Category Archives: coming of age

Ready Player One

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This novel is pure nostalgia in a lot of ways. While I didn’t grow up in the ’80’s, the movies, music, and television from that era are so pervasive in American society and pop culture. John Hughes movies are still shown on television as are TV shows like Family Ties and Square Pegs. Turn on any classic rock station and you can find Pat Benatar and Foreigner. I really enjoyed reliving many of the classics I grew up watching and finding out new ones. Ernest Cline knows the decade well.

I loved how the novel incorporated so many elements. It’s like playing a real video game at times in your head as the characters battle it out in the OASIS. The theme of the blurring of reality and fantasy was so well done. And is just as pervasive in our world. This is the reason many people read. To escape their own reality for a little while and enter someone else’s. And in the OASIS, that’s exactly what happens. Your world erases and you are allowed to build a new one. You can create a character to be anything you want. There are no limitations.

That is why, in Cline’s Ready Player One, the OASIS is so popular. The real world around them has crumbled and they’ve retreated into the comfort of the OASIS. Enter the main character Wade, better known as Parzival. He’s a self made gunter, a person hunting for Halliday’s famed Easter Egg and his fortune. Halliday was the creator of the OASIS and when he died he left behind him the greatest game he ever made, the hunt for the Egg and for his massive fortune.

During the journey for the Egg, Wade begins to realize that perhaps virtual reality is not all it’s cracked up to be. Nowhere is perfect. It may be easier to hide behind your avatar but rarely does the easy path lead to change.

Rating: 4.5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Pop Reading Challenge. Happy reading!

Coming Soon!

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Next up in the Pop Reading Challenge is a book that is going to be an upcoming movie. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to read for this challenge. A lot of the “books becoming movies” I’ve read before or came out last year. Finally I found Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. When I worked in my local bookstore we could not keep this book on the shelves. Customer after customer would tell me how amazing the novel was and how much they liked it. I finally got my hands on a copy of my own and decided why not.

The premise of the novel sounds spectacular. I love the ’80s, though I haven’t played many video games myself. I can’t wait to see how ’80’s pop culture is incorporated into the novel and what quest the characters will find themselves on.

Stay tuned for the full review of Ready Player One. Happy reading!

The Library at Mount Char

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Wow, just wow. This was honestly like no book I’ve ever read. At first I didn’t know if I liked it or was just confounded by it. In a roundabout way, The Library at Mount Char is a story about creation, with definite biblical tinges. The world is now in the fourth stage of creation and ruled by Father, a heartless monster of a person who is training his “children” in different catalogs of knowledge. All of these children and their father live in the Library, a kind of metaphysical limbo. Each child is in charge of their own catalog and cannot share or will face extreme punishment. The catalogs are wide and varied from mathematics to resurrection.

The story itself starts off with a bang. You’re introduced to Carolyn who is walking the street covered in blood. So many, seemingly unconnected things, happen in the beginning. It’s not until you get closer to the end that you see what the novel is about.

Carolyn is the central figure. She’s the key to unlocking this mystery. But it’s a kind of slow burn to figure out how everything ties together and how these gruesome events all serve a greater purpose.

By the end of the novel, I was devouring the pages. I couldn’t wait to see how the story unfolded and see how much Carolyn grew throughout. Even as smart as she is, Carolyn has important things to learn if she is to control her destiny in a positive way.

This novel reminded me very much of the Golden Compass trilogy. Not so much the story line but in the dealing of large and weighted topics. In the destruction of the world and the building of new beliefs.

Rating: 4.5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment in the Pop Reading Challenge. Happy reading!

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen

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The-Appearance-of-Annie-van-Sinderen-by-Katherine-Howe

Memory is an elusive thing. Do you ever remember a thing exactly as it happened? Or do you remember it the way you want it remembered?

That’s the main question posed by The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen. And it’s a good one. Can you really rely on your own memory of events? It’s undoubtedly skewed by your own feelings of the event. Can you trust a camera lens? Again, it’s all perspective. Perhaps a blending of the two lends more to the truth.

The novel starts off with Wes attending NYU summer school from Wisconsin. He feels much more comfortable seeing things from behind the camera than without. With the camera he has a barrier between himself and the world and a control. He can control the scenes he sees and the people that populate his lens. His life is pretty uneventful until he sees Annie by chance at a seance his friend Tyler is filming. Wes then has to hunt Annie down to get her to sign a release form to be in the film and once he finds her that’s when his simple life gets a lot more complicated. Annie has secrets. Dark secrets from the past that she must confront in order to move on.

