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Guest Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Series: N/A

Genre: Adult Fiction w/ YA Appeal

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Overview: It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  -Goodreads

The Guest Review
by Petrik

Ready Player One is a Fiction/YA/Dystopian hybrid that takes place in the year 2044 where our world is suffering from global energy crisis and everyone needs a means to escape from this harsh truth. This is where OASIS, a genius MMORPG utopia created by James Halliday arrived as the solution to their need for escapism. I’d be lying to myself if I said this book isn’t something that’s written for me. The whole concept and tributes featured in this book are exactly my thoughts and hobbies of the past, some of which still persist to this day.

The plot of RPO itself is actually really simple. Before his death, Halliday leaves a will that stated, if anyone is able to solve the puzzle he hid in OASIS, that person will receive all his wealth and power. This is literally the plot and where the story began for our main character, Wade, who has devoted his life into this treasure hunt.

“You’d be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever.”

Honestly, I have two main problems with the book:

1. First, almost all problems that appeared in the book were… how do I say this? Too convenient for Wade. It’s like he’s some Gary Stu who can do literally everything that relates with not only OASIS but every software and hacking, out of nowhere.

2. The excessive details hurt the pacing a lot of times. When the plot really starts, I couldn’t put down the book but most of the time, there was way too much unnecessary repetition to the details. This made the book as something that was more written for a movie adaptation (there will be one coming in 2018 and it’s directed by Steven Spielberg so I’m hopeful for it).

Despite these problems, I still enjoy reading RPO very much and it’s because the main strength of the book lies not within its plot or characters but within the concepts and tributes to every single popular entertainment media in the 80’s and 90’s. The whole concept and world building of the book is something that resonates with me so much even though the concept itself is not actually original. If you’ve been following anime and video games like me, you’ll probably know about this franchise called “.hack'”(2002) or this popular anime called “Sword Art Online” (2012) and they’re pretty much the exact same thing as what OASIS is about. Even the way to access it via a VR consoles is the exact copy, the only differences is that .hack and SAO have more dangerous real life repercussion in playing the game. However, it’s the tributes and crossovers with every single popular media in the 80’s and 90’s that made RPO a unique experience to read.

Every single elements in RPO revolves around those tributes, this book is pretty much a utopia for geeks and nerds (don’t take this as offensive, I think geeks and nerds are awesome). Video games, anime, movies, music, movies, cultures that were popular in the 80’s and 90’s were featured here and I mean every popular one from western and eastern culture.

Look at this picture for example:

[borrowed from http://orig02.deviantart.net/4941/f/2… (click link for full resolution)]

This is from a scene in the book and trust me, I can tell you the name of every single thing in this picture and their stories cause I watched and played all of them growing up. Mobile Suit RX-78 Gundam, Macross, Leopardon, Kurosawa from Cowboy Bebop, the list goes on and on. This picture featured only a tiny fraction of what medias were featured in the book, there are still so much more for you to find out for yourself if you decide to read it (or watch it next year when the movie come out). With the book revolving around this concept and world building, it made reading it a really fun experience and a palate cleanser from my usual “Adult Epic Fantasy” read, don’t get me wrong, it’s my favorite genre but we all need a break sometimes.

What made the book even better for me however is the theme that was explored, escapism.

“Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable.”

This quote is in the book but I’m not kidding, I actually said this quote word by word back when I was in middle school (around 15 years ago). RPO provides a solution to a harsh reality and now, imagine if this solution really exists in our world and by that, I mean something as huge as OASIS. I’m almost quite sure that a lot of people, including me, would be playing that game like we’re obsessed. Mute people can speak in the game, anyone disabled can function perfectly, weak person can be strong, an introvert can be outgoing, the list goes on but most of all, you can actually make a living out of playing the game. Who wouldn’t want that?

I’ve been playing video games since I was 5 years old. Name every popular actions, FPS and RPG from Playstation 1 era until this year, I can guarantee you I’ve played almost all of them. Final Fantasy series, Suikoden, Metal Gear Solid, Wild Arms, Dark Souls, The Legend of Dragoon, Devil May Cry, Pokemon, etc or even anime, TV series and manga that I won’t mention here, the list is way too long. The point is, other than mandatory school and colleges, I spent most of my time escaping from reality with these entertainment.

Guess which one I sacrificed? Good grades. It’s not bad, I rarely study but I passed every subject with average results. Do I regret it? No, the thing is, my form of escapism shaped who I am today. In my opinion, gaming and reading is one of the best forms of entertainment to increase your sense of empathy since you experienced thousands of different lives from different worlds and circumstances. However, these hobbies do cause loneliness if you do them excessively and this, in my opinion is what the book tried to convey. Too much of anything is never good for you, even if it’s something you love.

