Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Broadway Books
Release date: August 6th 2011
Genre: Dystopian/Science Fiction
Pages: 372
My rating: 4.5/5

In the year 2044, 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. But 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.

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be cool. Although I’m not the biggest fan of videogames I do love the idea of OASIS. It could be like going into your favorite book. I was really intrigued by the world, both the real one and the OASIS one. The real world is a mess, but it’s not a typical dystopian where there is a controlling government. It’s just a mess and no one knows how to solve it. No wonder people escape in OASIS where you can be and do anything. I would. Chances are you would too.
Also, there’s a giant robot battle. If that doesn’t scream cool I don’t know what will.

This book is filled with 80’s references; movies, music, books and most of all video games. I’m a teenager and didn’t live through the 80’s. I’m also not really familiar with anything from the 80’s. If you are, this book is perfect for you. But still, if you’re like me, you won’t be left out of things. Of course, there’s a bunch of references that you’ll miss but anything that is important is explained very well. And when you do recognize something, you’ll feel incredibly proud. Either way, it definitely didn’t take away from how enjoyable this book was.

The characters are very imperfect and because of that realistic. Wade is an overweight teenager who prefers to lock himself in his room than go outside. He’s very good at being a geek and does some very cool stuff inside OASIS, still his life isn’t glorified. Ernest Cline makes it very clear that the way Wade lives his life isn’t a good thing and one of the themes in this book is that real life will always be better than a virtual one. We follow Wade as he grows throughout the story and learns this lesson.
But Wade wasn’t the character I related to the most, strangely enough that was a character that died in the very beginning of the book: James Halliday. He doesn’t appear in the novel himself (because he’s dead, duh) but I did feel as if we got to know him throughout the competition he had set up.
“Jim always wanted everyone to share his obsessions, to love the same things he loved. I think this contest is his way of giving the entire world an incentive to do just that.”
Halliday is the creator of OASIS and is portrayed as a slightly crazy, isolated an obsessive person. But this quote made me realize that he just wanted people to be like him. In a way I’m the same when I want people to read and love the same books as me.

My favorite part about this book was the plot, It was exciting and fast paced. The world is used to its full potential and I finished it in two sittings. My only problem with it is the part after Wade finds the first key and before anyone knows what’s going on with the second one. I know it’s only realistic that it takes them so long to figure it out (after all no one knew anything about the first key for five years). But it still seemed to drag on and the romance between Wade and Art3mis took up a lot of pages, more than needed in my opinion.

All in all I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. If it hadn’t been for that one slow part it would definitely be five stars. I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for an exciting book that will have you turning pages like crazy. And of course to anyone who loves the 80’s. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: The Darkest Minds

Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release date: December 18th 2012
Genre: Dystopian
Pages: 488
My rating: 4/5

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

I am a sucker for any story about superpowers. If I had one wish I would wish to have superpowers. Aside from that I also like dystopian, it might be my favorite genre. So when I heard about a dystopian book in which the main characters have superpowers, I was intrigued. Along with all the hype this book got I was almost setting myself up for disappointment. Surprisingly that didn't happen. 

You are immediately thrown into the world in this book. There is no info dump and you continue to be a little hazy on a lot of the details until later in the book. The children with powers are identified by colors and it is never actually said what each color means. There are, however, enough little hints for you to figure out what each color is. The same goes for what Ruby did to her parents years ago. For half of the book there are speculations so you can get some kind of idea of what happened. But it doesn't take away off the big reveal. I really liked the way Alexandra Bracken doesn't treat the readers like little kids and assumes they are smart enough to figure out the details without them being expressively mentioned. A great example of show, don’t tell.

The characters in this book were so lovable and realistic. Our main character, Ruby, is more scared of herself than of the world around her. As the reader we can see she isn't a monster, but if you think about what she went through and what she saw and did, it isn't too weird she thinks this way. Liam is probably one of the sweetest guys ever and I have a weak spots for guys who want nothing more than to be able to be a hero for other people. 
Another thing I liked about the characters were that the villains were heroes in their own minds. You could understand why they did what they did. I hate it when villains are just evil for the sake of being evil. 

The only bad thing I have to say about this story is that it started out a little slow. It took a while for it to fully grab my attention. But when it had it... I'm really glad I read this when Never Fade was already out and in my possession because there was an open ending. So I will be reading the sequel hopefully soon and finding out what happens to the characters I have grown to care for.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
Release date: February 21st 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 359 
My rating: 5+/5


Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

This book had been on my to be read list for a while, so long that I had kind of forgotten about it. That is until my friend showed me the book he received as a gift. He’s not a huge reader and when I asked if I could borrow it he said of course. I gave it back to him two days later. If it hadn’t been for school I probably would have finished it in one sitting. Instead of doing that I read it during and in between classes.

The characters are definitely the most important part of this story. While I was reading it I really was living Ari’s life with him. I loved getting to know more and more about his life in little bits. Not everything about his past gets dumped on you in the first couple of chapters. We gradually get to know him as he gets to know himself.
Dante was just lovely. We see him grow just as much as Ari even though the story isn’t told from his perspective. Even when he’s not actually with Ari he develops so much through the letters he writes. By the end of the book they are both different, and better, people then they were in the beginning.

In a lot of books that deal with LGBT issues parents are one of the obstacles the character coming out has to face. Whether they are actually unsupportive or the character is just worried they will be. The parents in this story are the opposite and it was so nice to read about it. They knew their children sometimes even better then they knew himself. I don’t think I’ve ever read about better parents. And it’s not like they were perfect either, they had their flaws and struggles. That didn’t stop them from being great parents. 

The writing style in this book is different from most books. It’s so lyrical and beautiful without ever getting pretentious. I am definitely going to reread this book and highlight all the wonderful quotes.
The short chapters makes it feel like you’re getting to see the important moments in Ari’s life, the ones that changed him. I absolutely love short chapters, they make the content feel so much more important. And this author manages to say so much with so little.

Even though I don’t struggle with the same things Ari deals with he was so relatable. Because he isn’t always fighting against the world, although he doesn’t know it, but against himself. And to me that was the big message in this story. Accepting yourself is always so much more important than getting accepted by the world. 

I think it's great that this book exists, because there are a lot of books about gay teens getting bullied about their sexuality already. That doesn't make it easier for teenagers who are scared to come out. This book, on the other hand, is encouraging and shows that it doesn't always have to be difficult and that there will be people to support you too.