Hidden Identity Trilogy // by Lynette Eason

  • No One to Trust
  • Nowhere to Turn
  • No Place to Hide

//published 2014//

I was actually quite excited to find a new (to me) Christian suspense author, especially since my old favorite, Dee Henderson, has gone a bit downhill ever since she introduced Perfect Ann into the mix.

Eason’s books are thoroughly engaging.  While they weren’t THE most riveting stories I’ve ever read, they were still decently written with likable characters.

In No One to Trust we meet Summer, who is about to discover that her husband isn’t the person she thought he was.  Once they’re on the lam, truth and lies are tangled together and it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  This one was a 3.5/5 for me, with a lot more action than actual story, but I was willing to go with it because the action was a good romp.  Summer’s sister was really annoying me, and it sometimes felt like some details were kind of glossed over to help things make sense, but still a good time.

//published 2014//

The second book takes place a year or so later (I honestly can’t remember how long, a bit but not super long) and focuses on Adam, who was a character in the first book.  Summer and her husband have now started an organization that is kind of a private witness protection program, except people aren’t usually witnesses, they just need help getting out of a bad situation.  Case in point is Danielle, who is trying to escape her incredibly abusive husband.  When he dies the day that Danielle is making her break for freedom, she at first thinks her problems are solved – except then some new problems arrive, and she and Adam have to untangle the complications.  This book was nonstop careening around, and that worked for the most part.  There were moments were I found myself wondering how these people were still awake, since it seemed like no one ever needed to sleep, and the baddies just kept coming!  Still, 3.5/5, and would have been a 4 except there was an ending to the book with a villain and everything is good… and then there was a second ending where it turns out there is the OTHER villain lurking in the background??  And second villain didn’t really make nearly as much sense as first villain, so the whole thing ended up feeling kind of contrived.

//published 2015//

The final book is about Ian and Jackie, with character from the first two books as background characters in this one.  Ian has been set up as a fall guy for a bioterrorist plot, except he finds out just in time and manages to escape.  He can’t turn himself in, so the good guys and the bad guys are after him, all while he’s trying to figure out what the heck is going on.  Jackie gets caught up in the madness, too, and they run around in circles for a couple hundred pages.  I’m not always a huge fan of terrorist plotlines, but this one felt like it worked.

The religion aspect throughout the series felt organic and not at all preachy.  It was also nice that the characters were all Christians, rather than the missionary-dating method sometimes used by other authors.  While these weren’t the most amazing thrillers I have ever read, they were quite enjoyable, and I definitely intend to check out some more of Eason’s books.


George Washington’s Secret Six // by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

//published 2013//

Regular readers of this blog will know that I quite enjoy nonfiction that focuses on something random and/or obscure.  While it’s always good to read a history book that is sweeping in its coverage in order to get a big picture idea of what is happening, it’s also quite fun to focus a magnifying glass on something specific and really delve in.  This is what Kilmeade and Yaeger have done in this book by focusing on the spy ring George Washington established in New York during the American Revolution.

I quite enjoyed this book, which was easy to read and completely engaging.  The pacing was excellent, and I found myself reading it as anxiously as I would a modern thriller.  Despite the fact that I know that Benedict Arnold did not succeed in his ploy – I was still somehow on the edge of my seat!

The British occupied New York City and environs during the overwhelming majority of the Revolution.  A key port and a critical location in the middle of the colonies, Washington needed to know what was going on inside of the city and in the area surrounding it.  The authors do a great job of explaining what was going on, why Washington needed the spies, and how the spy ring was established – including initial failures.

I really loved the way the book started – the preface of the book is actually about a man named Morton Pennypacker, a historian in the 1920’s, who desired to learn the names of Washington’s six New York spies.  Because yes, at that time only the names of four of the individuals had been established.  Talk about some serious secret activities!  The name of spy #5 was discovered virtually by accident when Pennypacker received some letters dated just after the Revolution – and recognized the handwriting!  Even today the identity of spy #6, a woman, is unknown.

