September in Review

I read 10 books last month, which I’d say means I’m officially past my reading slump of recent months. Though according to Goodreads, the total page count was fairly low for 10 books, and yes, some of these books are a bit on the short side, but it wasn’t intentional, unlike last month. (Update: 3 of the books I read didn’t have a page count for the Kindle version, which is why the total page count was so low. I had to reluctantly change my reviews to the paperbacks for those to get the correct page total for the month, which was quite a bit higher then. Yes, I am picky about the book I mark as read being the version I actually read. To a fault, almost.)

Here are the books I read in September:

Armada by Ernest Cline (2 / 5)
The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer (5 / 5)
Sadie by Courtney Summers (4 / 5)
Time and Again by Deborah Heal (3.5 / 5)
Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery (3.5 / 5)
The Shepherd’s Wife by Angela Elwell Hunt (5 / 5)
The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun (4 / 5)
Jubilee Manor by Bethany Hagen (4 / 5)
The Door in the Dragon’s Throat by Frank Peretti (review pending)
before i knew you by Beth Steury (review pending)

This list includes 2 ARCs. My favorite book from September was The Shepherd’s Wife. I finished 1 series, continued 2 series, and started 3 series. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: Armada

Armada
by Ernest Cline

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Science fiction

When Zack Lightman sees an alien ship from his favorite video game flying around outside the window at school, he’s sure he’s going crazy. He’d just be following in the footsteps of his dad, who’d died when Zack was a baby. Zack had found notes his dad had kept about a massive conspiracy that involved just about every alien-related movie, TV show, and video game ever made being used to prepare the world for a real alien invasion. But when he finds out that it’s all real, and so is that ship he saw out the window, and that he and other gamers are going to be called upon to save the world, will he be up to the task?

As someone who isn’t a huge fan of this type of sci-fi, I don’t have a lot to compare it to. I am aware of the similarities to The Last Starfighter, but don’t really remember that movie. Still, even I felt like this whole story had been done before, and that there wasn’t enough of a new twist on it in this book to make it fresh. In the end, I was left feeling like the slow build-up didn’t have enough of a pay off.

My husband thought I’d like it more than Ready Player One, though couldn’t explain why. I think it might be due to the fact that the heavy amount of 80s references in RPO were lost on me, and perhaps he thought references in Armada to Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. might hit closer to home. Unfortunately, they didn’t. This was partly because the references to things I actually know more were lighter than those to movies and games I don’t have much, if any, knowledge of. But it’s also partly because the references saturated the story so much. Characters quoted movies or games with no context, events or situations were likened to movies, etc. that I wasn’t as versed in as they were, and thus, I couldn’t get into the story like I was probably meant to. And in the end, if you strip away all of these sci-fi pop culture references, what do you have? Just a simple invasion story that’s mostly been done before.

Yes, there was a bit of a twist at the end, but it wasn’t that shocking or interesting to me. By that point, the events and narration had led me to a point where I didn’t feel like I could trust anything that anyone said, anything that happened. The truth that was revealed was even speculated by Zack earlier in the book, which made the reveal that much less exciting.

The only time I really remember feeling all that interested in what was going on was at the very end, after the reveal. The falling action and the epilogue…that’s what I wanted to know more about. But if a sequel to this book ever came out, I don’t know if I would care enough to read it.

Find out more about Armada

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday: Extraordinary Book Titles

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic this week was “Extraordinary Book Titles.” This topic is broad and undefined, so I went through my TBR and Read lists on Goodreads and picked 10 books with titles that stood out to me in some way. Whether they were comical, unique, or just perfect for the story, here is my list, in no particular order:

1. The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters
This title is ominous, and I have a feeling the actual book won’t quite live up to that. But it is initially what led me to check into the book request it on Netgalley. I’ll be reading it soon.

2. The Escape Room by Megan Goldin
It’s easy to explain why this title stuck out to me–I am an escape room enthusiast and worked at an escape room company for over 3 years. I know the actual escape room content in the book will be light, based on reviews, but I’ve still decided to give it a try at some point.

3. I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn
I love this book title, and I love the person who wrote it! The title kept her from being able to get it published traditionally, but it’s about dealing with PMS with humor, from a Christian perspective, so the title is perfect. I am looking forward to reading this when I have a chance to locate a copy.