“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life, right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”

I faced major loneliness last year when I played video games way too much, it almost ruined my life. Gaming can be a really lonely hobby, especially once you finished a game and try to talk about it with someone. The community is too cancerous and childish, where you can’t state an opinion without getting any of them riled up. What I meant is something really simple, for example “hey, I think this is the best game I ever played” and the reply you’ll get will be something like “your gaming taste is shit.” I figured, I can’t spend my life on this too much anymore. Don’t believe me? Search on Youtube any new released games such as “Legend of Zelda” or “Horizon Zero Dawn,” look at the comment section and you’ll see more comments bashing Xbox community more than praising the game itself.

It’s one of the reason I tried reading again, starting with Mistborn back in September 2016 and oh boy my addiction to gaming decreased by a LOT. I’m much happier now since I started taking reading seriously. The main reason is this, I have people to share my experience with, in the forms of reviews or discussions. In the end true happiness lies in our world. Balance your life, to quote the Beatles, “all you need is love”, every wealth you have, every hobbies amounts to nothing if you don’t have someone to share it with and that, is what I think the book tried to convey the most to us. Everything must be in balance, besides, let’s face it, without our mundane reality, we won’t enjoy reading or playing video games that much anyway.

Overall, I had some problems with RPO but despite them, I really enjoyed reading it and I find the concept and the theme of the book something that’s really important and resonates with me. It induced a lot of nostalgia factors and again, a really great standalone and palate cleanser. Right now it’s one of the best of its kind I’ve ever read.


I’d like to welcome Petrik to The Obsessive Bookseller as an occasional guest reviewer! He’s responsible for some of my favorite book review over on Goodreads, so I’m thrilled he decided to share some thoughts here. His reviews are always awesome assessments with a very relatable personal touch. Aside from a couple of outliers, we tend to rate titles very similarly. I’ve always enjoyed his reviews, and I hope you will too. :)

Petrik has been a gamer and reader since he was five years old. Not once did he think back then that his two passions would last a lifetime. His favorite genres are Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Grimdark, and Science Fiction.

You can follow his reviews on Goodreads here.

 

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Coming Soon: Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

November 7, 2017

Title: Persepolis Rising

Author: James S.A. Corey

Series: The Expanse #7

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: December 5, 2017

The Overview: Goodreads – you let me down. No synopsis available yet. :/ 

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Nik’s Notes:

The Expanse series is easily my favorite space opera/science fiction on the market. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every book so far and hope Persepolis Rising regains some of that awesome momentum that Babylon’s Ashes was missing. The series has a lot of action, great characters, and tons of memorable moments. If you haven’t picked it up yet, what are you waiting for? It’s awesome!

Who else is waiting for Persepolis Rising??? :D

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Titles: Winter

Author: Marissa Meyer

Series: Lunar Chronicles #4

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mark her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana. Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long. Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? -Goodreads

The Review:

Dear YA,
I think we need to see other people. It’s not you, it’s me.
Love, Niki

There was nothing wrong with Winter – it was a perfectly delightful conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles. I just found myself struggling to finish it. Maybe it could have been a bit shorter, as there were a few repetitive elements, but then I’d probably be complaining that it needed to be more robust. I did end up really appreciating how Meyer infused the fairytales so seamlessly, and that goes for the series as a whole. Overall, despite my incredibly conservative, perhaps unfair rating of Winter, I actually do consider this series one of the easiest to recommend. It’s filled with a lot of fun, several organic romances, and a unique storyline.

It’s clear I’m just not feeling YA lately. I knew this day would come eventually. I’m not hating on the genre, by any means. Some of my all-time favorites have come from it. I just need to break up with it for a while. ;P

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Title: The Rithmatist

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: Rithmatist #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles. As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever. -Goodreads

The Review:

I hope no one gets tired of hearing me say “I read another Sanderson, and it was amazing!” because I say it a lot.

The Rithmatist, while not as sophisticated as some of Sanderson’s high fantasy (for obvious reasons), is still one of my new favorite works from him. The magic system was particularly fun to read about – Rithmatists who duel one another using chalk drawings (ground wards for defense, animated chalk drawings for offense),and set in a school setting where they learn everything from geometry (for proper ward creation) to complex dueling strategies, to boot! I love when books introduce some sort of competition, especially magic-related. The Rithmatist definitely reminded me of Hermione’s role in Harry Potter – very academically inclined and whenever she was around I felt like I learned a lot about magic. Joel fit that roll for me here – he knew so much about the Rithmatists’ craft that, by the end of the book, I felt like an expert too. The friendships formed in this book were also reminiscent of HP, and I especially love that Joel and Melody’s relationship was organic and atypical – very different from most YA.

The book also had a fun “whodunit” style mystery that did a great job keeping me guessing all the way until the end. If I can’t figure out who the culprit is by the halfway point (or better yet, if I’m certain I know who it is and I’m wrong), the author has done a great job weaving together a good mystery – as was the case here. I felt invested in the story because I was constantly trying out different theories of whodunit. With so many things keeping me glued to the pages, it’s no surprise I devoured it so quickly.