All in all, while this wasn’t a book of great depth, it did a great job introducing the Culper Spy Ring and putting into context.  4/5 and recommended.

‘Love Inspired’ // Part 4

A while back my great-aunt passed away, and somehow my grandpa ended up with two boxes full of books.  Almost all of them are ‘inspirational’ romances published by Harlequin as ‘Love Inspired’.  At one point (not sure if you still can) you could subscribe and have a new book mailed to you every month.  Aunt Darby did just that, and now I’m in possession of somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 or so of these ‘Love Inspired’ titles.  Most of them are pretty cheesy but alright for a one-time fluff read.  I’m sure that I’ll binge through some of them periodically.  They’re perfect to grab out of the crate when I’m just looking for a quick, no-brainer book.  However, most of them will probably end up exiting this house after that one-time read, because they just aren’t worth the shelf space to me.  So if there’s one that sounds especially appealing to you… let me know, and I’ll be quite happy to mail you a gift!  ;-)

Here we have the next five titles.  I’ve been a bit more harsh about just not bothering with books if the premise doesn’t really appeal, so a better selection than some of the past rounds!  Remember, these are basically all going into the give-away pile, so I am genuinely serious about letting me know if you would like some of these books to become your own – otherwise they are all getting posted on Paperback Swap!

The Heart’s Song by Winnie Griggs

//published 2010//

I wasn’t completely sure how a premise was going to play out that included the phrase helping with “his new neighbor’s request that he lead the handbell choir,” but this ended up being a decent, if somewhat cheesy, little love story.  Graham is a widower whose wife and unborn baby died and left him bitter and angry with God.  He decides to move to a random little town in the south where no one knows his Tragic Backstory and he can move on with his life.  His new neighbor, Reeny, is a widowed mother of two, and is an exuberantly friendly and outgoing person.  She recently inherited some money earmarked for creating something in memory of her husband, who died several years ago.  Reemy has decided to use the money to start a community handbell choir (right?).  It all sounds extremely hokey and it is, but it also worked.  I liked watching Graham and Reemy come together, and weirdly enjoyed the handbell choir part of the story.  My only really beef with this story is that throughout Graham is angry with God, etc., and then suddenly in the end he does a completely 180… but we never really get to hear about why, or how he now feels about his Tragic Backstory.  It would have been a lot more meaningful if more of Graham’s journey to peace had been explored.  Still, 4/5.

The Road to Forgiveness by Leigh Bale

//published 2010//

I really liked the setting for this story, which was a wholesale greenhouse.  I liked the characters and enjoyed the Hispanic flavor of the whole story.  While I was cool with Joel and did ship him with Mari, I still felt like he was pushy at times about her needed to “follow her dreams” – like encouraging someone is one thing, but going behind their back and basically forcing them into it no longer sounds supportive as much as it does manipulative.

(Spoiler Paragraph)
There’s also this whole big long thing where Joel is so helpful, like part of the family, promises to never leave, etc.  He confesses his love to Mari, but she doesn’t have time to respond before a Great Tragedy strikes.  But somehow Joel interprets that as she doesn’t love me and never will – and tries to skip town, even while someone is still in the hospital??  It didn’t fit his character, or the flow of the story, at all, so it felt like a 100% contrived way to create a dramatic reunion at the end and really annoyed me.

3.5/5 for a decent little story that at least involved a lot of plants.

Mistletoe Reunion by Anna Schmidt

DNF on this one.  Norah was driving me absolutely crazy.