4. How We Became Wicked by Alexander Yates
The title caught my interest quickly; otherwise, I likely wouldn’t have put much thought into this one. I am not really a zombie person in any medium, but I read the first few pages of this, and I’m planning to give it a go.

5. His Name Was Zach by Peter Martuneac
So again, I’m really not a fan of zombie fiction (books, movies, TV or games). So the fact that I have 3 zombie apocalypse books on my TBR, and 2 just on this list, probably makes no sense. Still, I’m going to give this one a try, hopefully by the end of the year, in support of a fellow new author. The name isn’t what initially drew me to this book, but I do think it has a nice ring to it.

6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I read this for the first time in high school, and remember how interesting it was to learn that the title was a reference to the temperature at which paper burns. It’s perfect for the book, of course, and I’ve always really appreciated the title.

7. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
This is another book I read in high school. My English class had read Hamlet that year, and then later read this play. Everyone knows the sacrificial heroes are going to die, whether because they know Hamlet, or because of the title…but they do make it entertaining along the way.

8. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The title of this book is a clear indication of the mystery found within. It’s a little strange, though, that the question of whose murder the narrator is supposed to solve seems like a mystery, for at least the first quarter of the book, and then it’s a big reveal when it’s discovered…but the name is right there in the title. Other than that though, good title. (Note: the original title is The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but had to be changed in the US.)

9. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Considering the subject matter of this book, and the extreme 80s & video game references, the title of this book is perfect. I don’t actually have more to say about this one.

10. Blessed Are the Misfits by Brant Hansen
This book for those who struggle with feeling like an outcast in the American church culture is perfect for introverts and socially awkward people like myself. And the title, borrowing from a section of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is clever.

Have you read any of these? What would you add to the list?

Book vs. Movie: Ready Player One

RP1 movie vs book

I watched the movie about a week and a half after I finished the book. At first, I wanted to watch the movie quickly, before I forgot details about the book. Only a few minutes into the movie, I thought it might have been better to have waited several months (or more) to watch the movie. Maybe forgetting the details of the book would have allowed me to enjoy it in its own right. I understand that movies adapted from books have to be changed for various reasons, whether that’s to shorten the story, to add excitement, or even because a lot of what happens in the book is internal (which would be fairly hard/boring to show). And there are other reasons too. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

In my review of the book, I gave it a rating of 3.5 out of 5. It’s intriguing to me that the movie actually gave me more appreciation for the book. I’d probably rate it higher now. As with other posts I’ve made, some of my notes about what I didn’t care for in the movie are personal preference. Some of them, though, are places where I don’t think the movie did justice to the book, or even where I felt the movie just didn’t do well in general. I am going to give my notes, but without too much detail, mostly because my list is a little too long to go into much detail here. These are by no means all of the differences between the book and the movie, just the ones that bothered me. Also, I’m splitting these notes into things that aren’t too spoilery (shown first), and then notes that I feel would spoil either the book or movie enough to give a proper warning for.

Note: There are a lot, so it probably seems like I’m ranting. Well, I am. Again, I am well aware that movie adaptations are often very different from the book. If you think I’m being unfair, that’s fine. I didn’t realize how many notes I had about this until I started writing them down, and I considered cutting it short. But in the end, I decided to keep them all (and frankly, there may be some I forgot). So read on, or jump ship right now; it’s up to you!

