When Virtual and Reality Collide: Reviewing Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’ve never been a huge gamer. I did love my GameCube as a kid and I played Wii Sports with my younger sister. I had a Nintendo DS that I used to play Nintendogs on. Other than that, I prefer to watch videos of other people playing video games. With that being said, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Ready Player One with my limited knowledge of video games and the 1980s.

In the year 2044, the world is a cramped, polluted, and dangerous place. In order to escape this grotesque landscape, Wade Watts and the rest of the population dive into the virtual world of OASIS. In this virtual world, anything is possible as its universe is vast and provides more opportunities than the real world. When the creator of OASIS, Jack Halliday, dies he leaves behind a series of puzzles and challenges that lead to the Egg. Anyone who find the Egg wins the right to be the sole heir of OASIS. After fruitless years of searching, Wade stumbles across the first puzzle. He finds himself in a race against time to find the Egg before the thousands of other players and a dangerous corporation known as the the Sixxers. Things take a turn for the deadly when people begin to die in the real world. Wade must complete the tasks and find the Egg before he is taken out of the game permanently.

Like I said, I’m not a gamer and my knowledge of 1980s pop culture is limited but I found myself sucked into this novel from the first chapter. Cline doesn’t expect his readers to know all of this and is more than happy to explain these references without taking up too much of the narrative. The story is told through Wade’s point of view and it is funny, sarcastic, and smart. The stakes in the book become surprisingly high and the tension raises with each page. This novel is the perfect gift for the gamer in your life or you can even read it yourself. Either way, Cline’s book was a surprisingly enjoyable read with plenty of action and wit to go around.

Note: I have heard tell that this book maybe adapted into the movie but last I checked, nothing was confirmed.

Magic Number 21

For those who may not know, 21 is pretty significant in America. You can legally drink alcohol. It kind of solidifies your status as an adult. I certainly still don’t feel like an adult still but it’s nice to know that others might see me as more mature now. I decided that since I’m 21, I will share with all of you 21 quotes from and about books and writing that have inspired me through the years. I hope some of these inspire you too.

“…I like simple things, books, being alone, or with somebody who understands.” – Daphne du Maurier

“I am half agony, half hope.” – Jane Austen

“And here you are living, despite it all.” – Rupi Kaur

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” – Natalie Goldberg

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.” – Neil Gaiman

“The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly, sometimes it’s like drilling a rock then blasting it out with charges.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” – JK Rowling

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” – Edgar Allan Poe

“A writer is someone who has taught their mind to misbehave.” – Oscar Wild

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” – William Shakespeare

“I have always imagined that paradise will be some kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

“I have put my heart and soul into my work and lost my mind in the process.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.” – John Green

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” – Donna Tartt

“To a great mind, nothing is little.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.” – JK Rowling

“Never forget who you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used against you.” George RR Martin

“I picked up a pen. I wrote my own deliverance.” Lin-Manuel Miranda

“She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” – Annie Dillard



Thrills, Chills, and Gruesome Kills: Reviewing Broken Monster by Lauren Beukes

The mystery novel has been a reliable go-to for most readers. Whether its John Grisham, Janet Evanovich, or James Patterson, any of these authors have provided entertaining and intriguing murder mysteries that can keep your sanity going during a long car ride or plane trip. These writers, however, tend to become formulaic and you tend to read just to find out who the killer is. If you’re looking for a murder mystery novel that mixes it up, then keep reading to find out about Broken Monsters. 

As a detective working in Detroit, Gabriella Versado had thought she had seen it all. When a body of a boy that has been fused to the body of a deer appears, Versado realizes that something worse is about to strike the city. Meanwhile, her daughter, Layla, becomes involved with an internet stranger. A desperate journalist does whatever he can to find out more about Versado’s new crop of cases. A homeless man does whatever he can to protect his family from this new killer. Everyone soon gets caught up in a race to stop the killer who wants to reshape the world with his own artistic vision.

Broken Monsters provides a relief in the over-saturated mystery novel market. Beukes’s tone is almost humorous in how it sounds colloquial but that doesn’t detract from the overall dark tone of the novel. The characters’ story arcs are surprisingly relatable and it is easy to get attached to them. The trippy and macabre visuals that novel provides are vivid enough to send a shiver down your spine. Beukes crafts a mystery that you won’t be able to get enough of. I highly recommend this novel if you are a fan of mysteries and thrillers. It provides a story told in a unique voice with characters who stand out as real against the bizarre background.