A Daughter’s Legacy by Virginia Smith

//published 2010//

So in this story we start by meet Kelli at her mother’s funeral.  Come to find out that Kelli and her mom have been estranged for eons, and in fact Kelli didn’t even know her mom was sick, because her mom never bothered to let her know that she had cancer and was dying.  Kelli’s mom leaves this stupid will that means Kelli has to “face her fears” by accepting a zookeeper position for six months (Kelli’s mom was a head zookeeper).  I kept waiting for there to be this moment that explained Kelli’s mom, but the more I learned about her, the more of a jerk it turns out she was.  (All spoilers from here on out, fyi.)  Kelli’s dad is killed in front of Kelli’s face by a lion (her dad was a zookeeper, too).  Instead of like being a mom, Kelli’s mom switches so that she is now a zookeeper for the lions as well, despite the fact that Kelli is super scarred by this whole situation and terrified that her mom is going to be killed, too.  In the end, Kelli’s mom ships her off to Kelli’s grandma, because Kelli isn’t really able to emotionally recover from this trauma.  So instead of actually taking care of her own child, she just sends her off so she (the mom) can continue pursuing her zookeeping dreams and “deal with her grief” in her own way.  And to compound it all – that’s it!  She never reaches out to Kelli, not even when she knows she’s dying.  Instead of giving her daughter an opportunity to reconcile, she manipulates her from beyond the grave.

While I liked Kelli and enjoyed the romance part of the story, the whole thing with Kelli’s mom made me so angry that I couldn’t really like this book.  1/5.

Child of Grace by Irene Hannon

//published 2011//

Usually these Love Inspired titles don’t really have a lot of grit to them, but this one did, and I liked it.  Kelsey is single and pregnant, and it isn’t really a surprise to find out that her pregnancy is a result of being raped.  This whole situation was handled so gently.  I loved the way that different aspects of Kelsey’s decision to not have an abortion were explored – like that decision wasn’t the only one she had to make, and making that decision didn’t automatically  mean that everything else was going to work out.  It wasn’t preachy, but it was still such a positive prolife message, and a strong reminder that killing a child doesn’t fix anyone’s problems.

I liked the romance as well, and the way that Luke wasn’t automatically all happy about Kelsey’s baby.  He had to work through some emotions as well, and that felt really realistic.  All in all, a really decent read.  4/5.

Curse Workers Trilogy // by Holly Black

  • White Cat
  • Red Glove
  • Black Heart

//published 2010//

Uggghhh this was a series that was a little slow to start for me, but once it got me, it got me good.  I wanted it to last forever, and while I found the ending pretty satisfying, I could use about ten more books in this series.

Here’s the thing – it’s kind of hard for me to even explain what these books are about because the world building is so fantastic.  Black has created this alternate world where some people have an innate magic to do various things – to help people have better luck, or to have certain feelings, to have a different memory, to have a certain dream – or to kill: all with a single touch.  In this world, where the lightest tap of the fingers can “work” someone, everyone wears gloves and no one trusts anyone.

//published 2011//

The narrator, Cassel, has grown up in a worker family.  Because working people is now illegal, most workers (including Cassel’s family) have turned to crime.  There are now big crime families (think mafia-style) throughout the country, and many workers turn to them for protection and work.  A couple of Cassel’s older brothers do some work for one of the local crime bosses.  That crime boss used to have a daughter who was Cassel’s age – until Cassel killed her several years before the story opens.

Like I said, I thought the first book started a little slow, and I wasn’t even completely sure that I was going to finish it.  Part of it was that Black doesn’t really explain anything, and at first I was kind of confused about this AU world and why people were wearing gloves and what the heck was even going on.  But as things started to fall into place and I could see the bigger picture, I got totally hooked.  I also really liked Cassel a lot – he’s one of those characters who always seems to only have choices between something kind of terrible and something super terrible, yet he really wants to do the right thing.  He’s smart but not infallible, and by the third book there is a good established cast of characters and I liked them all, even Cassel’s awful brother.  (My favorite was definitely his grandpa, and I mostly kept wondering, especially in book #2, why he didn’t turn to his grandpa for advice!)

//published 2012//

These were books that definitely had some moments where I felt like the rug got pulled out from under me, but it was in a good way.  It was always something incredibly plausible – that I simply hadn’t considered.  I also absolutely loved the con work that Cassel pulls off throughout.  I have to clarify that in an objectively moral sense, these probably aren’t super great books since everyone is lying and pulling cons, but it makes for some incredibly entertaining and fast-paced reading.

By the third book, I just wanted things to keep going forever.  I found the ending satisfying, but also kind of an open door.  I like to think that Cassel and his girlfriend get married and change the way things are for workers, turning the entire crime family into a power for good.  And how fun would those stories be to read??

