Monday, April 3, 2017

Review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One
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. 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.

(Summary from GoodReads)


If I had dollar for every time someone recommended Ready Player One to me, I probably could have used that money to buy twenty people copies of the book.  Considering what a fantastic read this is, I wouldn’t hesitate to do that at all.  I doubted that I would know every reference in Cline’s novel, and I was worried that would stop me from enjoying it.  I was totally wrong.  I absolutely adored everything about Ready Player One.

The Oasis is a virtual reality where teenager Wade Watts spends most of his time.  There are a lot of things that are wrong with Watts’ real world.  He lives in a trailer park, and spends a lot of his time playing the game from a van, and uses a stationary piece of exercise equipment to power his equipment.  There are evil corporations out there who are trying to make everyone miserable.  However, Wade is on a quest to find the egg that’s hidden within the game, something that no one has ever done before.  When Wade makes the first major step towards finding the egg, his life totally changes.

I absolutely loved the puzzles that the characters have to solve as they go looking for the egg.  To be a good player, intelligence is required.  Along the way, Wade finds himself enlisting the help of his best friend, and pursuing a love interest.  I loved how there were twists and turns in the relationships.  There’s obviously a message about how not everyone is who they appear to be.

The plot of this story is absolutely riveting.  While a lot of the story takes place in the Oasis, there are also pieces of it that take place inside the real world as well. I loved how Cline tied these different parts of the story together.  By the end of this story, I wasn’t totally surprised by how things worked out.  However, it was exactly what I wanted for these characters, so I completely adored it.

Ready Player One is a story that will appeal to lots of readers: folks who grew up in the eighties, gamers, or anyone who likes stories with a bit of a dystopian element.  As I turned the finally pages, I was happily surprised by how in love with Cline’s book I was. I can’t wait to reread this story when I need something that’s fast-paced, nuanced, ridiculously nerdy, and still inherently feel good.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review of The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3) Some kisses come at a price.

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

(Summary from GoodReads) 

I’ve been obsessed with The Winner’s Trilogy since the first book came out, and The Winner’s Kiss was probably my most anticipated book of 2016, especially given how The Winner’s Crime ended.  Rutkoski has written what is probably one of the best series finales on the young adult market right now.  The Winner’s Kiss is nothing short of absolutely stunning.

This is a book that its about war, and about people who love each other, but at times feel pitted against each other because of the war.  The story is filled with action, suspense, and heartbreak from the very beginning.  Rutkoski tackles issue of work camps, memory loss, and slavery over the course of the series.  While I know some people didn’t care for these elements, I thought they were extremely well-handled.  Rutkoski goes in just deep enough to get the reader thinking about things and whether or not they are right or wrong, but the storyline never becomes didactic.

Rutkoski’s prose is at its very best here.  The beauty of it constantly adds tension or heightens the emotion.  Additionally, Rutkoski also did a fantastic job of taking elements from the first two books and tying them into this story.  I loved watching how relationships grew and changed throughout this book, especially between Kestrel and her father. Even though this story is gut-wrenching and will make you feel all of the things, Roshar helps provide some comic relief.  I loved his character so much.

Even though I just read this series, it’s one that I feel ready to pick up again.  The world and character’s are so nuanced that I feel like I could revisit again and again and always discover something new.  The Winner’s Kiss has definitely sealed this series as one of my favorite YA series of all time.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review of All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the Rage The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

(Summary from GoodReads) 

I remember All the Rage getting a lot of buzz in the book community right when it first came out.  When I finally managed to read it for myself, I was excited to see what everyone liked about it so much.  I read Summers’ novel in two days and only put it down when I had to. All the Rage is a fantastically written and necessary read about rape culture in the lives of teenage girls.

I felt so many things over the course of reading this book, and for me one of the strongest emotions throughout the story was anger.   I felt so, so angry about how people in this book treated Romy.  Never once does Summers shy away from the fact that Romy has done nothing to deserve how the world around her treats her.  Instead, people just choose not to believe her.

In addition to rage, Summers fills this story with a lot of other emotion.  The writing and this story, and Romy, are sharp but still stunning.  Romy consistently reapplies lipstick and red nail polish, but she also has a love interest.  Summers balances her need to protect herself with her vulnerability.

I hope that All the Rage is a book that eventually finds its way onto the shelves of every high school classroom.  I hope that everyone who reads this finds themselves thinking a little bit harder about rape culture, and I think this has to be an important book for teenage girls who’ve experienced sexual assault.   A personal favorite of mine, All the Rage should be added to your must-read list if you haven’t read it already.

