Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ready Player One: By Ernest Cline

READY PLAYER ONE

SUMMARY

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

REVIEW

The first thing I have to say about Ernest Cline is that he knows an awful lot about the 1980’s.

Cline has done a fantastic job integrating hundreds of geek trivia (whether it be Firefly, Star Wars, Star Trek, Cory Doctorow, Wil Wheaton, or any of literally dozens of other unique pieces of geek fandom) with all sorts of information from the 80’s (from video game trivia, to rock and roll, to movies, to authors). And he has done all of this inside of a fun and fast paced novel.

The pages really do fly by, as readers get to know Wade (A.K.A. Parzival) and the dystopianesqu world that has become of the near future earth. Wade is relatable, endearing, and just a tad over obsessive about OASIS and the Hunt (as anyone who has searched for clues systematically for 6 years would be.) Cline does a great job creating interesting and relatable characters, such as Ar3temis, Aech, and Soto. Of course some of the characters are a little black and white (such as antagonist Sorento). But with the fun of the action and the trivia you’re easily able to look over that.

That said this is not a trivia book, but it is recommended for anyone who enjoyed the 80’s or would classify themselves as a geek (or anyone who knows/has watched/read any of the people/shows mentioned above.) All in all a very fun book that I’m happy I read.

RATING
9 out of 10

INFO

Publisher: Crown

Published: August 16, 2011

Price: $24.00

The Project: By Brian Falkner

THE PROJECT

SUMMARY

It begins with a book, the most boring book in the world, a book so boring no one could ever read it—the perfect place to hide a dangerous secret.

When best friends Luke and Tommy volunteer to help move books from their library's basement to higher ground during a quick rising flood, they discover the only surviving copy of the most boring book in the world: Leonardo's River, lost for over 100 years. The book is connected to Leonardo da Vinci and is worth millions, so they return that night to steal it. Unfortunately, they're not the only ones with that plan. . . .

REVIEW

The Project is a fascinating combination of young adult mishaps and science fiction. The science fiction isn't officially introduced until the end of the story, but Falkner does a great job weaving the story along until this point, creating a culmination that will excite and captivate readers of all ages.

The Project has well crafted characters, Luke the protagonist, is particularly interesting and reminded me much of Robert Munchamore’s Cherub series. Yet some of the characters, such as Tommy and the antagonists could have used more development. They felt simple in relation to the rest of the story, and in comparison to Luke, were practically useless. That said I liked many of the characters, but felt they could have been more than they were.

Of course besides the characters, the plot itself is interesting. Falkner does a great job taking an unused subject matter, Leonardo’s creations and the Vitruvian Man, and turning them into a pulse pounding easy read. But of course one of my favorite parts of the books is the ending (you'll have to read it to see why.)

All in all I liked The Project. The subject matter was interesting, Luke was a great character, and the book itself was fast paced enough to both hold my attention and make me want to keep reading. Definitely would recommend readers (especially boys 12 and up) give it a chance.

RATING
8.5 out of 10

INFO

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Published: August 23, 2011

Price: $17.99

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spellwright: By Blake Charlton

SPELLWRIGHT

SUMMARY

Nicodemus is a young, gifted wizard with a problem. Magic in his world requires the caster to create spells by writing out the text . . . but he has always been dyslexic, and thus has trouble casting even the simplest of spells. And his misspells could prove dangerous, even deadly, should he make a mistake in an important incantation.

Yet he has always felt that he is destined to be something more than a failed wizard. When a powerful, ancient evil begins a campaign of murder and disruption, Nicodemus starts to have disturbing dreams that lead him to believe that his misspelling could be the result of a curse. But before he can discover the truth about himself, he is attacked by an evil which has already claimed the lives of fellow wizards and has cast suspicion on his mentor. He must flee for his own life if he’s to find the true villain.

But more is at stake than his abilities. For the evil that has awakened is a power so dread and vast that if unleashed it will destroy Nicodemus... and the world.

REVIEW

Spellwright just came out in mass market paperback and I personally can’t wait for it’s sequel Spellbound (September 13, 2011).

Spellwright tells a story of a wizard in training Nicodemus Weal who was once thought to be the great and powerful child of prophecy that was destined to save or doom the world of magic. Unfortunately unlike Harry Potter, Nicodemus is a cacographer, someone who is unable to spell things correctly. This is vastly important in Charlton’s debut novel as characters perform magic by spelling them and flexing them from their muscles.

