Friday, February 19, 2016

Suicide Reviews: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

 The Start of Me and You 

Synopsis: It's been one year since it happened - when Paige Hancock's first boyfriend dies in a swimming accident. After shutting out everyone except her family and three best friends, Paige has decided it's finally time to rejoin the real world...and she has a plan:

1. Date a boy. Her old crush Ryan Chase is the perfect path to normalcy.
2. Attend parties: With her friends by her side, doable.
3. Join a club: Simple, it's high school after all. 
4. Travel: Well, a girl can dream.
5. Swim: Terrifying. Yet possible?

The new Paige feels ready for anything, but when Ryan's sweet, nerdy cousin Max moves to town and recruits Paige for the QuizBowl team (of all things!), her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Starting over isn't easy, but Paige knows the scariest things are usually the most difficult. Can she face her fears and finally open herself up to life and love again?

Date Published: March 31, 2015
Published By: Bloomsbury
Number of Pages: 384
Rating: 5/5

I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. When I first started reading it I thought it was kind of predictable and Paige kind of annoyed me at first. I thought she was too concerned with being cool and of what other people thought of her. But then I remembered - that is exactly what it's like when you're in high school! You want to fit in and be well-liked so of course you want to be perceived as cool. Thankfully, Paige ends up letting her inner nerd shine through towards the end of the book.

I loved all of the other characters in the book. Paige's three best friends are well-rounded and fully fleshed out - different while still being recognizable as typical teenage girls. They all have their own personal lives and are not just there to be foils for Paige. I'm always pleased to see realistic representations of female friendships - sometimes they argue, or even fight but at the end of the day, they're always there for each other. 

Of course my favourite character was Max, Paige's love interest. But more than just a love interest, an actual fully-realized character in his own right. He's a nerdy, introverted guy who'd rather read than play sports - my dream guy, basically. I love how the relationship between Paige and Max develops throughout the story - they start out as friends and it takes a while for Paige to realizes that she actually has feelings for him. Just when it seems they're about to connect, disaster strikes and I was left seriously wondering if they would work things out.

I won't spoil it for you - but suffice it to say I was happy with the way things ended.

This isn't just a cute YA romance - it also deals with serious issues of loss and how to cope with it. It has some incredibly emotional moments. I even found myself tearing up at some points! (WHY ARE MY EYES LEAKING?) Even though the book has these heartbreaking moments, the overall tone of the book is inspirational. After I finished reading it, I found myself with a big stupid grin on my face and the urge to Try New Things! The Start of Me and You is one of my favourites now and deserves to be widely read.

This isn't Typical YA. This is YA at its best. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Suicide Reviews: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

 Ready Player One 

Synopsis: 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 OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within the 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. 

But 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.

Date Published: November 16, 2011
Published By: Broadway Books
Number of Pages: 372
Rating: 4/5

Ready Player One is definitely one of the most hyped sci-fi novels to come out in the last few years. People have been raving about it, Steven Spielberg's turning it into a movie - it'll be getting the full Martian treatment.

The book is oodles of fun. Chock-full of '80s pop culture references that runs the gamut of film, books, TV, and video games, Ready Player One is every geek's dream. Not surprising seeing as Ernest Cline is a self-described professional nerd. People who grew up in the '80s will especially appreciate all of the nods to the decade. Being a '90s girl myself, some of the references went straight over my head but I recognized enough of them to still enjoy the book.

The plot is pretty straightforward - Wade must scour the OASIS for clues so he can find the Easter Egg hidden by the platform's creator. The first person to find the Egg will inherit the late genius's massive fortune. It's a prize everyone wants and a prize some are willing to kill for. Along the way, we meet Wade's friends, enemies, and obligatory Love Interest. 

The world-building in Ready Player One is spectacular. It must have been a challenge to have to build not one but two worlds (the real one and the virtual one) and have them meld together so seamlessly. The real world is a frightening dystopia where unemployment is at an all-time high, most people live in dismal poverty, and food is scarce. This hopeless world is why so many people retreat into the OASIS. The OASIS is an expansive virtual paradise with endless worlds to explore, many based on video games, movies, or works of literature. People don't just play in the OASIS - it's also where many people work, go to school, and socialize. To many people, including Wade, OASIS is not just an escape from reality - it's a better reality. 