All in all, a 4/5 for this series.  I really enjoyed them, and definitely see myself looking for some of Black’s other books soon.

A special shout out to Stephanie, whose reviews first caused me to put this series on the list – you can read her review here!


Rearview Mirror // February 2018

I can already tell that 2018 is going to be a year that zooms by.  Although honestly it feels like the older I get, the faster time goes in general, so there’s that.

February was overall a pretty quiet month (thankfully).  Apple season has lasted a lot longer than average because of the huge crop, so I have still been delivering apples and cider throughout the month, but we finally sold the last of them, so Monday will be my last day for the year.  Luckily, spring is on the way, so I will soon be very busy with various gardening plans – I already have some seeds planted in the windowsill!!

Book-wise things have been pretty normal.  I’ve read 50 books so far this year.  On the blog, I’m a bit behind with reviews.  February saw three minireview posts just to try and get things caught up!  (However, I was unsuccessful.)

I’ve subscribed to two different book boxes that send random used books, so those have been fun.  I’ve only gotten a couple of boxes so far, but I really like Yureka – you fill out a book-related questionnaire and they send books they think you will like.   If you’re organized, you can go back and fill out a review on the books later so they can continue to send you books that you’ll like even better.

Used Books Monthly is a little more vague – you just check off genres you like – but really inexpensive: three books for $12.49.  I’ve only gotten one box from them so far, and we will see how it goes.  The first month only had one book that I will probably actually read, so this one may end up getting unsubscribed from if I still feel like most of the books are meh.

Finally, I have an on-and-off subscription to LitCube, depending on my budget!  This is more of a traditional book box that sends you book-related goodies as well as an actual book.  I really like how the book is just completely random each month (I don’t like being tied down to a genre), and how most of the goodies tie in with where the book is set.  I’ve enjoyed both books that I’ve received from them as well (The Viking’s Chosen and Last Christmas in Paris).  You also earn points each month, and can use the points to get additional swag or free boxes, which is fun.  However, it’s more expensive than the others, which is why I don’t do it every month.  Luckily, it’s really easy to subscribe and unsubscribe, but still save all of your information (and points).

Favorite February Read

I had a lot of 4* reviews this month, but none of them were just WOW reads.  Still, I think I’m going with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  This story was an incredibly fun romp with enough intensity to keep me glued to the pages.  I didn’t agree with all the philosophy, but definitely found it entertaining.

Most Disappointing February Read

Weirdly, I didn’t read any terrible books this month!  So I think I’m going to go with Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, mainly because I enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book SO much, and then the ending just sort of petered out.  It felt like the characters all suddenly changed into different people, which was disappointing, as I had really gotten attached to everyone.

Other February Reads

  • Amazing Gracie by Sherryl Woods – 3/5 – chick lit at it’s most regular.
  • The Basket of Flowers by Christoph von Schmidit – 3/5 – not a bad story, but quite prosy.
  • Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry – 3.5/5 – a nice story (with beautiful illustrations), but not as strong as the Misty books.
  • Dreamtreader Trilogy (Dreamtreaders; Search for the Shadow Key; and War for the Waking World) by Wayne Thompson Batson – 3/5 – interesting and decent for a one-time read, but not really that memorable.
  • Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica 3.5/5 – interesting, but I wasn’t convinced about the motive of the villain.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – 4/5 – beautiful writing, but slow in parts.
  • Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki – 3.5/5 – apparently stepmothers are despised all ’round the world.
  • Lost States by Michael J. Trinklein – 4/5 – entertaining nonfiction about places that almost were.
  • Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich – 4/5 – a really fun place to start if you are looking to become more self-sufficient in steps that are actually doable.
  • Mountain Pony series (Mountain Pony; Mountain Pony and the Pinto Colt; Mountain Pony and the Rodeo Mystery; and Mountain Pony and the Elkhorn Mystery) by Henry V. Larom – 4/5 – fun, although somewhat dated, western adventures with a likable protagonist.
  • The Mystery of the Empty Room by Augusta Huiell Seaman – 3.5/5 – fun children’s mystery wherein the main characters needed to converse with one another more.
  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – 4/5 – Engaging children’s fantasy – I need the sequel!
  • An Odd Situation by Sophie Lynbrook – 4/5 – a unique P&P retelling that was fun, although not strong on action.
  • Psmith, Journalist by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5/5 – almost listed as my favorite book this month.  Such a fun romp.
  • Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5/5 – I really love this book, which introduces Lord Emsworth and Blandings Castle.  All the usual Wodehouse chaos.
  • The Viking’s Chosen by Quinn Loftis – 3.5/5 – not the kind of book I would usually pick up, but it ended up being a fun read.
  • Wedding Date Rescue by Sonya Weiss – 3.5/5 – fun chick lit.  I would totally read the sequel if it was actually published yet.