This is one of the many things I loved about Spellwright, its original and fascinating take on the system of magic. Not only that but unlike most books, magic is not learned in minutes but is instead learned in decades and centuries. Not only that but Nicodemus has been studying for year sunder his master, and so it is not nearly the shock when he is forced to perform.

Of course besides its description/creation of magic, I thoroughly enjoyed the action that accompanied the book. The book is filled with exciting scenes that will keep readers glued to their seat and begging for more. Because of this and the many other reasons that make this a fun book I would easily recommend this book to fans of fantasy looking for something different, and I personally can’t wait for the sequel, Spellbound.

RATING
8.5 out of 10

INFO

Publisher: Tor Mass Market

Published: August 2, 2011

Price: $7.99

This Dark Endeavor: By Kenneth Oppel

THIS DARK ENDEAVOR

SUMMARY

Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real.

They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only peaks Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not be satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Elizabeth, Henry, and Victor immediately set out to find assistance in a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.

Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrads life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.

REVIEW

This Dark Endeavor is beautifully written.

That is the first of many of reasons why everyone should read this fantastic book.

Oppel has amazed and astounded readers for years with his Silverwing and Skybreaker books. But in this YA prequel on the creation of Victor Frankenstein Oppel has truly out done himself.

First off, besides being beautifully written, it is just plain riveting. I was unable to put it down. The characters are both relatable and robust. Readers will feel for Victor’s love for his brother, while at the same time understand his jealousy of his brother for Elizabeth’s affection. The trials that the characters face in searching for the elixir of life will have readers reeling in their seats as the book packed with action and adventure that is not to be missed.

And yet most importantly the mission of creating a monster of the protagonist, a man who would literally bend life to his will, from a young, na├»ve, kind spirited boy is never forgotten nor missed. Oppel not only creates a fresh take on an old story, he is able to blend the tone of his prequel with Shelley’s Frankenstein without forfeiting his creativity and originality in his own This Dark Endeavors.

Oppel has truly created a masterpiece here and I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who has read Mary Shelley Frankenstein.


RATING
9 out of 10

INFO

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Published: August 23, 2011

Price: $17.99

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Prince of Thorns: By Mark Lawrence

PRINCE OF THORNS

SUMMARY

When he was nine, he watched his mother and brother killed before him. By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king...

It's time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what's rightfully his. Since the day he was hung on the thorns of a briar patch and forced to watch Count Renar's men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him-and he has nothing left to lose.

But treachery awaits him in his father's castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce, can the will of one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

REVIEW

Prince of Thorns is a fantastic debut novel. It, like its main character, Prince Jorg, is curt, cruel, and action packed. Like Ari Marmell’s The Conquerors Shadow The Prince of Thorns takes readers from the perspective of a natural antagonist. Jorg is a ruthless, merciless, and out for revenge. He has killed, raped, pillaged, and yet readers will still find themselves rooting for him. He is evil and pitiful at the same time, he has seen the worst of death and laughed in its face.

Of course Jorg wasn’t the only impressive character in the book. I personally loved the Nubian and Sir Makin. They each had an odd mixture of honor and savagery that was fascinating to read. And with Makin’s sense of humor and terrific balance to Jorg’s ruthlessness, Lawrence out did himself.

Lawrence also did a fantastic job creating enough action to keep even the least attentive reader engaged. Jorg goes from one life threatening situation to another, but Lawrence does it in a way that allows the story to flow through, instead of in a kind of piece-mail fashion that appears in some books when they try to insert large quantities of action into their books without mapping out it’s significance first.

All in all Prince of Thorns was a great book. I don’t know what’s next for Lawrence to write about as it felt more like a stand alone than a series, but I would certainly pick up a copy and would easily recommend The Prince of Thorns to those loving a good bloodbath with a ruthless and fascinating protagonist

RATING
8.5 out of 10

INFO

Publisher: Ace

Published: August 2, 2011

Price: $25.95

Monday, August 8, 2011

Domestic Violets: By Matthew Norman

DOMESTIC VIOLETS

SUMMARY

Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.

The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.

Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.) Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.


REVIEW

Midlife crises are a common theme in the world of literary fiction. It is often comprised of a 30 to 40 something adult male who is unhappy with his life/job/wife. He is then seduced by a younger woman, who has conveniently been flirting with him for ages, and then all hell breaks loose as the ramifications of his action soon effect his work, family, and metal stability.

Domestic Violets only partially exemplifies this stereotype. Instead it focuses heavily on the seesaw between childhood and adulthood. That line between taking and giving advice from your father, and the true turn in adulthood where one realizes ones responsibility and with heavy shoulders accepts them, destroying the last plight of childhood left in ones soul.

