Monday, April 16, 2018

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

For too long I've had Ready Player One by Ernest Cline on my shelf to read. Actually it was on my virtual "to-read" shelf for a couple of years and then I bought it and put it on my physical "to-read" shelf hoping that would help me get to it sooner, but it still sat there for nearly a year. Finally I could wait no longer. With the film being released I wanted to get it read before it left theaters. Ready Player One follows Wade Watts, a gunter (or Egg Hunter) searching for the clues in a colossal virtual scavenger hunt where the prize is basically the entire internet. This scavenger hunt has been created by a videogame expert who is obsessed with the 1980s. This obsession plays an integral part in the hunt, requiring any gunter worth his or her salt to be familiar with every tiny bit of '8os minutiae.

This book will highly appeal to anyone who spent time in front of an Apple IIe or an Atari 800XL. '80s kids will love all the television and movie references. Anyone who enjoys role playing games is sure to appreciate all of the D&D module mentions. I was alive in the '80s, but I really consider myself more of a '90s kid. The television and movie references I mostly got until the author entered into obscure Japanese Manga; then I was lost. I didn't play video games or D&D either, but I understood their purpose in the book. I can see how my teenage son would like it, too. He's going to read it next. 

Honestly, there were times that I skimmed a few paragraphs when it got too detailed about the technical aspects of the games. Otherwise, I found this book very exciting and difficult to put down. A friend said her husband called it the best book he's ever read. I don't think it affected me quite like it did him, but it was good. I'm excited to see how they did with the film version.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo follows Lucy Carter Maxwell through thirteen years of her life after meeting and immediately falling in love with Gabriel Samson. They first day they meet in college is September 11th, 2001, at Columbia University. They watch the horrors of that emotional day together and a fiery bond is formed between them that seems to be unbreakable. Unfortunately, something that heated doesn't always have the smoothest of paths. Told in 2nd person, Lucy recounts to Gabe the history of their relationship, both the times they were together and those they weren't. Gabe listens with the most long-suffering patience.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it. Lucy is real and makes real mistakes, which makes for a relatable character, but some of which I really disliked. Gabe is passionate, both in his relationships and also in his career. Lucy is unsure who she is and sometimes what she really wants. I liked the 2nd person format, but there were several times it occurred to me that certain situations she was describing were not things she would be likely to tell a person not present on the occasion. She didn't seem able to speak up for what she wanted in her life, whether that was because she didn't know or because she was afraid to make her opinion known.

This book was chicklit, and while that isn't my favorite genre, it does have its place occasionally. For those of you who do enjoy a little chicklit, occasionally or more frequently, I think you'll like this one. It was a very quick read and it was easy to get into it. It would fit nicely in your vacation travel bag.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello

This month's book club pick is The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello about a woman named Caroline living a seemingly idyllic life in the Connecticut suburbs. Caroline has an adoring husband, two beautiful daughters, a lovely home, and good standing among the other fancy moms in the neighborhood. One day, after Googling herself on a whim, that whole life falls apart. How can there be parts of her life, great big important chunks, that she doesn't remember? What has she forgotten and how? Caroline begins to unravel as she searches for answers to questions that make no sense to her.

Unfortunately for this novel, those questions don't make a lot of sense to the reader, either. The author tries so hard to make it a mystery, to keep it exciting, that it gets annoying. Self-named "an unputtdownable psychological thriller" (what a load of marketing baloney- you can't call your own book that in the Amazon listing!), there is a real effort to keep the reader confused so that she will keep reading to figure out what is going on. I don't mind that for a little bit. I accept that it will take me a chapter or two to get to know the characters in a new book and get a handle on the plot. That's fine. What's not fine is when it goes on and on until I'm just irritated with the book and all the characters involved. That was the case here. 

I liked this book enough to finish it, but not enough to really recommend it. It was just okay.

Monday, March 26, 2018

What I've Heard- The Story of Arthur Truluv

I adore The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg. It is a sweet, wonderful story full of goodness and light. We all know there isn't nearly enough of that in the world. Today I finished listening to the audio version and it was lovely. Well, the story was lovely.

Normally I love it when the book is read by the author. The author knows exactly the right inflection to give the words; she knows exactly how it is supposed to sound. With this book, I kept thinking the narrator was kind of terrible and reminded me of a librarian reading a book to a group of children at story time. It was fine, but there wasn't enough drama, enough life in her voice. I was then shocked to discover that the narrator was actually the author. For the most part, I was able to ignore her voice and just listen to the story, but every once in a while it would really bug me.

Narration aside, this book just makes me happy. Like life, everything isn't perfect, but the characters make me want to organize a big group hug with all of them. And if you need a hug, too, you just let me know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What I've Heard- The Passenger

Two mystery audiobooks in a row and I'm starting to feel a bit paranoid around the people I see everyday. I just finished The Passenger by Lisa Lutz and I can feel the trust issues creeping up on me. When I first started listening to this audio version, I was a little disappointed with the narration. It seemed flat and impersonal to me, but as I listened I realized it was perfect for the character. Our main character, whose name we don't really know because she keeps changing it, wants to be seen as flat and impersonal. She wants to be forgettable. She makes bad choices and I feel like she makes a lot of mistakes while she's on the run, but it's really fun to ride along in her getaway car with her.
And I think I've picked up a few tips if I ever need to make a run for it.
See... paranoid.

What I've Heard- The Girl Before

When I read The Girl Before by JP Delaney last year, I really enjoyed it. It was twisty and unexpected and just exactly the right amount of British. The audiobook was just as wonderful. It was really fun listening to this book because it had been just long enough that I had forgotten a lot of the plot points. I could remember that something creepy was about to happen, but not what. And I had totally forgotten the major twists which was absolutely perfect. I was able to enjoy all the excitement without any of the spoilers. From a technical perspective, the narration was wonderfully done with each of the "girls" having her own voice. That really helped keep straight the alternating timeline. 

If you haven't read or listened to this book yet, I highly recommend it.

The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum

What if there really is no such thing as coincidence? What if all of those moments that just seem to fall together were intricately and painstakingly planned by mysterious people we never even notice? That is the wonderful premise of Yoav Blum's The Coincidence Makers in which we meet Guy, Emily, and Eric, members of the most recent Coincidence Makers Course. They learn to upset full cups of coffee, redirect traffic by means of construction mishaps, and cause electrical blackouts all with the mission of creating circumstances that are inevitably attributed to coincidence. How did those two young lovers meet? Coincidence. Why did that accountant leave his tightly controlled life behind to become a poet? A series of coincidences.

The reader mostly follows along on the missions of Guy, but the perspective alternates between him and several of the people for whom he is arranging various coincidences. These characters are wonderfully drawn and I loved reading about them. The only thing that left me disappointed was not being able to see how things turned out for each of them once the point of the coincidence had passed. That is, I think, the mark of a good writer to leave the reader wanting more of even the secondary characters. I also enjoyed contemplating how many events have to fall into just the right place for life to turn out the way it does.

I adored this book and I think you will, too.