After All This Time?

Since it is the twentieth anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, depending on your country), I decided I wanted to write a little personal essay on why Harry Potter and JK Rowling mean so much to me and many others. Like many others, it is the foundation for my love of books and has inspired my writing in many ways. I felt it was a perfect time to give a little ode to The Boy Who Lived.

The first time I became interested in the series was when I was just about to turn six. The television was on in my living room and a preview caught my eye. It was a preview for the second movie, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I turned to my mom and told her I wanted to see that movie. I knew nothing about it but I was intrigued by the flying Ford Anglia. My mom told me I had to read the book first before I saw the movie. Happily, I obliged because I was a weird kid who loved the thought of being able to read a book on my own. At first, my mom would read me the book but I became increasingly frustrated because I felt I could do a better job with all of the pronunciations of the spells and names. I snatched The Sorcerer’s Stone from her hands and she let me continue on my own way.

Soon, the books and movies began to pick up traction in mainstream pop culture. My parents found themselves sucked into a series that they once disregarded as just another kid’s book. My sister was a little late to catch on but now we get into arguments over the content of the books and certain characters. I attended a Harry Potter-themed camp as my first Girl Scout camp. I got a Harry Potter doll and a toy obstacle course of sorts that allowed you to “levitate” a ball through a series of hoops. (It wasn’t a Quidditch toy but some of you out there might know what I’m talking about.) I went to midnight book releases and movie premiers. I dressed as Hermione for Halloween three years in a row, teasing my hair out to exaggerate my already frizzy curls. About two years ago, I went to the Harry Potter theme park in Universal. Since I was just a small child, the Harry Potter series has been my constant literary companion. Looking back at it now, it is easy to see why.

I distinctly remember my elementary school library consisting of series such as Goosebumps and The Babysitters’ Club. While I don’t mean to insult these books since they are a main part of many childhoods, I just remember not finding them interesting at all. Before JK Rowling came along, most children’s literature and YA books were written to be approved by adults. Magic was reserved for bedtime stories. Rowling, however, decided that magic should be for everyone. The series was not written to condescend to children about problems with growing up but to show sympathy and encouragement while struggling with life. It doesn’t pit children against adults, or use the “Listen to the Adults” trope, but shows how their is not simply good or evil but people with different motivations. This is how Rowling set herself apart from other children’s authors in a revolutionary kind of way.

JK Rowling herself is also a major part of why the series is still just as loved today. She stays in touch with fans on social media, isn’t afraid to expand her stories and answer questions, and she is honest about her life. To this very day, she is still hands on with her stories and is in control of the movies as well. The cast of the movies are still in touch and have mini reunions that make my heart flutter whenever I see them reference the movies. This unique network of writers and actors help to keep the hype alive. With the success of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it doesn’t look the Harry Potter craze is going to fade out any time soon.

I can’t help but smile when I see new Harry Potter merchandise come out or hear it referenced in another show or movie. I still feel giddy whenever the first few notes of Hedwig’s Theme plays. I own several wands and have a Ravenclaw phone case. I cherish my well loved copies that have sat in the same spot on my bookshelf for as long as I can remember. I still play Harry Potter trivia. I can not properly express how I love the strange bond between “Potterheads,” as the fans have been dubbed.

It’s hard to imagine a life without Harry Potter. I hope it continues to inspire future generations in the same way it inspired my generation.

To a Great Mind, Nothing is Little: Reviewing The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

I have mentioned before that science fiction has always been a large part of my literary interests. I haven’t mentioned anything about mysteries yet. I’m always a sucker for a good crime novel. This all started when I decided to hunker down and read the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that this was inspired in part by the Guy Ritchie films starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have only fueled my love for the original detective series since. Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential detective, so to say. Therefore, I will be reviewing one of the few Sherlock Holmes novels that have been approved by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate.

