of the plot was frustrating to me. I also hated what occurred between Celaena and Chaol. Sure, should he have told her about the possible threat on Nehemia’s life? Maybe. But as the reader, I could understand Chaol’s dilemma and I never ever blamed him for Nehemia’s death. And Celaena is smart enough to realize that her newfound hatred for Chaol was pointless. Sure, it would probably have put a rift between them romantically, but she shouldn’t have wanted to kill him for what he did.

Also, where are all the Chaol-haters at? I want someone to explain to me why they don’t like him, because I honest-to-God don’t understand it. I promise not to try to sway you or change your mind, I’m simply curious about the reason for the negative feels!

This book series is incredible and I’m so excited for the new book and if I sit here and continue talking about it, I could type for days. Have a great weekend, everyone.

 

Sarah J Maas: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Cate Holahan “The Widower’s Wife”

51nKCFTyz9LTitle: The Widower’s Wife

Author: Cate Holahan

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

Ana Bacon, a young housewife, tumbles off a cruise ship into the dark and deadly waters. But did she take her secrets with her?

Investigator Ryan Monahan is a numbers man. So when his company sends him the Bacon case, which could net a ten-million-dollar payout, Monahan doubts that her death is just a tragic accident. But the husband has a substantial alibi, and a number of witnesses claim to have seen Ana fall. So the official ruling seems substantiated.

Still, the more Monahan uncovers about Ana’s life, the more he realizes how many people would kill to keep her secrets hidden. And the closer he gets to the truth, the greater the odds grow that he, too, will take a fatal fall.

*Summary supplied by the back of the book*

My thoughts:

I definitely struggled with this book. Typically, I love mysteries and thrillers, yet I found nothing intriguing or thrilling about this story. The characters were all flat, and while I sympathized with Ana throughout, it wasn’t enough to carry the plot. The writing was sub-par and the mystery itself wasn’t surprising.

The book alternates between two different points of views in two different timelines: Ana Bacon before her mysterious disappearance and Ryan Monahan a few months after. If done wrong, this could have become confusing. Fortunately, each POV gave up just enough information for the reader to get by.

Monahan’s job is to investigate Ana’s death for signs pointing to suicide. According to their insurance, they don’t have to pay the 5-million-dollar payout if it turns out that she killed herself. So Monahan interviews several people in Ana’s life, looking for signs of depression or any indication that she may commit suicide. Instead, he finds a string a secrets and strange behaviors, and it seems that the case is much more than he bargained for.

The last 50 or so pages were definitely more interesting than the rest of the book (which was a drag) and ultimately saved this from being a total dud. I still didn’t love the big reveal and found it to be a disappointment, but overall was happy about the way things ended up. Justice was served and good won over evil, which is always something I love. Still, I don’t see myself reading anything else from this author in the future.

 

Cate Holahan: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Leigh Bardugo “Six of Crows”

Six-of-Crows-Cover

Title: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

I feel as though it’s almost pointless to include a summary here for Six of Crows seeing as I’m one of the last humans on earth to finally get around to reading it. However, for those who live under a rock, this book can be described as a high-stakes heist story with six main characters told in 5 alternating points of view featuring magic, action, violence, romance and awesomeness. This book is set in the same world as that of the Shadow & Bone trilogy, known as the “Grishaverse”. Grisha are beings that have different types of abilities and are totally cool.

This book has the most incredible, fleshed out characters I have ever seen in literature; Leigh Bardugo truly outdid herself. First we have Kaz, the leader of our mismatched crew: he’s dark, dangerous, calculating and generally unfeeling. He’s also incredibly swoony somehow, despite being such a cold character. He has quite the revenge complex which is what keeps him from being very emotional, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling for Inej, his Wraith. Kaz saved Inej from a life of prostitution when he saw her potential. She’s sneaky, quick, light on her feet, invisible. So she works for Kaz to gather secrets and inform for him.

Then there’s the sharpshooter with a gambling problem, Jesper. So deep in debt, he finds himself working for the Dregs in order to pay back those he owes, all while his father believes him to be away at school. He constantly wonders what would have happened if he had focused on his education rather than wind up in the slums. Jesper forms a reluctant connection with Wylan, a newer member of the dregs. Wylan is the estranged son of a rich mercher, with plenty of secrets and a lot to prove.

There’s also Nina, the charming Grisha Heartrender who is hopelessly in love with Matthias, a Fjerdan. Fjerdans are very prejudiced against Grisha and believe them to be unnatural, so they hunt them, give them trial and put them to death. Matthias is no different and finds Nina to be repulsive… and gorgeous, incredible, etc. He is constantly fighting his feelings for her, struggling between the desires of his heart and remaining faithful to his country and his beliefs.