Disclosure: I originally read a copy of this book that I had checked out from my library, and then I bought a copy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Liz Beats the Backlist

If you guys have been following my blog for a while, you know that when it comes to challenges, I can be a bit fickle.  I say I'll do challenges and my follow through frankly sucks.  I do manage to stick to my GoodReads challenge. This year, my goal is to read 105 books.

So what is Beat the Backlist?  First of all, it's hosted by Austine and Tia over at Novel Knight.  You should definitely visit their blog if you haven't already.  This challenge focuses on books published before 2017.  However many books you want to read is up to you. That's it. 

What sealed my decision to participate in this challenge, though, is the Hogwarts mini challenge.  Basically, you sign up with your Hogwarts house (I am a Gryffindor) and each month the houses compete to win the cup.  You can earn additional points for doing things like writing reviews.  I'm not a competitive person, but I am all in favor of Gryffindor winning.

All of that said, my goal for this challenge is to read 25 books.  I'm hoping a lot of these will be books I own as well as things that I check out from the library. Of course, part of the beauty of this challenge is that YA, MG, and adult books all count.

Let the fun begin!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Review of When We Collided by Emery Lord

When We Collided
We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

When I first heard about When We Collided, I was surprised, but in a good way.  Lord’s previous novels had both had serious heavy moments, but it felt like When We Collided might put some of the serious subject matter more in the foreground.  I was eager to see how Lord would handle this, and I was particularly intrigued when I heard that the story would deal with mental health.  When We Collided is a stunningly written novel about teens going through some of the most difficult phases of their adolescences.

Vivi struggles with bipolar disorder, and after a particularly bad year, she and her mother have moved to Verona Cove, California.  Jonah and his family already live in Verona Cove, where they are struggling with the recent passing of Jonah’s father and the question of how the family business will stay afloat.  The two of them meet when Jonah’s little sister, Leah, invites Vivi to the house for dinner, and Jonah makes a frankly delicious sounding pizza.  It doesn’t take long before Vivi and Jonah find themselves falling for each other in a deeply passionate and vibrant way.

All of the characters in this story are extremely well developed.  As I read When We Collided, I felt like I was part of Jonah’s family, or that the tensions that Vivi and her mom had could have been between my own mother and me.  Verona Cove was so well drawn that I could easily visualize each setting the characters were in.

Lord draws some strong parallels between Vivi and Jonah’s family.  Jonah has a huge, happily family whereas Vivi doesn’t know who her father is.  Lord is also careful to address the different ways that mental illness manifests.  Bipolar feels like something Vivi has struggled with for a long time, and the mental illness struggles within Jonah’s family feel triggered by his father’s death.  I appreciate Lord addressing that mental illness doesn’t always take the same form or happen for the same reasons.

While this story is filled with the charm of Verona Cove, Vivi’s energy, and the warmth of Jonah’s family, there is an edge throughout the story.  Throughout the novel, it feels as to though things could go horribly wrong at any moment.  Lord never shies away from this feeling but instead addresses it straight on.  I know some readers didn’t care for the ending of this story, but I loved that it didn’t hold back.

When We Collided deals with mental illness, grief, and romance in ways that are honest.  This isn’t just a story about how being in a relationship can change your life, it’s a story about how taking care of one’s own mental health is necessary to help keep healthy relationships.  Never for one moment is this story didactic.  It is about people who fall, everything one can go through while falling, and the afterwards. 

Disclosure: I borrowed an ARC of this book from a friend, but I also purchased a hard copy once it came out.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review of Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4) Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer's national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

(Summary from GoodReads)

I was extremely excited when I heard that Winter would be over 700 pages. I really wanted Winter’s story after reading Fairest, and there was a lot to tie up given everything that happened earlier in the series.  Winter was an epic and satisfying conclusion to this series and I adored it.

I loved reading this story of Winter and Jacin.  It felt as though Meyer really stepped up the quality of her prose for this installment of the series.  Winter’s story had some particularly magical elements to it and I adored the romance between her and Jacin.

Of course, we spent a lot of time with all of our other characters as well, particularly Cinder and Levana. I loved seeing how characters grew throughout the series, and I loved the little glimpses we got of them as the story wound down.  The ending of this series tied up the relevant storylines, but not too neatly.

I freaking adored Winter.  This is a series that I want to reread again and again.  The best part of it is that for those who haven’t read the series yet, it’s totally bingeable now that it’s all out.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.


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