The House of Silk is told through the eyes of the iconic Doctor John Watson in the classic style of a majority of the original stories. This particular story, however, takes place years after the actual events. Being that Watson is now elderly, he decides to honor his friend by retelling one of his more dark and deep mysteries. It all begins when Edmund Carstairs arrives at Baker Street and the pair how a mysterious man in a flat cap has stalked and harassed his family. The case soon takes a turn for the worse when an Irish street gang, a missing boy, and a mysterious silk ribbon become involved. Horowitz keeps to the original Holmesian cannon while still adding new elements that is guaranteed to delight any Holmes or mystery fan.

Like I said, I am a big fan of the original stories and to get a new novel in the series is delightful. Plenty of authors have tried to use the distinguished Holmes and Watson to their advantage but Horowitz is one of the few that has truly capture the essence and tone of what Doyle has created so long ago. The friendship between Holmes and Watson is even further explored in a way that is both tragic and touching. All of the great originals, such as Lestrade and Mycroft Holmes, make their return in the novel. The mystery itself is has many facets that keeps the reader guessing until the very end. As disturbing as it is intelligent, The House of Silk is a great treat for anyone who loves Sherlock Holmes and wants the classic tone of the original stories. This story could have easily been published in “The Strand.”

Demons and Angels and Horsemen, Oh My!: Reviewing Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

It’s hard for me not to gush over a singular author but I am reviewing another Neil Gaiman novel. This one, however, is also co-authored by the late and great Terry Pratchett. If you know anything about these authors, you know that they both have written some of the more unique and profound novels. With ample amounts of wit and unconventional ideas, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is a hilarious clever read.

Good Omens starts with the friendship between an angel named Aziraphale and a demon named Crowley. The two develop an odd sort of friendship and engage in a friendly rivalry between Heaven and Hell. The two are assigned by the higher powers to be the godparents of the Antichrist and guide him to decide between good and evil. Unfortunately, they find out they had been watching the wrong kid. Now, they must go search for the real Antichrist who is blissfully unaware of his powers. Meanwhile, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are plotting to destroy the world, a young man joins a witch hunting army out of boredom, and a young witch tries to see if her distant relative was actually a nutter. These strange but fascinating plots weave together to create one entertaining and amazing read.

Good Omens has a dry, sarcastic, absurd, and sometimes dirty sense of humor. Despite the initial strangeness of the narratives, its easy to get sucked in by the combined writing of Pratchett and Gaiman. Anyone looking for a humorous take on the supernatural and spiritual is guaranteed to enjoy this novel. It’s a quick enough read with an eclectic cast of characters that are both human and not. The story lines all come together to form a wild ride that will keep you laughing and intrigued until the very end.

Boldly Going: Reviewing Redshirts by John Scalzi

There is no denying that science fiction has always been a staple in my life. I remember being younger and watching the original Twilight Zone with my grandpa. As I got older, my tastes evolved. In high school, a good friend introduced me to to the original Star Trek series. I had enjoyed the 2009 reboot so I decided to give it a shot. I was soon thrust into a world of science fiction I had never seen before. It was the kind of science fiction that doesn’t feel the need to obey any rules, made up or not, and there was always some strange moral thrown in there that was actually pretty profound. Knowing my love for Star Trek, my mom got me John Scalzi’s novel and I was soon reminded why I love science fiction so much.

Redshirts, which won Scalzi the Hugo Award for Best Novel, follows Ensign Andrew Dahl as he joins the Capital Ship of the Universal Union, the Intrepid. Dahl is absolutely thrilled to be a part of the team and to explore the universe with the famed Captain Abernathy. However, he and his fellow ensigns begin to realize that there is a deadly pattern of fatalities among the engineering crew members. Dahl and his eclectic group of friends must figure out how to break the cycle and survive their time on the Intrepid. This novel takes an endearing dig into the staple tropes of Star Trek with a dark sense of humor and a fast-paced narrative.

Scalzi’s novel is perfect for any Trekkie or sci-fi fan. The story has a wonderfully sarcastic tone mixed with a plot that gets more meta with each chapter. The characters are just as funny and realistic as far as sci-fi goes. Scalzi keeps you engaged as with dramatic tension as well as intriguing takes on the outer space adventure drama. Redshirts flips the genre on its head with a new perspective and answers the questions about what really happens to the minor characters we don’t take notice of.