Together, this band of misfits join together for the most dangerous, impossible heist they can imagine.

Everything about this book deserves an A+. Five thousand stars. Just wow. The characters are so wonderful and Bardugo does an amazing job of giving us backstories to make us even more attached to them. I became immediately invested in each of these characters, their relationships, their livelihoods, their everything. I just want to hug them all and make sure that they’re all happy and healthy and loved. And of course, they’re all so morally grey, but you can’t help but adore them.

The plot had me on the edge of my seat throughout. The writing was phenomenal; so much quotable material! Six of Crows was perfectly paced, perfectly executed, perfectly ended. And it had me dying to read Crooked Kingdom as soon as possible.

Honestly, I can’t believe it took me so long to finally read this book to completion. What an absolutely stunning, incredible read. Leigh Bardugo deserves all the praise in the world. Wow.

 

Leigh Bardugo: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: C.J. Redwine “Defiance”

11410430Title: Defiance

Author: C.J. Redwine

Genre: Dystopian

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

In this post-apocalyptic world, monsters roam due to a company drilling too far into the Earth’s surface, unleashing madness. Military is decimated, government disbanded. Their hope lies with a small group of soldiers and scientists who attempt to take down the beasts on their home turf, but their plan fails. Instead, those left set up walled city-states to protect any surviving citizens.

The “Commander” is in charge of Baalboden, where Rachel (and at one time, her father) lives. Except Rachel’s father, a courier, has been missing for over 60 days; long enough to declare him officially dead. She doesn’t believe this for a second, but in the meantime she must be given a new Protector. Unfortunately, according to her father’s will, instead of being put under the care of her surrogate grandfather, Oliver, she’s meant to stay with Logan.

Logan, her father’s apprentice, the boy Rachel declared her love for two years previous, and the one who rejected her.

My thoughts:

Is there such a thing as a “fluffy” dystopian? Because that’s exactly how I would describe Defiance.

Don’t read this if you want to have your mind blown, because Defiance will not. Don’t read this if you’re looking for a solid plot, because Defiance is riddled with holes. Don’t read this if you want to read something with intelligent dialogue, because Defiance is all about angst-ridden teenagers in love.

But boy, did I have fun.

This book is honestly ridiculous; and the more reviews that I read, the more I realize how ridiculous it is. It checks off every single item on the YA trope list: female MC who doesn’t know she’s actually a supermodel (also she can fight). Teenage boy love interest who’s super protective. Character deaths that incite rebellion. Antagonist who’s evil just for funzies. Lots and lots and lots of angst. Yet for some odd reason, I found myself glued to the pages.

I guess sometimes, everyone needs a break. Everyone needs to read a mind-numbing dystopian to make you feel grounded.

This book isn’t all bad. After all, I gave this almost 4 stars, and not just because it killed my brain cells. I truly enjoyed aspects of the story, and I really did think that Logan was precious. He’s the post-apocalyptic geek; extremely smart and good with gadgets. Also, reading from his POV was actually quite entertaining, as opposed to reading from Rachel’s POV, which was either “OMG, I can’t do life anymore” or *stab, stab, kill, kill*.

I know I’m not making this book sound very appealing; I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to rag on it a bit. To be perfectly honest, the world-building leaves much to be desired, and Rachel and Logan do some really stupid things throughout the book. That being said, I still enjoyed their relationship and the way it plays out, and I loved the pacing. It was easy for me to stay engaged to the story and keep reading.

I’ll definitely be finishing this trilogy because I’m interested to see what happens. I see a love triangle forming in the future so we’ll be able to check that off our trope list and I can die happy. Defiance doesn’t break down any barriers or push the boundaries of YA fiction, but it can certainly be a good time if you let it.

 

C.J. Redwine: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Ashley Poston “Heart of Iron”

35422236Title: Heart of Iron

Author: Ashley Poston

Genre: Science Fiction

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

Ashley Poston, author of Geekerella, takes us on a science fiction adventure described as Anastasia-meets-Firefly (two of my favorite things). Ana is desperate to fix her best friend/robot/secret love of her life but is missing an essential piece; a piece she is willing to do dangerous things for.

Robb, meanwhile, is going in the same direction, but for very different reasons. He’s trying to find his father who went missing 7 years ago. Ana and Robb’s paths cross on their way to the Tsarina where they hope to find what they’re looking for. Instead, they become fugitives on the run from the empire and are forced to work together.

My thoughts:

This was rough.

Ashley Poston is an amazing person. I loved Geekerella more than words can say, and learning that Heart of Iron was being pitched as an Anastasia retelling made me happier than words can say. Anastasia has been a long-running obsession in my lifetime and there are very few movies/conspiracy theories that I love more.

Anastasia in space? Sign me up. Anastasia meets Firefly? Cue the tears.

