Audiobook Review, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One word sums up this book for me: NOSTALGIA

When one of the richest men in the world (on par with Bill Gates or Steve Jobs) dies, the contest begins. As the world’s most famous virtual reality computer programmer, he decides to leave his life’s fortune to whomever can find his “Easter Egg” hidden within the virtual reality world he created called The OASIS. Wade Watts, a young, antisocial high school student living in the impoverished outskirts of Oklahoma City, is obsessed with The OASIS, even attending high school via virtual reality. He is also obsessed with the contest, and has been searching for 5 years to unlock the clues to find the Easter Egg. One day, he finally stumbles upon the first clue and becomes the top scorer on the leaderboard. But he won’t keep the lead for long. There are plenty of people that would kill to get to the Easter Egg first, and Wade will find himself in a battle for survival and the ultimate prize!

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I also can’t go any further without mentioning the 80’s. The creator of the virtual world had kind of a think for the 80’s and there are no lack of references to 80’s pop culture. As an 80’s baby (okay, I was born in 1988, but still…) I loved the nostalgic feel of the story. It transported me back to when I was at my dad’s cottage playing Intellivision and Atari which were some of my favorite games growing up. There are also plenty of references to 80’s movies and music that transported me right to the decade.

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The best thing I can say about this book is that it was insanely creative. Ernest Cline wrote a novel that takes the reader on a ride through space, time, and reality. It’s really difficult to liken it to any other book due to it’s uniqueness but I would say the closest thing that I’ve read would be The Maze Runner. It was filled with really creative concepts and new ideas I haven’t read anywhere else.

It did have a lot of reference to video games, so if that’s not really your thing, you may not be as in love with the book as I was. However, I definitely would not consider myself a “gamer” by any sense of the word, and I loved it just the same.

If you’re looking for something completely and utterly unique, and unlike anything you’ve read before, this is definitely the book for you. The audiobook version read by Wil Wheaton was fabulous, and the narration was definitely engaging. It is pretty long (15+ hours in total) but worth spending the time if you have a long trip or commute. Highly recommended!

I cannot wait to see the movie that will be coming to video shortly directed by Steven Spielberg!

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Audiobook Review, Dystopian, General Fiction (Adult)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a really hard time finishing this audiobook. I’m not entirely sure if I would have had better success if I had read the book rather than listened, but I really struggled to stay engaged with the story line.

Set during and after an apocalyptic virus outbreak, the story was told from many different perspectives during many different time frames. Frankly, I found it difficult to follow with the constant change in time and character. In addition, for the majority of the book, I wasn’t quite sure how the various stories and characters intertwined. I will say that in the end, the story lines come together, but after being lost for so long, I still didn’t find it all that satisfying.

In stark contrast to my own review, I’ve read many other raving reviews, and chose to listen to this book because of recommendations from other readers I completely respect. So there is definitely a following for this book and a ton of people who really love the writing. It just wasn’t for me.

While I thought the concept was extremely interesting (I’m always up for an apocalyptic tale), I think the format of the book was the major downfall for me. Emily St. John Mandel’s writing was sophisticated and easy to follow, but for me, the story itself was not.

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Dystopian, Young Adult

Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley

Spaghetti HeadSpaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

So a funny thing happened one day while perusing my favorite book lover’s Facebook group. On Fridays, any member in the group can self promote by sharing links to their blogs, authors can advocate for their books, etc. I happened to share a couple of blog posts that week and Sarah Tyley commented saying that she really liked the style of the blog but wondered if I ever gave books 5 star reviews. Now let me start by saying, I’m somewhat of a tough critic. I generally need a book to really “wow” me to give it 5 stars. As a manager, I tend to think of the star system as similar to the employee evaluations I dole out every year. 4 stars = fully meets expectations. 5 stars = exceeds expectations. So imagine my surprise when Sarah asked if she could take the “5 star challenge,” and give her book, Spaghetti Head, a read. I happily obliged.

The story is set 100 years in the future in a post-apocalyptic world, and revolves around the life of Nell, a quirky gal who struggles with relationships, but above all struggles with the negativity of her (literal) inner voice. When Nell wins The Award, an “honor” bestowed upon those who are selected to assist in re-population of the Earth, she has two options: accept and get pregnant, or refuse and be reallocated.

Most of the book focuses on Nell fighting her inner demons. The title Spaghetti Head refers to the fact that Nell has “scrambled spaghetti” up in her noggin and needs to straighten it out. Sarah Tyley plays around with the concept of psychotherapy in a futuristic world, which was fascinating. The creative techniques and modern technologies described throughout the novel were thought provoking (i.e. could this ever happen 100 years from now?). The addition of a modern day (excuse me, “future day”) love story puts the icing on the cake.

So let me just say, if I could rate it solely on creativity, it would get 5 stars all the way!! Sarah knocked it out of the park with her imagination. There were so many unique and fantastic details throughout the story ranging from the futuristic timeline to the modern gizmos and gadgets at the characters’ disposal. I loved taking a break from reality and jumping into Sarah’s world. When it comes to the actual writing of the book, I would probably give it 4 stars. The writing was good and kept me engaged from beginning to end, but it had more of a young adult feel to it/may have been a little less sophisticated than what I was hoping. So all in all, if Goodreads would allow me to give 4.5 stars I would, but since it won’t, in this instance I will round up! 5 star challenge accomplished!

For any fans of Divergent or the Hunger Games, this would probably be up your alley. It has a very dysptopian/young adult feel and would jive well with readers that enjoy the aforementioned titles.

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