Other February Posts

I participated in my second Shelfie by Shelfie post – hopefully more to come!

Last February…

I really enjoyed reading Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Clubeven though it isn’t exactly my usual type of book, being rather serious and novel-y.  I still haven’t gotten around to reading any of Tan’s other books, but I do have several on the list!

TBR Update

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  827 (holding steady!)
  • Nonfiction:  82 (down one!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  701 (up ten… Mom is still giving me books!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  229 (up two)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 104 (holding steady!)

Awaiting Review

  • Curse Workers trilogy by Holly Black (White Cat, Red Gloves, and Black Heart) – um.  I wanted this series to be like ten books longer.
  • The next set of five Love Inspired books – an overall better batch this time
  • George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – a really engaging nonfiction book about the spy ring in New York City during the Revolution.
  • No One To Trust by Lynette Eason – the first in a trilogy, this one will get reviewed when I’ve finished the other two.  Good so far.
  • Tulipomania by Mike Dash – I really do love nonfiction about random things, and the tulip mania in Holland during the late 1600’s is about as random as it gets!
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – a nice children’s fantasy book, but lacking the magic.

Current Reads

  • This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills – just started this one this morning, and I’m already in love with Sloane.
  • Nowhere To Turn by Lynette Eason – so intense.
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – really looking forward to revisiting this childhood favorite.
  • I See You by Clare Mackintosh – super creepy.

Approaching the Top of the Pile

The probable next five reads…

  • The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham – whenever I finish at least one of the thrillers I’m already reading.  I can handle two at a time, but three??
  • Uneasy Money by P.G. Wodehouse
  • Black Beauty’s Clan by Diana and Josephine Pullein-Thompson – long story, but I was lead to remember these Black Beauty sequels recently and immediately found and purchased them on eBay.  Totally ready for a trip down memory lane!
  • Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana – a Yureka book box book – wild card!
  • Beauty and the Beast by K.M. Shea – my sister has been on my case to read these fairy tale retellings FOREVER so I am finally going to do it!

Happy March!!!

February Minireviews – Part 3

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

I seem to have a lot of these this month (plus, it’s just been a month of bad weather so lots of extra reading time!) – Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

//published 2016//

Honestly, it’s just been a while since I finished this book, and it isn’t super memorable to me.  It was a decent read that kept me interested, but even after I found out the answers I wasn’t convinced that the villain’s motives made a whole lot of sense.  Still, it was engaging while I was reading it, and while I’m not planning to hunt up more of Kubica’s books, I’m open to reading another one if someone has a recommendation.  For this one, 3.5/5 and kinda recommended.

NB: This book was originally added to the TBR thanks to two separate reviews – one from Cleopatra Loves Books and another from Reading, Writing and Riesling – be sure to check them out!

Psmith, Journalist by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1915// or possibly 1911//

I’m attempting to read all of Wodehouse’s works in published order, but it’s made somewhat extra difficult by the fact that Wodehouse published both in the US and the UK, sometimes at the same time, or sometimes earlier in one place or the other.  Sometimes books have the same title in both countries and sometimes different titles.  And then to keep things really interesting, some books didn’t get published in other country at all, and instead Wodehouse would recycle part of a book from one country and incorporate it into a book that was only published in the other.  Of course now, a hundred years later, I can get all the books no matter where they originated, but pinning down an official and definitive “order of publication list” has been difficult, although I am doing my best.

