Review: The Eye of Minds

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Hi bookies (you literary nerds)! Here’s a new review for you.

Title: The Eye of Minds
Author: James Dashner
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
# of pages: 310

So let’s jump right into this. This book is quite interesting. Sci-Fi books about virtual reality, connecting your brain to a virtual ‘net, or especially life-like videogames are always iffy for me. Some are very good, others are too deep, and some are just not my cup of tea and I can’t muscle my way past the first few chapters. The description seemed more or less interesting, but it still depended on how the author chose to develop the story, right? Just take a look at the blurb:

An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

This book started out iffy to me, but it wasn’t too focused on world-building which actually helped me. It focused on the situation, what’s going on, and that was interesting enough to keep me going.

Michael is a rich gamer kid who loves gaming above all else. Gaming is basically his life. Whenever he’s not gaming, he’s just doing the regular things that have to get done to get through the day. His best friends, Bryson and Sarah, have that in common. The three are an amazing trio out to have fun who have good programming skills and apparently to much time on their hands. With nicknames like the Terrible Trio, the Trifecta to Dissect-ya, the Burn-and-Pillage-y Trilogy, shows how they aren’t the most mature kids out there, but they just want to have fun with friends. However, they’ve never met in person. With terms like the NerveBox, Coffin, VirtNet, Core, Portal you know you’re talking about a futuristic setting.

Now about the main characters, all three are young teenagers who can be classified as gamer nerds. But they have the computer skills to back it up. So while they may not be anyone important in real life and they may be looked down upon, they don’t mind because they matter to each other and are hackers with advanced skills in the gaming world where they usually live anyway.

Unfortunately, their carefree life is about to come to a sharp halt. A secret organization blackmails Michael into helping them catch a criminal mastermind in the gaming world who is not satisfied with infecting the game- now when he kills in the game, you’ll die- or worse- in real life. So not only does Michael have to catch a killer with nearly unreal, advanced computer skills… He has to do it without any help, besides that of his two best pals. If he loses, it’s game over for his life. Or so he thinks. What is the killer’s obsession with Michael? What is the secret behind his identity and motives?

This book does a good job in world-building, despite the challenges. However, the plot can get a little slow in some parts. I think I most enjoyed Michael’s interactions with his friends. He is someone who spends a lot of time in his head, but he doesn’t really get anywhere with all that thinking. Strangely enough, though his friends are the only ones that matter in his life, Michael doesn’t really share any of the problems that really worry him. He is a sort of confusing character that when you look back on it, doesn’t seem to have much depth. The ending was a total surprise though and a real cliffhanger that neatly sums up all the small details that don’t really make sense in the book.

So this book, to sum it all up, is not really my cup of tea. Despite that, I enjoyed it and would be interested in reading the second book. I give this book a 3/5. Keeps a good interest level but can be a bit tough to slog though at times. If you love videogames and wish you could live in them, maybe this book is for you. What’s your favorite genre? Let us know in the comments below.

Review: The Night She Disappeared

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Hi bookies (personal book collectors)!

I recently read a pair of books by a new (to me) author. April Henry. She has written great books from what I can tell. I don’t usually read this type of book, but let me explain what I’m talking about.

Title: The Night She Disappeared

Author: April Henry

Genre: Mystery, Young Adult, Crime Fiction

# of pages: 229

As always, here’s the blurb:

Gabie drives a Mini Cooper. She also works part time as a delivery girl at Pete's Pizza. One night, Kayla-another delivery girl-goes missing. To her horror, Gabie learns that the supposed kidnapper had asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper was working that night. Gabie can't move beyond the fact that Kayla's fate was really meant for her, and she becomes obsessed with finding Kayla. She teams up with Drew, who also works at Pete's. Together, they set out to prove that Kayla isn't dead-and to find her before she is.

Has it gotten your attention yet? It got mine when I pulled it off a shelf. It’s basically one of those middle school, who-is-the-criminal type of books. But I was surprised when I did a bit more research to learn that this book is based off of a real-life crime. April Henry got the idea from an old newstory about…well, let me just let her explain it:

The Night She Disappeared was inspired by a real-life case that happened nearly 30 years ago. A man ordered some pizzas to be delivered to what turned out to be a false address. He asked if “the girl in the orange Volkswagen” was working delivery that night and was told a different girl was. That girl’s car was later found with the keys in the ignition and the pizzas and her hat on the ground. Her body was never found.

