Recent Reads | July

12



Ready Player One ~ Ernest Cline


Ready Player One is a novel that’s been all over the blogging world and been receiving great reviews so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and see how it went.
I admit I found it very slow going at the beginning. It takes place in a dystopian future where most of humanity spends its time plugged into a virtual reality so there’s a hell of a lot of world building and explaining to get through but it’s done very well and it’s not boring, just a bit slow but once things started picking up a few chapters in I actually finished it in less than two days.
It describes a teenage boy living in this world who is one of millions on a quest to follow clues to find the coveted ‘Easter Egg’ (special rewards in video games for anyone who’s cool enough to need to know that) left somewhere in the virtual reality by the owner, the finder of which will inherit his vast fortune and control of the world.
 The characters are great, lots of fun and where they could easily become clichéd and predictable they stay interesting and keep you wondering what they’re going to do next. The book is also packed with geeky eighties references which are always a good laugh and, even if you don’t understand all the film, video game and music allusions (I didn’t) the book is still easy to follow and thoroughly enjoyable.
 One of my favourite aspects of the book was the detail the Cline put into the world he created. Sometimes when reading these sorts of books you find yourself asking questions about the world that never get answered, or finding things that aren’t quite explained fully so that you can’t quite get your head around it. In Ready Player One I found I had a thorough understanding of the situations without having to stop and read through big chunks of description in the middle of action scenes.

I really recommend reading Ready Player One. It’s fun and unpredictable and, whether you are a fan of geeky things like video games and eighties pop culture or not, it definitely strikes a chord in our current culture where we are so dependent on technology. While it makes for a great story, let’s hope it’s not too close to our own future. 

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius ~ Dave Eggers

I found this book in a charity shop quite a while ago, I was first intrigued by that oh so modest title and decided to shell out the £2.99 to see if I really would come away with my heart broken. (This is someone who stayed dry eyed at Bambi, My Sisters Keeper and The Notebook so I was skeptical)

The book is a more or less true story of Dave Eggers who is orphaned and left as guardian of his very young brother while only a teenager himself. It was a really interesting account of someone who has all that fresh-eyed 'going to change the world' feeling of youth and the slightly frantic jaded feeling that comes with age all at once. He frets about bills and housing and giving Toph an 'undamaging' childhood where he protects him without coddling him, making him smart but not smug and trying not to do anything that could screw him up. At the same time he's trying to grow up himself and create an anti-establishment magazine that will change the world and sleep with girls. The two lives of a youth and a parent running parallel within one being was really interesting and brought to light a lot of ideas about what it means to be young or old, and how both have their own difficulties and neither really understand one another.
The writing style is very personal and 'stream-of-consciousness'. A little bit Holden Caulfield. At times this felt really powerful and deep but there were also times when Eggers comes across as a bit of a smarmy git. I think this book is best read over the course of quiet a long time, the plot isn't complicated or confusing so you wouldn't be lost. I think if you slogged through it all in one go you could end up burning out, but dipping in and out over the course of a few weeks lets you absorb it and enjoy it without it becoming a chore.

I would recommend AHWOSG for anyone looking for something quite contemporary with an emotive punch to it.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell ~ Susanna Clarke

I just finished this great hulk of a book a few days ago and it was such a good feeling to finish. Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because it's always an accomplishment to get through over a thousand pages.
I didn't know much about this book when I started it, my only knowledge was that it takes place during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s, but somewhere along the line there's magic. And the does pretty much sum it up. The magic in this book is interesting in that, when the book begins no one actually practices it any more. It's become something from history that is studied and written about and discussed but never actually done. Then along comes Mr Norrell, who has lived his life in near solitude but who can actually do practical magic. He's sought out by a few theoretical magicians and soon becomes a celebrity, using his powers to help England's efforts fighting Napoleon. Then we meet Jonathan Strange, a young charismatic man who can also do magic. The two falter between rivals and friends throughout the book but as it turns out the magic they wield is part of a much greater power that neither of them can really control.

I found this book really fun and interesting most of the way through. Though it's a hefty thing the chapters are short so it wasn't hard to blaze through ten at a time. We see events through the eyes of a lot of different and very diverse characters and the interactions between them are very complex and realistic, however that does mean that sometimes we know more than some of the characters and it the dramatic irony can be frustrating as we watch the idiots bumble about coming to the wrong conclusion about something or doing something we know is going to backfire. Other than that I did enjoy it, there were a lot of interesting facets to the story and Susanna Clarke creates some really powerful images of the magic performed, e.g Norrell makes the statues of a great Cathedral come to life and the stones that have been voiceless for hundreds of years start screaming about crimes they've seen committed and things they've found out but haven't been able to tell anyone about.

I had mixed feelings about the ending. We follow a lot of characters in detail throughout the story but it seems that only some of them have stories that come to a meaningful conclusion, I felt like some of the side characters are left dangling a little, which was annoying because I, as always, got quite attached to some of the minor characters. There is also an event that I felt the whole story was building up to that would come to a great climactic ending but that I'm not sure actually happened... or if it did it was very small and quite confusing. I wish I could elaborate further but it would seriously spoil the book.

I would still definitely recommend it though, I had great fun reading it and was sad to leave the characters behind. It's definitely made me interested to read more of Clarke's work. 

Let me know if you've read any of these books and what you thought of them or if you're interested in picking any of them up after this review.

Thanks for reading! 

12 comments

  1. These all sound like they're worth a read. I need to get some good summer books! x

    Beauty Soup || UK Beauty Blog

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    1. I love summer reading! Definitely try them :)

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  2. Great book reviews, I don't which one I want to read first!


    http://lux-rose.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Let me know of you try any of them!

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  3. i can't wait to get my hands on ready player one, glad you enjoyed it! :)
    wonder reads

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  4. Fab reviews I really need to get back into reading I stopped since Uni as I was so fed up but want to get back into it again xxx

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    1. I found Uni was quite hard on my reading but it's not too hard to get back into the swing of things with a little effort x

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  5. A heart breaking work of staggering genius is on my to-read list, I'm waiting for a time when I'm in the mood for it though! xx

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    1. It's definitely something you need to be in the mood for. I hope you enjoy it :) x

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  6. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell has been sitting on my bookshelf for the last four years or so. I need to start reading it soon as I fear it may sit there for even longer if I'm not careful.
    Amy x | A Little Boat Sailing

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    1. I think once you start you do end up going through it quicker than you'd think x

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