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 Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

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Welcome bookies (book fans),

I have just finished a nice book by Sarah Dessen. It’s not the first one I have read by her, and it likely isn’t the last. I have read a few of her books and have enjoyed them all, some more than others. So let’s get started!

The facts

Title: The Truth About Forever

Author: Sarah Dessen

Genre: YA

Publishing Date: May 11, 2004

Book summary: Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She’s stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she’ll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father’s recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother’s open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it.”

Sarah Dessen often covers “deep” topics in her books. This one was not the exception. Macy is still grieving the death of her father. How does she deal with it? She strives to be in control of everything, to be perfect. She tries to be the perfect student, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect daughter and, to all outward appearances, she is. But Macy is far too aware of her shortcomings. What happens when she meets her polar opposites?

This book explores those friendships and seemingly negative influences. It challenges the biases of society weaving a story about how those “bad” kids help Macy realize she needs to fix her “perfect” life. Told from a fresh perspective and embracing the idea that happiness needs imperfection, this book helps the reader understand the emotions of those that feel insecure after a tragedy.

I’ll be honest. I shed a few tears near the end. I love how Macy doesn’t give up when she feels uncomfortable. She obviously isn’t a quitter. But when she sees how people can be happy despite chaotic situations, she decides to delve deeper. In doing so, she steps out of her… not comfort zone exactly, but her routine. She makes new friends and slowly makes up her mind about what truly makes her happy. She has one of those “slowly-but-surely” attitudes.

Her new friends from the chaotic Wish Catering (somehow still in business) see her quite differently from how Macy sees herself. She has been stuck in passive-aggressive relationships far too long and because of that her self-esteem is quite low. They help her see herself in a new light and don’t judge her due to their own abnormal backgrounds/experiences. You get a little bit of lightheartedness from the disasters that appear in their workplace at the last minute and the ingenious solutions from Delia, who thrives in chaos, despite always wishing for it not to befall her.

Wes, who is the love interest, is able to connect with Macy due to his experience with the death of a parent. Unexpectedly, he doesn’t share  much about his feelings over that loss. You are given just enough to see how he can understand her. They slowly build up their friendship even as they are attracted to each other. I appreciate that because I don’t really like the instant love stuff. They understand each other more and more as they reveal one secret at a time in a very relaxed, no-judging series of conversations.

Macy’s mother relationship with her is emotionally constipated since they both have trouble expressing their feelings and are both trying to avoid dealing with any deep or delicate situations. That means that they also avoid talking about Macy’s dad’s death, who seems to have been the outgoing, expressive one. This is a bit backwards from the norm, which is that the female/mom is the expressive and affectionate one, but it is not too strange. What is strange is how much she rejects any attempts to emotionally connect with her daughters, but by the end of the book, this has been addressed too.

The most touching part of this book is probably when Macy makes the wrong decision. She doesn’t realize it is the wrong decision until the last moment when, despite her fear, she takes a chance to attempt happiness. As you can probably guess, there is a happy ending. It is a simple novel with no big surprises that I think most people will enjoy. On a 1-5 scale (5 being the best), I would give a 3/5. Worth reading, but I might put it off until I have some extra time. If you’d like to purchase this book, you can find it here. Keep an eye out for my next review! Also coming soon: my reading list.

So now it’s your turn! What did you think about this book? Have you read any other books by Sarah Dessen? Which is your favorite and why? Feel free to comment!