Ready Player One By: Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, is a Sci-fi dystopian novel about a boy named Wade Watts, and his quest for Halliday’s Easter egg.

It’s 2045, and the world has become every environmentalist’s nightmare. In a world where there is the poor, and the extra poor. The OASIS is a MMOSG (massively multiplayer online simulation game) created by James Halliday .This virtual reality game is the one escape from the utter hellhole their everyday life is, but when James Halliday dies, he leaves a challenge to all oasis players in the world, find the three keys hidden throughout his game, and recieve the entire fortune and resouces of James Halliday.

As I read this book, I was immediately engrossed in the story, I couldn’t put the book down. As I continued reading, all the video game, and 80s pop culture references made me love the book that much more. I am completely invested in the story, and every time I turned a page, a completely new piece of knowledge was dropped on me. I’m about halfway through and I’m totally in love with this book.


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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

While browsing the young adult section at Powell’s bookstore in search of an independent reading book, I was immediately attracted to Station Eleven. From quickly skimming the description on the back cover, I derived that the book was focused on a group called the Travelling Symphony, who travel to different camps performing Shakespeare after a deadly disease swept Northern America. I ultimately chose Station Eleven because I thought it would tie together my love for the sci-fi and fantasy genres while also encompassing an aspect of literature. Upon reading the first half, I was surprised.  This novel does indeed follow a girl named Kirsten who is a part of the Traveling Symphony. But, the focus frequently switches to the past; where we learn about a man named Arthur who was an actor before the disease. The author divulges into the background of Arthur, including before he became a successful as well as his many complicated relationships. I have found that this makes the novel extremely confusing; it seems almost as if there are two completely different plot lines. I do hope that the second half of this book reveals more about how Arthur and Kirsten’s lives are connected.

Just within the first pages of the novel, the author was able to set a tone for the rest of the book. After a man named Jeevan experienced Arthur’s unexpected death while performing a play, he decided to have a drink at a nearby bar. At the very end of the chapter, Mandel wrote, “Of all of them at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city” (15). By foreshadowing their impending deaths, I found that the author set an eerie tone that has been carried throughout the novel. I was also immediately interested by the sense of mystery that was conveyed. The last line left an opportunity for questions to be asked, such as how life would change after such a devastating disease.

As I mentioned before, the author was able to grab my attention with the mysterious nature of the first few chapters. But I have also noticed that feeling of obscurity has almost been used excessively, and it has been hard to keep track of the many different questions that are presented. The first quarter of the book follows Arthur and his relationship with a girl named Miranda and although much time is spent exploring the comic books Miranda makes, it is unclear what the purpose of including this detail is. At the same time, Arthur was writing to a person labelled “V” in the form of letters that eventually get published as a book. Again, it is not revealed who “V” is or why they are significant. Lastly, many of the Symphony’s members, including Kirsten and her closest friend August, begin to disappear, after visiting a cult-like village on their traveling route. As a reader, it almost seems as if the author is trying to delve too much into the details and in turn loses focus of the main picture. The result is a novel that has become increasingly harder to follow as well as to stay interested in. I am curious to see whether or not each of these details will tie together in the second half of the book.

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The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Doyle

I originally chose another novel for this semester’s independent reading. However, as the pages turned into chapters, I found that I was not very invested in the story. One day, I was reading the novel in my room when I glanced over at a stack of hand-me-down books from my sister. Laying on top of the stack was The Tortilla Curtain. Curious, I grabbed the book and began to read the first few pages. I continued reading until I realized that I had already read further in this new novel than the previous book that was scheduled for this blog. Quickly, I transferred my assignment and began focusing on The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle. The novel is set in modern-day Southern California. The story focuses on four main characters and tells the tale of immigration, racism, and the California wildlife.

Immediately, the reader is thrust into action as the novel begins with a car accident. The start of the novel entices the reader and lures them to read more. While many books slowly paint their beginnings with backstory and description, it was refreshing to see Boyle grabbing the reader and setting the mood for the book. The scene felt intense and the author quickly revealed an interesting conflict in the next few pages. However, after the first two chapters, the pace of the book declined as the backstory and description that Boyle initially evaded took over. While I was disappointed at the slower tempo, the placement of the action at the beginning had already hooked me and I continued to read; interested.

A recurring theme quickly emerged. The novel began to tackle the debate of immigration as the reader found themselves following two illegal immigrants, Cándido and Ámerica. The story follows the couple as they desperately cling to life; fighting their way towards the American Dream. The author evokes sympathy for the characters and expresses a seemly positive spin on illegal immigrants. However, Doyle also portrays many undocumented immigrants as thugs, rapists, and troublemakers. The author’s use of this contrast between the immigrants suggests that the situation around illegal immigration is not black and white, but rather many shades of gray.