Domestic Violets touches on all of these topics and remains true to its intent by remaining funny through out the book. Similar to Jonathan Tropper’s style of writing, Matthew Norman does a fantastic job remaining both hilarious and potent an unusually complex feat.

All in all Domestic Violets was a great read. The story sped by, the characters were interesting and dynamic, the writing humorous, and the emotions incredibly real all throughout the book. A very easy book to recommend.


RATING
9 out of 10

INFO

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Published: August 9, 2011

Price: $14.99

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Moon Over Soho: By Ben Aaronovitch

MOON OVER SOHO

SUMMARY

BODY AND SOUL

The song. That’s what London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant first notices when he examines the corpse of Cyrus Wilkins, part-time jazz drummer and full-time accountant, who dropped dead of a heart attack while playing a gig at Soho’s 606 Club. The notes of the old jazz standard are rising from the body—a sure sign that something about the man’s death was not at all natural but instead supernatural.

Body and soul—they’re also what Peter will risk as he investigates a pattern of similar deaths in and around Soho. With the help of his superior officer, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England, and the assistance of beautiful jazz aficionado Simone Fitzwilliam, Peter will uncover a deadly magical menace—one that leads right to his own doorstep and to the squandered promise of a young jazz musician: a talented trumpet player named Richard “Lord” Grant—otherwise known as Peter’s dear old dad.

REVIEW

Midnight Riot was the best new urban fantasy book I read this summer. So when Moon Over Soho came out so quickly after the release of Midnight Riot, I was ecstatic and fearful. Excited because I wanted to read more in this great series, but fearful because of the hardship in creating a second book in a series.

It’s often easy to lose the momentum of a series after a fantastic debut. Authors have to steer the series into a long term story arc while at the same time keep up the events from the previous book and create a new short term problem for the protagonist to deal with.

Aaronovitch does all of this, and more with ease in Moon Over Soho.

Moon Over Soho does have the familiar feel in its mystery element that any multibook series will have after reading one or two books in the series, but it deals with it very unique and interesting ways. These new turns will both entertain and surprise readers, but most importantly it will keep the story fresh and exciting.

Like Midnight Riot I loved the protagonist of the series. I felt he was relatable and interesting. But the characters we really get to see more of in this book is Nightingale. We get a taste of what life was like before he was the only practitioner in London, and are introduced into a fantastic world of mystery and magic.

All in all Moon Over Soho is a fantastic book. It’s fast paced, the characters are fascinating and well developed, the magic interesting and complex, and it’s just plain well written. And it’s because of all of these things that Moon Over Soho, like Midnight Riot, is a fantastic book that I will enthusiastically recommend to anyone looking for a book you just can’t put down.


RATING
9.5 out of 10

INFO

Publisher: Del Rey

Published: March 1, 2011

Price: $7.99

A Blight of Mages: By Karen Miller

A BLIGHT OF MAGES

SUMMARY

Hundreds of years before the great Mage War, a land lies, unknowing, on the edge of catastrophe...

Barl is young and impulsive, but she has a power within that calls to her. In her city, however, only those of noble blood and with the right connections learn the ways of the arcane. Barl is desperate to learn-but her eagerness to use her power leads her astray and she is banned from ever learning the mystic arts.

Morgan holds the key to her education. A member of the Council of Mages, he lives to maintain the status quo, preserve the mage bloodlines, and pursue his scholarly experiments. But Barl's power intrigues him-in spite of her low status.

Together, he realizes they can create extraordinary new incantations. Morgan's ambition and Barl's power make a potent combination. What she does not see is the darkness in him that won't be denied.

REVIEW

I read and enjoyed Karen Miller’s The Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology but felt as if at times it was slow for long sections of the book and at other times, during the action sequences, it skipped over to many of the details necessary to make it into a better more compelling story.

That said I felt A Blight of Mages improved these deficits and made a much more compelling story. The characters were interesting, while sometimes annoying (really only Barl), they appeared much more real than when compared to characters in Miller’s previous books.

As for the plot itself, it was great reading what happened to cause the events that set up The Innocent Mage. It contained build ups and let downs but not that much action, yet still found a way to be entertaining.

All in all, while there were points where I was annoyed with certain characters or was tired of one perspective, I did enjoyed the book. Besides being an enjoyment overall A Blight of Mages also acts as a great first book to become introduced into the world of The Innocent Mage, and it also makes a great look back at the events that caused the events for fans of the later set series.

RATING
7 out of 10

INFO

Publisher: Orbit

Published: August 4, 2011

Price: $25.99