The parents hired a psychic, who zeroed in on a young man who owned a truck similar to one that had been seen in the vicinity. Right after that man talked to the psychic, he killed himself, never revealing where he had left the delivery girl’s body. For years, the case was considered closed — until another man, already in prison, confessed to the murder. The man who committed suicide had nothing to do with it. I was always fascinated by this twist, and decided to write a book with a better outcome than the real story. I also wondered how it would feel to know that you were the girl the killer asked for first. In high school, I worked at Pietros Pizza, so I was able to draw on that experience for real-life details.

I have to say, that does sound like an interesting news story that would spark ideas. But now back to the review. Well, it was a quick read. I finished this book in a few hours. It wasn’t so easy that I got bored. That was good. It is written in pretty simple language so it works well for kids. The point of view switches between Gabie, Drew, Kayla, and a tiny bit of the abductor’s and a few minor characters.

Now, while I’m sure kids will understand the story and language, I’m not so sure that 6th grade age level kids and below should read this. It’s not hard to understand, but there are a few parts that get a little dark. The main character, Gabie, becomes obsessed with understanding what might have happened to her workmate and how she must have felt when she was kidnapped. So she tries to copy some ‘scenes’ she imagines happened and has some disturbing thoughts due to her guilty conscience. Take a look at this example:

“And why the rock? Did she cut her hand falling? Or was it something worse? Had the bad things happened yet, or was it just the beginning? Or- my heart quickens here- maybe Kayla was the one who hefted the rock. Maybe she hit him in the head and then fled the quickest way she could, by jumping into the river. But how could she survive a nighttime swim in swift-moving water?

And that’s when I kick off my shoes.”

Clearly, these questions are not very good ones to get obsessed with. Younger children would probably not benefit from these type of questions. So I would recommend this book for those 13 and older.

For those of you that meet this requirement, this book isn’t that scary. The story is mostly focused on Gabie and how she is feeling, her relationship with Drew. You’re trying to figure out who the bad guy is and what his motivations are. Honestly, the book doesn’t really say. I guess this can be seen as realistic, because in real life, you don’t always get a reason or why people do bad things to others.

In contrast to the realism, the end is a mostly happy ending with the main problem reaching its conclusion and the relationships that were damaged were repaired. The end focuses mostly on the budding romance between Drew and Gabie, which you could see coming from a mile away. So there’s nothing shocking or too descriptive (it is for kids after all), but it was enjoyable to just chill out to.

As for my rating… I will give it a 3/5. It does well for the audience it is focused on, but it can give more details. It jumps straight into the romance between Drew and Gabie without giving it enough time to develop. The abductor mostly remains as a sort of ‘shadowy figure’ even when you uncover who it is. I would have liked for the author to explain more about the abductor to make it more realistic or have more of an impact.

What about you bookies? Does this rating seem fair to you? What would you rate it? What was the first book to ‘traumatize’ you?

Review: The Help

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Welcome back, bookies (my literary-inclined pals)!

Today I want to talk about another book that has been made into a movie. Have you heard of “The Help”? Let me provide you with the details.

Title: The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Genre: Historical Novel

# of pages: 522

Now for those of you who have been under a rock (just kidding!), this book has been a big hit. As you have surely noticed, this is a historical novel. That’s not to say that it will sound like your high school history textbook. It’s a fictional story with a historical setting- the 1950’s when blacks were hated and discriminated against. So let’s look at the blurb, shall we?

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step….
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope,The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

Have you ever read “To Kill a Mockingbird”? It’s a great book that I read in high school. It’s  a classic, pretty interesting, and talks about the same era. Well, in my opinion, “The Help” is so much better. I mean, let’s just start with the title. “The Help”; Such a nice, simple title that immediately tells you what the whole book is focused on. Now think about it. It’s not easy to do that in two words, but Kathryn Stockett was able to.

Moving on. The story itself is so well-paced. Usually, with historical novels, there are small parts where I get bored and that I read through without any interest in order to get to the interesting parts. Well, that’s not the case with this book. I did not want to put this book down. I was only able to do so when absolutely necessary. How did the author achieve this? She focused on the human aspect of the story. After all, we might live in different times, but emotions stay the same and so do a lot of personal relationships. We still care about family, friends, colleagues, etc. And we still feel anger, sadness, happiness, disappointment, surprise, joy, just like the generations before ours did. So by focusing on this, you get sucked into the story. It’s something you can relate to. Now, I’m not saying everyone will enjoy this. But I think most will. Especially if you are interested in topics like discrimination, racism, human rights, history, etc.