Like any video game, the OASIS has it's own rules and laws. Characters can level up by completing quests, you need credits to teleport to other worlds, and if your avatar is killed in the OASIS, you have to start all over again with a new one. I liked that it wasn't just a virtual world where anything goes - there are restrictions in OASIS just like in the real world. Still, I must admit that having access to the OASIS would be pretty cool. Ernest Cline made it so believable that I'm convinced someone will develop something like it someday - possibly sooner than we think. 

A couple of complaints: sometimes reading Ready Player One can feel like the literary equivalent of watching someone else play a video game. For anyone who has ever had to sit and watch a significant other do this, then you know it's not exactly fun. Thankfully, I found these moments were few and far between. 

But I suppose my biggest issue is with the romance. Wade's love interest is a girl called Art3mis who blogs about her own search for the Egg. He's totally obsessed with her and has a crush on her before he even meets her, online or in real life. They first meet in OASIS through their avatars - which are lifelike but can be programmed to look like however the person wants them to look. Wade thinks Art3mis's avatar is gorgeous, yet she warns him that she looks nothing like it. He eventually discovers what she really looks like and, despite a flaw that she is ashamed of, thinks she is still beautiful. I think this is supposed to show the reader that Personality triumphs over Looks. Huzzah! 

I. HATE. THIS. TROPE. First, it's bad enough that Art3mis's character veers dangerously into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory. (She just happens to like everything that Wade likes? WHAT AN AMAZING COINCIDENCE!) But she's also given a flaw that Wade is supposed to bravely overlook to prove that he's a Good Guy and doesn't care how she looks? The flaw itself is so inconsequential that it shouldn't matter either way. But it matters to Art3mis because apparently you can't have an awesome, kick-ass smart female character without making her insecure about her looks. I call bullshit on this trope. I'm just so sick of it. And if you really want to prove that personality matters more to your male character than looks, try revealing that his love interest is actually a 300-pound amputee or something. Really push the boundaries. 

Okay, rant over. 

I really did enjoy this book. It's a fast-paced read with tons of geeky references. What's not to love? I'll be interested to see what the film adaptation will be like. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Songs I Wish Were Books


This week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about music and books. Below, I list the Top 10 songs that deserve to be book! 

10) 'All I Want' by Kodaline

Image result for all i want kodaline

Famous for being a part of The Fault in Our Stars soundtrack, this song speaks of heartbreak and loss. Because of the track's rollicking beat towards the end, I always imagine someone going on a journey to find their lost love. 

9) 'Someone New' by BANKS

Image result for someone new banks

Another heartbreaking song, the singer promises to come back to her former lover someday and pleads with him not to 'fall in love with someone new.' I think the premise of the book would be that a girl had to leave her boyfriend because of some trauma in her life and when she comes back for him, he has already moved on. 

8) 'Wildest Dreams' by Taylor Swift
Image result for wildest dreams by taylor swift

I think any Taylor Swift song would make a good story (particularly a YA contemporary). This one about a fleeting love affair practically writes itself.

7) 'Speechless' by Lady Gaga
Image result for speechless lady gaga

Lady Gaga says this song is about her troubled relationship with her father so I could really see this song as a moving story about a father/daughter relationship.

6) 'Pretty Hurts' by Beyonce

Image result for pretty hurts beyonce

An incredible song about the impossible quest for physical perfection, it would make a great story about a self-destructive beauty queen or actress. 

5) 'Love the Way You Lie' by Eminem feat. Rihanna

Image result for love the way you lie

A song about an abusive relationship - it would be great as a book that tells the story of a couple falling in love and then chronicled the journey to their destructive relationship. Kind of like Gone Girl.

4) 'Like We Never Loved At All' by Faith Hill
Image result for like we never loved at all faith hill

One of my favorite break-up songs of all time, this would make a great novel. Plus, it's a country song so it's practically a short story in song form.

3) 'Say Something' by A Great Big World

Image result for say something

Okay, I know I have a lot of sad songs on this list, but they would make the best stories! This one especially could spawn a multitude of different heartbreaking novels. 

2) 'Seven Devils' by Florence + the Machine

Image result for seven devils florence and the machine

The one song on this list that could be turned into a fantasy novel. I imagine this song being adapted into a dark story of an evil sorceress conquering the world. 

1) 'Hello ' by Adele
Image result for adele hello

Of course Adele had to make this list. The first time I heard this song, I cried like a baby. There's just so much emotion in her voice! This song would make one heart-wrenching book. It would have to be an epic love story, like Gone with the Wind or Love in the Time of Cholera.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original book blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.