All that to say that the original list I am working from listed The Prince and Betty as being published in 1912 and Psmith, Journalist being published in 1915.  Except a huge chunk of Betty is actually the entire plot of Psmith.  And it turns out that Psmith was actually published in the UK in 1911 (and in the US in 1915), while Betty wasn’t published there until some time later.  WHY.

But really, that’s all just rambling side notes.  The actual point is that Psmith, Journalist is one of my favorite Wodehouse titles.  I just love this story so much.  A lot of people find Psmith to be obnoxious, but he’s one of my favorites, and this entire story with Psmith helping another fellow run a newspaper makes me laugh every time I read it.  Definitely recommended – “Cosy Moments will not be muzzled!”

The Viking’s Chosen by Quinn Loftis

//published 2018//

This is a book I would never have picked up on my own, but because it came in a book subscription box, I thought I would give it a try.  It ended up being an engaging read that I overall enjoyed, but it ended on such a major cliffhanger that it basically felt like the book had just stopped in the middle of the book.  This probably wouldn’t annoy me quite so much if book #2 had already been published, but it HASN’T so I suppose I will just have to bide my time.

Still, overall an interesting story with decent characters, and a pleasantly not-full-of-sex-and-swearing plot.  3.5/5.

NB: This was published by Clean Teen Publishing, which I had never heard of.  What’s nice is that they actually have a content rating for the book, showing the level of swearing, violence, and sex you can expect in the book.  I honestly wish all books would do this!

The Mystery of the Empty Room by Augusta Huiell Seaman

//published 1953// I didn’t feel like this book had nearly as much drama or terror as the cover led me to believe //

This is an old Scholastic Book Club paperback that has been on my shelf for years.  I thought I had read it once, but reading it this time did not ring any bells, so it’s possible that either had never read it before, or found it completely unmemorable!  It’s not really a book that sticks with you, although it’s perfectly entertaining.  There was a lot of fun and intrigue, but I did feel like a lot of the story revolved around the fact that the characters weren’t actually communicating with one another, so everyone had a piece of the puzzle and things didn’t come together under everyone finally collaborated.  Still, an easy 3.5/5 for a somewhat dated but still pleasant story.

Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki

//published 1903//

I picked up this collection of 22 traditional Japanese fairy tales as a free Kindle book a while back.  I really enjoy reading fairy tales from different cultures, and was intrigued to see what kind of stories would emerge from an eastern culture.  Like all short story collections (and, let’s be honest, fairy tale collections), there were some stories that were stronger than others, but they were all interesting in their own right.  None of them emerged as stories I loved, but I could definitely see some of them turning into longer and more involved tales.

Like most western fairy tales, there were a lot of evil stepmothers (apparently they are universally hated) and a lot of random – and sometimes quite violent – deaths.  Also talking vegetables, children who arrive inside of various pieces of produce, evil badgers, and a dragon king who rules under the sea.

While I don’t see myself returning to these stories time and again, they were fun for a one-time read.

An Odd Situation by Sophie Lynbrook

//published 2018//

In this P&P retelling, Darcy is thrown from his horse on his way to Netherfield.  Because he has a head injury and is in a coma, he is moved to the closest house – Longbourn.  Despite the fact that he is an unknown stranger, the Bennetts take him in.  The doctor recommends that he not be left alone, and that people talk to him/in the same room as him because some studies have shown that people with these types of injuries respond well to outside stimulation.  The doctor also tells them that Darcy (at this point a John Doe) may or may not be able to hear what everyone is saying.

Of course, Darcy can hear what everyone is saying, and this story involves him listening to all of the many conversations that swirl around his sickbed.  Throughout, he comes to realize that he’s a bit of a snob, and also comes to value the various members of the Bennett family, even the obnoxious ones.