  • From the very beginning of the movie, the atmosphere didn’t feel right to me. When I read the book, I got a feeling of desolation and isolation in the real world, especially where Wade lived. People didn’t go out much, because they could do much more from the comfort of their couch (and because the real world was fairly dangerous). But we first see Wade outside of his “home,” and it’s pretty lively. People are shown outside a lot during the movie, and it just felt wrong.
  • The book was heavy in 80s pop culture references. The movie expanded that to just general pop culture, but even that was very light (I get that a lot of this might have been copyright issues, but it’s still worth mentioning).
  • In the book, Wade started out overweight (spent most of his life in a virtual environment, after all), but had a physical transformation once he gained the means to be active while also in the OASIS. There was no change of this sort in the movie.
  • Also, in the book, Wade started out completely destitute. The things he had to do to make any progress in the OASIS showed ingenuity and a real struggle. This was barely touched on in the movie.
  • Because The Hunt had gone on for years already when the book started, everyone who was hunting (called gunters) knew pretty much everything there was to know about Halliday, his life, and every book, movie, video game, song, or TV show that he liked. In the movie, Wade was explaining how he’d figured out a clue to other gunters often, and it really bothered me that he knew so much more than the others.
  • Though I said in my original review that the time that Wade was alone (pushed away his friends) was not a time I enjoyed, I realized watching the movie that I missed it when it didn’t happen. Most likely, that means I didn’t enjoy it because it was depressing (which it was meant to be), not that it was a bad story element.
  • I loved Ogden Morrow’s role in the book. In the movie it was kinda…meh (and it seemed like a waste of Simon Pegg).
  • It really bugged me that they called the IOI gunters Sixers, but had absolutely no explanation as to why. It wouldn’t have been difficult to explain it. Even not coming from a book, it was an unnecessary lack of explanation.
  • Similarly, in the book, the first 5 gunters to find the first key were known as the “High Five,” because of their positions on the almighty leader board. When watching the movie, I’d completely forgotten about that until some time in the last 20-30 minutes when Wade uses that term to reference those 5 characters, and I actually sat up and said, “Wait, what?! How are we supposed to know what he means by that, when this is the first time anyone’s said it?”

Before I go into the spoilers, I want to mention a few things about the movie that I liked:

  • The visual effects in the OASIS were great. Much better than I could imagine in my head, I’m sure. I also enjoyed the way it looked when characters accessed things from their inventory and such. I’ve had dreams about actually being inside a game world, i.e. being my character, and it reminded me a bit of that. (Is that weird?)
  • There were some nods to some of the things in the book that weren’t used in the movie at all, which was nice. Seeing the planet Ludus early in the movie, for example, made me smile.

Below here are the rest of my notes, which have what I would consider spoilers. Read on at your own discretion.

Continue reading

Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Science Fiction

RP1.png

Over 100 years in the future, mankind has been largely driven inside the virtual world. They work in the OASIS, go to school, hang out with friends, rely on it for entertainment, and even treasure hunt in the OASIS. The main storyline in the book is a treasure hunt that was created by the man who created the OASIS. The person who finds the Easter egg hidden in the virtual environment, by following all of the clues, will basically be the wealthiest person alive.

Ready Player One is my husband’s favorite book. He’s tried to get me to read the book or watch the movie here and there, but I told him that I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as him, because the 80s references would largely be lost on me. I was a teenager in the 90s, and a fairly sheltered one at that. I don’t even know much about pop culture in the 90s and know way, way less about pop culture in the 80s. But now that I’ve started to get back to my bookworm roots, I knew it was time to give this book a read.

Keep in mind when reading the rest of this post that I was correct about the heavy 80s references not providing much nostalgia for me. However, I don’t think that’s the only reason that the plethora of references fell flat for me. I came to a point pretty early on when I realized how shallow most of the references were. Movies, games, books, TV shows, comics, music–all of these things were briefly named, often in lists, but that’s about it. So I guess the people who get the references get to go, “Oh! That show!” and move on. Not much substance.

On the flip side, however, the times when the 80s pop culture was part of the challenges in The Hunt, even though I didn’t get the hit of nostalgia during those sections that others would get, I really enjoyed them! So not diving into spoilers too much, the Easter egg hunt involved finding 3 keys, which each opened a gate. So the hunters had to find the keys, find the gates, and “clear” the gates, all of which involved solving some sort of challenge, even if just a riddle. Those were my favorite parts of the book. Unfortunately, in between these sections, the book mostly dragged for me, especially when the main character, Wade, pushed his friends away and was alone for a while.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book was the way the author described things inside the Oasis. I actually thought it would seem silly or weird to read about the mechanics in this virtual world, but Cline did a good job of explaining it. I’ve played a decent amount of games that allowed me to imagine how the interface worked, so that might have helped.

As the book ramped up to the end, I kept expecting a huge twist. A certain specific trope that I won’t mention so I don’t spoil that it doesn’t happen was especially on my mind, but it doesn’t happen. Not that there wasn’t any kind of twist near the end, but not what I was expecting, and not as big as I was expecting. I weirdly found the end of the book and the challenges the characters had to go through too easy and very difficult at the same time. It’s hard to explain without giving anything away though.

My husband tells me that the movie is different from the book, but good in its own right. He also says it focuses more on The Hunt (the parts I liked the most). I’m looking forward to watching it!

Find out more about Ernest Cline and Ready Player One

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!