In the first half of the novel, the author invests the reader in the characters, setting, and plot. T.C. Doyle has created a unique story that I enjoy and can not wait to finish.


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Night, by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel Part 1

For my first independent reading book of this semester I chose Night by Elie Wiesel. This is a memoir of Elie Wiesel’s experience in Nazi concentration camps in 1944 to 1945.

There is a preface and a foreword at the beginning of the book. Reading these is quite necessary for this book as they give you what themes to pay attention to that run through the book and what ideas to think about when reading it. Themes of humanity, prejudice, change, hate, and faith.

The theme of faith goes all throughout the first half of the book. Elie Wiesel goes through a dramatic change as he starts out deeply religious, but finds himself losing faith in his God as he witnesses the horrors of Auschwitz. You can also see the juxtaposition between the older prisoners and Elie Wiesel and his father when they first arrived. And then, given the faster pace of the book, you can see how they changed to be like them.

One thing that keeps Elie Wiesel going is having his father with him. He is his only family left with him after he is separated from his mother and sister. They support each other through the dark times, showing that there can be love even amongst evil.

You don’t read this book just for the events, the actions of the characters. This book goes by quickly. It’s not very long and one thing happens after another with little delays. There is not as much elaboration in this book as in most others I’ve read. But it leaves a much deeper meaning behind.

The preface also has the message that me must not let something like the Holocaust to ever happen again. It shows why books like Night are necessary if we are to prevent more atrocities like it in the future, saying that “…we cannot indefinitely avoid depressing subject matter, particularly if it is true, and in the subsequent quarter century the world has had to hear a story it would have preferred not to hear…”


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Animal Farm by George Orwell

The short novel called Animal Farm written by George Orwell was a book that I regret not reading sooner. I had previously discontinued in the reading of this book when I was a bit younger than now because I had still been invested in only fantasy stories. This novel is about how animals overthrow their human “captors” because they are unhappy with their current treatment. Unlike any book I have read before, I was surprised by the meaning of this story.

The book starts out very innocent with the animals doing what is expected of them on the farm. It seems like a generic farm life from the start though I was thrown in for a twist as the animals rose up against the humans and took the farm for themselves. I cannot say much as it would spoil the whole story though so please bear with me.

The novel suddenly takes a political turn as the humans are chased out. At first, it seems like a democracy is established amongst the animals and there were even commandments established, similar to the Bible. Everyone had a job and was content with what they had, working together with no complaint with the help of the horse, Snowball who could be seen as their leader. I noticed that ever so slowly that a dictatorship was established amongst them through a boar named Napolean. I found that though the build up to this moment was well written, it was paced a bit poorly. The events that occur in the story seem too rushed or not fast enough at times. Orwell’s writing truly intrigues me. I only wish he took more time to make the events happen at a more natural pace.

I hope that the second half of the novel is better paced and I can’t wait to see more development within the story.


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The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

I must confess, the occasion that I will choose nonfiction novel for the sole purpose of enterainment is an extremely rare one. However, the first half of Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat may have forever changed that mindset. The story is a complex one, focusing not only on the freshmen rowing team from the University of Washington, but various human struggles, such as extreme poverty, prominent class divisions, and pure determination. In addition, both the historical factors of the impending World War II and the ongoing Great Depression set the scene for a story of the complexities of humanity.

I enjoyed the author’s focus on Joe Rantz, a member of the University of Washington rowing team. This aspect of the novel not only demonstrates the rare abilty of an author to characterize a real person, but added an incredibly meaningful piece of information to the everpresent team of hardwork and resourcefulness. And though the book may be called The Boys in the Boat, Brown does a wonderful job of presenting the contributions and personal nuances of the multiple women important to the story, straying from the “accessory” mindset that females are so often stuck with in male-centric novels.

Though I have been thoroughly appreciating the eloquent writing and clever craft of the book, I admit that one facet has left me confused. The author often describes the sport of rowing, something that should come as no surprise to anyone. However, I often feel confused at the many literary depictions of the activity and the lengthy explainations may only lend to a perplexed reader. For examples, Brown writes about one of the teams many races, stating “As they passed the quarter-mile mark, the two-boats slowly came even. Then Washington began to overtake California, methodically, seat by seat, the boys still rowing at a remarkably low thirty” (Brown 98). Because I obviously do not (or have never) have experience as a rower, the intense athletic language can at times present itself as slightly boring and takes away from the otherwise fascinating plot.

