Tag Archives: coming of age

Ready Player One

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ready player

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!

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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 Nightingale

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nightingale

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!

 

Human Croquet

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human croquet

Human Croquet is like the offspring of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Grimm’s fairy tales, and a dash of Agatha Christie. The origin story is all Terry Pratchett magic with dashes of Jane Eyre and the wife in the attic. The story quickly progresses to that of Isobel Fairfax, a descendant of the illustrious Fairfax’s, and her painful coming of age in small town Lythe, England. Isobel’s story starts on her 16th birthday and continually moves back and forth in time to tell the story of her family as a whole and the decisions they made that shaped their lives and their worlds. The further Isobel goes into her own family’s past the more she learns about the past of the land she inhabits. Full of images of fairy tales like Bluebeard and literary allusions, a la William Shakespeare as a tutor to one of Isobel’s ancestors, Human Croquet tells a complex story of fate and how fate can play out over centuries.

The one thing that struck me the most whilst reading Human Croquet was how flawed human perception is. We really do see what we want to see and make up stories to explain exactly what we saw. Isobel does precisely this throughout the novel. She creates scenes to help explain and block out her own past, especially regarding her mother Eliza.

Eliza is probably the most interesting character in the whole novel. At first she’s not quite real. She doesn’t even have quotations when she speaks. She speaks all in italics like an all knowing seer, or what I imagine the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland. Her history is tragic and colors the entire world around her. Her absence is felt by everyone in the novel and as a consequence you as the reader feel it too. Her absence is where the Agatha Christie dashes come to play. It takes the entire novel to figure out what happened to Eliza and her end is just as dramatic and tragic as her beginning.

I can’t tell you how much fun this novel was to read. Just trying to guess all of the literary illusions was entertaining in itself. Atkinson has a way with words. Her sentences are beautiful and flow effortlessly into one another. I love how each of her novels has a facade storyline and an unseen one that you have to piece together yourself. Her writing is dense and full. but that’s what I love about it. Atkinson novels always make you think and second guess yourself. But isn’t that what literature is all about, digging and discovering what it means to you.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.

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!

Ghost World

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Ghost World

Well this was an interesting adventure into a new genre. The only other graphic novel I’ve read was the Persepolis series in college, which are fantastic. They tell the story of a girl growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution.

Ghost World is also a coming of age tale but with a decidedly ’90s American teen angst bent. Maybe I’m not the right age group for this graphic novel because it wasn’t my favorite. I did enjoy parts of it but it was hard to get into and relate to the two female protagonists. A majority of the beginning is just the two friends saying how much they hate everyone around them while simultaneously hanging around some very interesting/disturbing characters. And yes this does set the scene for growth later on in the novel but it also makes it harder, at least for me, to relate to them.

In the beginning, Enid and Rebecca are inseparable best friends from childhood who have no real plans for the future so they basically wallow in their lives and make up stories about those around them so that they themselves seem more interesting. It wasn’t until about 2/3rds of the way through the graphic novel that the plot became a bit more meaningful, at least for me. Enid decides that she wants to go to college which creates a rift between the friends because Rebecca still has no idea what her future plans are. Ultimately, they grow apart because of this rift and, at least at the end of this novel, are unable to quite put their friendship back together.

This was the most real part of the book and a difficult part of growing up. As everyone leaves high school, each friend is going a different direction and the things that used to hold you close together now tear you apart. The theme of impermanence in the world and in our lives was the best part of this graphic novel for me.

Has anyone read this graphic novel or have suggestions for some great graphic novels they’ve read? Please comment below!

Rating: 3/5

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

Bringing Back the ’90s

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Bringing Back the ’90s

This category was a tough one for me to find. The graphic novel genre is a lot bigger than I thought it was, which made it difficult for me to narrow down a novel that really interested me. At first I really wanted to read Fables by Neil Gaiman, because he’s amazing, but I could only find the second volume. For me, I always want to read the books in order whether or not they need to be that way. The ultimate decision ended up being what my local library had, which was Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. I remember when I was a kid people talking about this graphic novel and the movie with Thora Birch. But other than that I don’t really know anything about it.

From the back it sounds like this graphic novel is going to pack a lot of punch. It’s a coming of age story about two teenage girls who are facing the uncertain future of adulthood. Flipping through the book it definitely looks ’90s-tastic, which brings me back. I’m excited to see what this exploration of the graphic novel has in store. Happy reading!