Overall, this was a pleasant and engaging retelling, although weirdly passive.  The entire story is from Darcy’s (third person) perspective, and since he’s in a coma most of the time, there isn’t a lot of action.  It would have been nice to get some idea of what Elizabeth is thinking/doing as well.  And while I liked the way Darcy has a lot of self-realizations and makes good resolutions to be a better person going forward, the implication is that Elizabeth is already perfect and has no lessons to learn.  In the original, it’s important for both of them to recognize their shortcomings, and a large part of what makes the story so excellent is seeing them both grow as people.  In this version, only Darcy has to change.

Still, a 4/5 for an enjoyable (and completely clean) variation, and recommended to others who may be addicted to these types of stories. :-D

Ready Player One // by Ernest Cline

//published 2011//

Wade Watts is your typical high schooler.  He goes to school every day and attends classes, eats lunch, takes notes, and tries to avoid the bullies.  Except the year is 2044, and the school Wade attends is part of an online virtual reality called OASIS.

Basically everyone has an OASIS account and spends as much time there as possible, since the real world (of course) sucks.  I actually almost didn’t continue reading this book after having to sit through multiple pages of Wade explaining how God is a myth, people driving cars destroyed the entire earth, and Republicans ruined the economy.  Polemic much?  But I’m glad I stuck it out, because after we got done listening to Wade griping about how if only stupid conservatives had agreed to let the government force everyone to drive electric cars the world would be perfect, an actual story emerged and I was totally hooked.

The creator of OASIS, James Halliday, died five years before the story begins, and left behind his company and a ridiculous amount of money.  But instead of naming a specific person or entity to be his heir, he left behind a quest and a clue – and the person(s) to solve the quest would inherit everything.  Of course, this has led to all sorts of shenanigans and, among other things, created an entire huge group of people who do basically nothing except try to solve the first clue.  Wade is one of these people (“gunters”), albeit one who doesn’t feel like he has much chance of success.  He’s poor, which means he’s stuck on only a couple of the very basic planets in the OASIS with no opportunities to really get out and explore/hunt for the clue.

Halliday grew up in the 1980’s, and was obsessed with the stuff of his youth.  Many of his creations in OASIS reflect this, and most gunters believe that it’s super important to have a thorough working knowledge of all things 80’s culture.  This actually gave a really fun dimension to this book, with the futuristic virtual reality balanced with the retro 80’s tidbits.

Of course, it’s no real surprise when Wade has a bit break through in the quest, and things get crazy from there.  Although the quest is taking place in a virtual universe, there is a lot of real-life money on the line, and Wade soon finds himself a target to a big company that wants to win the quest so they can take over Halliday’s company, money, and OASIS.

One thing that was cracking me up when I was reading this was that Halliday grew up in Ohio, and eventually headquartered his company in our state capital, Columbus.  Hearing Columbus described as a “mecca of technology” totally made my day.

There were some things about this book that kept it from being perfect (beyond the preaching in the first chapter).  The pace definitely slowed in the middle, when a lot of the quest action was taking place separate from Wade (who is the narrator as well as the protagonist, so the story always stays with him) and Wade is busy dealing with romantic feelings (booooorrriinnnnggg).  The ending felt a little too simple/abrupt – an epilogue would have been really nice, to hear how some of the details got wrapped up.  Weirdly, I felt like the message wasn’t clear in this book.  I kind of assumed the Cline would be pointing out the importance of embracing real life, etc. – but that didn’t really come through.  In some ways, he seemed to act like a virtual future is the only bright one we have.

But all in all, this book was just a fun ride.  I was completely glued to the pages, and could hardly read fast enough in some places.  I really liked Wade a lot.  It seemed like although there tons of references to video games/movies/music/1980’s, it didn’t interfere with the plot, and didn’t deter me from enjoying the book even when it was something I had never heard of.  I felt like Wade did a good job describing what I needed to know in order to understand the next part of the story, but without slowing down the plot.  It was just a fun rollick of a read, and I intend both to add this one to my permanent collection, and to check out more of Cline’s work.  4/5 and recommended.

PS I originally read about this book many moons ago when Sophie reviewed it.  Check out her review here!