An Insider’s Look: Reviewing My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Before I entered college, I knew that I was going to dive headlong into the literary world. Thankfully enough, I managed to find classes that specialized in editing and publishing fiction and non-fiction. I have learned much in these classes through my brutally honest and hilarious professor. As part of the curriculum, she had us read this particular novel. I went into it not thinking I would enjoy it that much but it ended up teaching me more than I expected.

My Salinger Year is an autobiographical account of Rakoff’s experiences working for a literary agency. To her surprise, she finds out that this particular agency represents the famed J.D. Salinger. Rakoff recalls as she tries to find a balance between the demanding and fast-paced work of keeping up with Salinger and her turbulent relationship with her boyfriend. She gives an in-depth look into the business side of literature and the struggle that college graduates go through when finding a life after school. Rakoff’s funny and honest narrative offers a relatable and cautionary tale for those looking into the literary field.

Though My Salinger Year is a rather short book (it’s just under 300 pages), it is full of depth and insightfulness. I like to describe as The Devil Wears Prada for book worms. Anyone who is interested in the literary industry will enjoy this particular autobiography. Rakoff’s writing feels as though she is telling you the story face-to-face and she is not afraid to get personal. I appreciate her open narrative and her message to just keep pushing through no matter how tough the problem is.


The Tale of the Lost Gods: Reviewing American Gods by Neil Gaiman

As I have mentioned in a previous review, I have been interested in mythology for a long time. American Gods seemed like an obvious choice for me to read. Since Starz has released the television adaptation of this book, I figured that I would give a review of it for anyone who is either not familiar with it or anyone watching the series. (Note: The Starz adaptation is excellent but it does take have differences, like any book-to-screen adaptation).

American Gods centers around Shadow Moon who is released from prison after finding out about the death of his wife, Laura. While traveling back home as a free man, he meets the enigmatic and quick-witted Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job as his assistant. Since Shadow realizes he has nowhere to go, he accepts the offer. Soon Shadow is thrown into a battle between the forgotten gods of the past and the new gods of the future. As the lines between reality and mythology blur, Shadow must decide where he stands and what he truly believes in.

First and foremost, what I love about this book are the interweaving narratives. Not only do you get to follow Shadow as he travels across America to meet with lost gods, but there are other narratives from across time that illustrate how beliefs travel across the world and either thrive or are forgotten. Gaiman isn’t afraid to be explicit or get a little philosophical. (Another note: this book is pretty R-rated, as is the tv show). Gaiman’s combination of dark humor and observations about mankind’s beliefs are thought provoking and eye opening. I had a tough time putting down this book when I first read it. I laughed and cried and gaped in awe at the revelations made by Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. It is many different stories stitched together into one beautiful and mysterious tapestry depicting personifications of human beliefs. American Gods is beyond unique and depicts a new kind of America where religion is put to the test against the future.



A New Kind of Ghost Story: Reviewing Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Ever since I was young, I have found ghost stories fascinating. No matter how far fetched they are, I still want to hear them. After a while, though, they begin to sound similar and the tropes wear out. Hollywood is still continuing to wring out as many horror movies focused on ghosts. The “creepypasta” phenomenon has swept through the Internet in a swift and it is hard to find something unique. Lauren Oliver, the author of the Delirium trilogy and Before I Fall, offers a fresh take on the idea of a ghost story. The ghosts, in this case, are not malevolent but sarcastic and friendly, while the living are the ones dealing with problems much darker than any haunted house.

Rooms is told from the perspective of two of the previous owners of the small ranch house in which the story takes place. Alice, the first deceased owner of the house, is as quiet and reserved in death as she was in life while Sandra, the second deceased former owner, is opinionated, stubborn, and talkative. Together, the two inhabit the house and reflect on their lives and deaths. When the current owner of the house dies, the two ghosts watch with anticipation as the estranged family comes back to deal with his death.   Secrets are revealed and relationships are further strained. The tension of the family drama and the backstories of Sandra and Alice make for an emotional and haunting (pun intended) read.

I love this particular novel for its unique story telling and intriguing characters. The tone offers a refreshing mix of realism and surrealism. It is definitely far from a horror story but more of a family drama. The story lines of the living and the dead are wonderfully interconnected through Oliver’s carefully thought out narratives. This novel provides chills and will keep you turning the pages in anticipation. Lauren Oliver’s Rooms is a unique, dark, and beautiful ghost story.