I really did enjoy this novel. Though I do have to say the plot had quite a few holes in it that never were cleared up. And the “big reveal” is pretty obvious from the beginning. But I did like the way the story unfolded and the connection between past and present represented by the characters. I especially loved the idea of memory and how one little fact can change the way everyone remembers a certain event. How everyone remembers things differently and how memories are more subjective than we like to think.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next installment in the Pop Reading Challenge. Happy reading!

The Nightingale

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When I first started reading The Nightingale I was immediately reminded of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Both novels are very similar, in some respects. They both take place in France during WWII and deal with the German occupation of the country. Both are tragic tales about the courage of ordinary people who become extraordinary.

The Nightingale is a novel about family. Two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, have been torn apart by the tragic death of their mother and their father’s inability to take care of them. As they grow older the rift continues to deepen. Vianne marries early and starts a family as her way of coping with the loss, while Isabelle escapes from various boarding schools making her way back to their father in Paris before being sent out again.

The war brings the two sisters together again in their family home in Carriveau. Isabelle is determined to stand out and help the French Resistance, while Vianne is determine to hide in the background and take care of her young daughter. But naturally, nothing goes as planned in war.

The sisters soon find themselves doing things they never thought they would to protect those they love and find the glory they wish to achieve. They realize things about each other and themselves that they had refused to see before. And find out that maybe the other sisters’ way of thinking may not be so wrong after all.

Isabelle becomes further and further involved in the Resistance, earning the name The Nightingale. Vianne becomes a force herself trying to protect the children of Carriveau and surrounding areas.

I don’t want to say too much however. This is a novel that you must experience for yourself. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. I did indeed cry for about the last quarter of the novel. There is so much tragedy that is all the more heartbreaking because it happened. People’s capacity for hope is an amazing thing. Even in the bleakest of times there is something to strive for.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next, and last, installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

 

A Re-Return

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a novel that I started reading but didn’t finish. There aren’t many novels that I start and don’t finish simply because I have a compulsive need to finish every novel even if I don’t particularly care for it. In this case, I just couldn’t read the novel fast enough. I checked Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale out from the library many moons ago and started to read it but couldn’t finish in time before I had to return the novel. I’ve placed a hold on the novel and have finally got it back so that I can finish it.

I can’t wait to finish the novel and see what happens to each of the characters. I have a feeling that this is one novel that will bring me to tears. The other Hannah novel I read for this challenge, The Winter Garden, had me crying and I feel this novel will be very similar.

Stay tuned for the full review of The Nightingale. Happy reading!

I Am The Messenger

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I Am The Messenger

How well do we really know the people who are closest to us? That was the question that kept repeating through my mind on a loop as I read I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak. When you think about it, we really only know what other people present to us and vice versa. You never can tell the inner workings of a person no matter how well you may know them. Everyone presents some kind of facade to the world. And even when people throw out hints about who they really are and their problems sometimes we’re just so caught up in our own lives we fail to see those clues and hints. This is the world the protagonist of I Am The Messenger, Ed Kennedy, occupies. He barely lives in the present let alone thinking about his life in the future. He just kind of exists. That is until he begins to get playing cards in the mail with messages written on them.

The messages point him in the direction of people who need help of some kind, and Ed has to figure out how to help them. From domestic abuse to an old woman waiting for her long lost love to return to her, Ed finds ways to assuage people’s troubles and in a roundabout way his own. With each person he helps, Ed is forced to face the reality of his own life and his impact on others. And he’s surprised to find that by putting himself out there he’s not just changing his relationships but strengthening them and giving them more meaning and depth. The further Ed is pushed the more walls start to break down between himself and those closest to him. He begins to see his life and himself in a new way that is challenging and terrifying but fulfilling.

The novel is reminiscent of the movie Pay It Forward with Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt in the sense that by helping others you are spreading a similar message and will get other people to help those around them.

I honestly loved this book. Zusak has proven to me he is a great writer with The Book Thief, and this novel is just as good, though different. I agree with what I said in the beginning, especially after reading the ending. This novel feels very personal for the author. Ed Kennedy could have been him as a teenager. He even inserts himself into the end as explanation for why Ed was sent to help all of the different people around his town.

I Am The Messenger is an interesting twist on the coming of age story where the character is forced by an omniscient hand to  look around him and change his fate. He’s forced to confront his own demons whether he wants to or not and really examine his relationships and how they have affected his life and shaped his identity. But more than that, he can change the way he sees himself and the world around him. He doesn’t have to be what he’s always been. He has the power to change the way other perceive him and at the end of the novel he has the tools to take ahold of his own life.

Rating: 5/5 This is one book not to miss.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015! Happy reading!