I love the character development here. You can actually see the growth of the character as she stops being so accepting of her situation and learns to adapt to new circumstances that are initially out of her comfort zone. I love how the story alternates between the 3 main characters, but it is very well-balanced. It doesn’t feel like just one character takes over. It feels like you’re getting to know all of them, one at a time. I also really liked how the story is told as if the character was having a conversation with you, explaining how things are.

It addresses a serious topic in a way that seems very natural. It doesn’t push one opinion or another. It just focuses on a “this is my life; let me introduce you to it” sort of storyline. For example, after having to deal with an unpleasant encounter with her fake-nice boss, Aibileen mentions,

“I put the iron down real slow, feel that bitter seed grow in my chest, the one planted after Treelore died. My face goes hot, my tongue twitchy. I don’t know what to say to her. All I know is, I ain’t saying it. And I know she ain’t saying what she want a say either and it’s a strange thing happening here cause nobody saying nothing and we still managing to have us a conversation.”

The author does such a great job with having the characters tell the story that I think few people would get offended. Those that do are probably looking for something to fight over.

You may have seen the movie. If you have, I have to say that the movie is remarkably close to the book. But somehow, the book seems to be even better. If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it first, then read the book. Save the best for last, like dessert. When you read the book, you get to know not only the reactions and emotions displayed on their faces but also what they are thinking and feeling on the inside. You get to enjoy more of their quirks, like Minny’s hilarious sassing when she is insisting her boss has to tell her husband that she wants to hire Minny as the help.

“And what’s Mister Johnny gone do if he come home and find a colored woman up in his kitchen?”

“I’m sorry, I just can’t-”

“I’ll tell you what he’s gone do, he’s gone get that pistol and shoot Minny dead right here on this no-wax floor.”

Miss Celia shakes her head. “I’m not telling him.”

“Then I got to go,” I say. Shit, I knew it. I knew she was crazy when I walked in the door-

“It’s not that I’d be fibbing to him. I just need a maid-”

“A course you need a maid. Last one done gone got shot in the head.”

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As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I absolutely love this book and can’t say enough to express how much I enjoyed it. It’s thought-provoking, funny, sad, happy, exciting and basically, just goes through the whole range of human emotions. I give it a 5/5. Absolutely wonderful and totally worthwhile!

What about you, bookies? Did you enjoy it? Have you seen the movie? What differences did you notice between them? Say your piece below!

First Book Haul!

Hi bookies (book bloggers and readers),

I know it’s been a few weeks since our last post. Don’t worry. We’ve got more coming soon. I do want to share my first ever Book Haul! I got some new books!!! Now, I have to clarify. I love reading and I love books, but I am a total cheapskate. So how do I satisfy my voracious appetite for books? 5 words sum up my methods: Library, Free Books, Thrift Shops. These are my methods in order of frequency.

I have, of course, had books hauls before. But that was before I began my book blog and so they were not documented. Now that I’ve got this blog, I can share the good news with you bookies.

I can’t wait to finish them up and post reviews on each of them. But for now, check it out!

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Can you believe these great finds? I love languages and everything to do with them. So when I found these for the taking at our public library, imagine my excitement. Books about correct pronunciations of words that are normally mispronounced, different accents, slang, the origin of words and phrases, and more. And I found a few fiction books. Now these babies are all mine!

Who knows? Later on maybe I’ll hold a giveaway. What do you think? Would you want to own one of these? Comment below.

 

Sister’s site

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Hi bookies (by which I mean the totally legal book lovers out there),

So, I think I finally got the hang of this WordPress account. It took a while there, but I definitely couldn’t have done it without the help of the book harpy. You think I’m kidding, don’t you? Okay, maybe a little. But seriously, bookharpy on WordPress was the one who helped. She happens to be a book blogger/reviewer and also, incidentally, my younger sister.

That’s why in a gesture of appreciation I want to take a bit of time to promote her WordPress. If you’d like to visit it, here’s the link. You’ll also see it under my “Blogs I Follow”.

She has done a ton of reviews, has gotten tons of books, and has a great layout. Stop by her site for more book loving fun. What about you guys? What are your favorite book loving sites? Feel free to include your book blogs, book giveaway sites, and other interesting book-related sites!