At this point in time, I am excited by the discovery of this nonfiction novel that tells a story with a much deeper meaning. Though I am only halfway through, I recommend this novel to anyone who is put off by the genre of nonfiction. As I very much look foward to learing more about the sport of rowing, enhancing my knowledge of history, and gaining a deeper understanding of the journey of the actual boys in the boat.


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The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

The Wretched of Muirwood is a young adult fantasy novel designed to be a thrilling, interesting, and dynamic novel. Without too much summary, the story follows young Lia, a girl that is  a “wretched”; essentially a slave. There are other classes as well, such as “learners”, but these prove to be almost irrelevant in the first half of the book. However, unlike other “wretched”, Lia has the ability to use “The Medium”, a spiritual force that allows her to control the environment around her. Early in the novel, Lia harbors a sickly young man (Colvin) hiding from his totalitarian kingdom, and for the rest of the novel (so far), it follows Lia’s adventures protecting and serving the knight.

The one thing that constantly bothered me while reading was the thought of the potential that this book could have had. Wheeler’s style of writing is mediocre, at times  simplistic, at others overcomplicated during reading. I noticed in the novel that it tends to take a long time and an excessive amount of words for Wheeler to get his point across, to the point where it becomes downright confusing to read. Because of this, the first half of the novel seems like one, long drawn -out introduction. Plot development is practically non-existent for most of the first half, for the most part plateauing after Lia discovers a way how to efficiently hide the knight. One scene particularly stood out to me while reading this book. After a couple days of housing the knight inside of Lia’s kitchen, word gets around that the kingdom is sending troops on the lookout for the lost night. Eventually, these soldiers do arrive, and after a rather tidy, short search, they promptly leave. To me, this scene seemed very forced, as if Wheeler was trying to implement some sort of suspense into a sea of monotony. After some sloppy questioning, the soldiers leave… and that was it! There was absolutely no development at all for this strange group, which left me confused as obviously this is designed to be a suspenseful and tense section of the novel.

This leads me into my next section, character. Wheeler does a fine job of describing and creating the characters in this novel. Lia, as the main protagonist, is very well developed. I appreciate how the author begins the novel, saying “Lia lived in the Aldermaston’s kitchen at the Muirwood Abbey. More than anything else, she craved learning to read. But she had no family to afford such a privilege…because she was a wretched”(Wheeler 1). As I look back upon my reading, I appreciate Wheeler’s direct, straight-forward explanation of Lia’s character, which definitely allowed me to delve deeper into the novels plot when needed. Unfortunately, Colvin and other smaller characters (most notably Lia’s friend Sowe) are left completely undeveloped, at time distracting me from the reading as I focus on interpreting their character and actions.  Lia’s character can be paralleled to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, how she defends and protects her values, even against the feelings of the community around her. Lia demonstrates her opposition to the community by harboring a knight seeking shelter and safety, an act that is consistently frowned upon by many in her tight-knit community. Scout similarly opposes the racism in her community against African Americans, the opposite being commonly found in the community of Maycomb.

One of the weakest points in Wheeler’s writing is his failure to evoke emotion within his audiences. For me, experiencing the same emotions and feelings as a character in a novel is an pleasure when reading, and I find that this book simply doesn’t satisfy that need. A good example of this would be on page 79, when the sheriff of the kingdom is threatening and intimidating Lia in order to get answers. When beginning the chapter, I was excited to see what was going to happen next, as the whole scene played out in my head. A dark night, an evil sheriff, and a cowering young girl fearing for her life. Many times, the sheriffs threats were good, but one piece of dialogue spoiled the whole scene for me. “[Sheriff to Lia] I would have never dreamed of it possible that one of them would leave a wretched behind….Your face…your sweet face. It is staring at me past the brink of death. Child, you are special. Are you not curious to know how you were abandoned. The shame of it!”( Wheeler 79). Wheeler’s purpose is clear; to create a feeling of eery suspense and intimidation to excite the reader. But somehow this dialogue seemed out of place, a line more from an animated children’s film than a young adult novel. Especially in the last three sentences, the careless attitude that the sheriff presents makes the scene seem less powerful and impactful. Like a children’s movie, the action and violence is simplified and almost sugar-coated as if suited for young eyes and ears.

So far, I have enjoyed the books in some respects. The detail that Wheeler creates certainly is interesting, but I would have enjoyed it much more if Wheeler moved the story along. It seems like the plot is stationary…fixed in place. I would not recommend this to anyone who is looking for a thrilling read, the book is simply to slow and distracting. Hopefully, the next half will offer something better.


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