Yet this was not at all what I thought it was going to be. And I can’t decide if it’s more mine or Poston’s fault.

I don’t want to say that the book was bad, because it wasn’t. And just because it wasn’t what I expected doesn’t mean that some other Anastasia-loving reader wouldn’t enjoy this. Unfortunately for me, this book just missed the magic of the original Anastasia story, and this made me incredibly sad.

And it sucks, guys, because I’ve been looking forward to this book for months. There’s no one on the planet who was more excited for this book release. It was just missing something.

I tried desperately to find Dimitri in the midst of this star-studded story, yet only found myself confused and conflicted by the human/robot romance. The secondary characters were a fresh inclusion, but the instalove was real and the character development almost nonexistent.

As for the relationship between Ana and her grandmother, I found that to be one of the most beautiful parts of the original story: the family reunion. Yet here, the Grand Duchess was cold and ignorant and insensitive to Ana’s past and there was no heartwarming coming-together.

Ana was revealed to be the lost princess about halfway through the book, which is fine I suppose. Well, it would have been. Yet after we discover Ana’s surprising heritage, it seemed like the rest of the story fell apart.

I struggled hard with this story. I didn’t want to compare it too much with the original Anastasia movie, especially once I realized that Poston’s retelling was much looser than I had anticipated. Yet even after I chose to ignore all the things that I felt didn’t quite meet the mark, the basic story itself seemed weak.

Overall, I wanted so badly to enjoy this book, and I will still continue with the series. However, it definitely wasn’t what I hoped it would be, and the end result fell short.

 

Ashley Poston: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Leonard Durso “Instanbul Days, Instanbul Nights”

51oGTLiumOL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Istanbul Days, Istanbul Nights

Author: Leonard Durso

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

 

This book was sent to me courtesy of Smith Publicity; thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to read and review this story!

A Shakespeare-like tale of love, loss and life set in Istanbul, this story is one that will punch you in the gut. However, you may also find it healing.

One word of advice: don’t go into this book expecting a Romeo & Juliet retelling, because it’s not really. While described as such, I couldn’t really see the similarities. The characters, mostly all faculty at a school in Istanbul, work to put on a Romeo & Juliet performance with a modern twist to it, but never is this actual story meant to be a re-imagining.

The way this was written was very peculiar; in some ways good and in others bad. The tone was lyrical and everything was described beautifully, yet I felt a disconnect at some points because there was some poor sentence structure. It switches among the massive cast of characters and gives you a good feel for them all, but sometimes it becomes confusing. This also makes it difficult for the reader to really get to know any of the characters fully.

You could tell that the author either did plenty of research or most likely spent some time in Istanbul because Durso’s descriptions were vibrant and alive. I felt like I was there and that’s a really special thing to achieve. The setting was lovely and on paper, poetic.

All in all, this book didn’t connect with me like I hoped it would, but it features a diverse cast in a beautiful setting. Just because I didn’t get as much out of the experience as I’d hoped doesn’t mean that someone else won’t find something meaningful and special about it. If you enjoy rich storytelling, diverse characters and unique writing styles, give this a try!

 

Leonard Durso: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Samira Ahmed “Love, Hate and Other Filters”

9781616959555Title: Love, Hate and Other Filters

Author: Samira Ahmed

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

Maya Aziz is an Indian-American teenager. She feels the pressure from her parents to meet a nice Muslim boy who will marry her. She feels the aggression from a good population of the world that assumes she’s a terrorist. And she feels torn between staying true to her culture and staying true to her heart.

My thoughts:

Maybe I just need to take a break from contemporaries because I was having none of the romance in this book. I can’t decide if this is because I’ve grown tired of romance, or if the romance in this book was tired. It had similar vibes as When Dimple Met Rishi, but I’m surprised that I actually enjoyed Dimple more. The romance was much more authentic, believe it or not.

I had such a hard time connecting with any of these characters. I appreciated Maya’s humor but it seemed to be her only personality trait. That and crying. And it seems like with any story like this, they’re all the same. The Indian son/daughter wants to be a coder, an artist, a comedian, a filmmaker, and the Indian parents want them to become a doctor or a lawyer. There didn’t seem to be anything special about Maya and her situation.

And like with any story dealing with Indian culture, the character struggles between pursuing the good, Indian partner or someone less than ideal but someone they have a true connection with.

Love, Hate and Other Filters didn’t feel distinct enough to stand out among the hundreds of other stories like this one. I hoped this would be more like The Big Sick movie and less like When Dimple Met Rishi. I was disappointed on both fronts.

This book tried to deal with other social issues and racial tensions, but really, this was a love triangle through and through. And not a successful one at that.

 

Samira Ahmed: WebsiteTwitter | Instagram | Goodreads