Overall, The Rithmatist had a great mix of good characters, compelling mystery, and magic infusion. It hit an A+ for me on all accounts and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy. This is one of those titles I find easy to recommend because it has appeal for a wide range of readers. Before diving in, I was under the  impression The Rithmatist could essentially function as a stand-alone novel – not the case. I need the next one like, yesterday! According to the author’s 2016 “State of the Sanderson” post, we should be seeing a sequel “Soooooon.”

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: The Core by Peter V. Brett

 

Title: The Core

Author: Peter V. Brett

Series: The Demon Cycle #5

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: August 15, 2017

The Overview: For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Because of the slow-goings an odd story construction of the first two books in this series (of what I’ve read so far, anyway) I would have a very difficult time recommending it. That said, I currently feel very invested in the story and its characters. I think I’m enjoying the story a lot more then several of my Goodreads mates. It’s nice being the odd man out in a good way for a change, you know? ;-) In any case, assuming I continue enjoying each book, I’m hoping to be ready for the final one, The Core, out in August. This is one instance where I’m glad the books have been collecting dust on my shelves for years – I get to devour them all in one fell swoop!

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life [4]: Food

simplifies-life-2017

In case you missed my Introductory Post, my world was in such an upheaval that I was forced to take drastic measures by simplifying and organizing all the things that caused me stress. Each month, in 2017, I’m tackling different aspects of my life that are clutter-stressors by organizing and altering them into things that bring me joy.


April 2017: Food

First off, it feels weird doing a non-book topic… Anyway, I’ll be the first to admit that parts of this post involved excessive organization, even for me. Don’t let me kid you though, I freaking loved every moment of it. The thing is, I had so many food-related goals to tackle, but just wasn’t getting anywhere with them. I was in desperate need of a change (also if one more thing fell out of my freezer onto my foot, I was gonna lose it). As the whole point of Simplifying Life in 2017 is to reduce stress and make life easier, “food” had to be a topic. While working on this project, I realized I had way too much for one post, so decided to split it up and focus on food this month and save health goals for May.

Here’s what I’d hoped to accomplish by the end of April:

  • clean out and organize my kitchen.
  • utilize foods from my freezer/cupboard.
  • stop wasting so much food.
  • Stay within a budget.
  • eat better.

The Fridge/Freezer:

The starting point for this project was learning what I had to work with. I pulled everything out of my fridge and freezer and went through expiration dates. I threw so much stuff out – it hurts my heart. Inevitably, the root of my wasteful problems was not knowing what I had. Everything was hidden behind a thousand condiment bottles.

My husband has issues. Only two of these are mine.

Anyway, the initial organization of the fridge was a huge wake-up call for me. I let a lot of stuff get nasty in there, and that is definitely not helping my OCD/germaphobicness at all. I now have “clean out the fridge” on my weekly cleaning list to help maintain what I’ve accomplished so far.

The freezer was next. I learned a few things about what a freezer hoarder I am (is that a thing?). I’d somehow inherited boxes and boxes of freezer foods from my mom and grandma that I knew I wasn’t going to eat, but felt guilty letting them throw out. But maybe, just maybe I’d eat it (nope). After 2+ years of hanging on to it for no good reason – out it went.

Everything came out for evaluation. Almost everything I’d “inherited” was expired, and covered in enough freezer-burn to be almost unrecognizable – gone! I threw away almost an entire garbage bag worth of expired food. I vow here and now that this will never happen again!

Additionally, because we are crashing at my in-laws’ vacation home, we found this nugget hidden at the back of the freezer:

It was a solid block of ice.

The Lists:

Since I’m clearly not in the habit of exploring my freezer for things to eat, I decided I needed a better way to keep track of what’s in there. I grabbed a notebook, labeled it my “food log,” and proceeded to write every item in my freezer onto this nifty little list:

When I plan out meals for the week, I choose from these available items first. Not only does it help me use up my stock of food before it goes bad, but it saves me money. I have a lot of unutilized proteins that go a long way towards feeding my husband and I (when I actually take the time to plan ahead and thaw stuff).

When trying to eat healthy, planning is key. It’s impossible to not feel like you’re starving to death when your only options are unhealthy snacks or nothing at all. Over the last several years, I’ve been slowly introducing foods from this “brain foods” list into my diet and now have a pretty good selection of healthy options to choose from. Every week I create a shopping list in my food tracker which includes all the healthy foods I’ll need to take with me to work along with supplemental ingredients I’ll need to cook whatever items I’m utilizing from my freezer. Paperclipped to the back of that notebook are all of my coupons.

The Thrifter:

Let’s talk about coupons for a minute (because apparently when you turn thirty, saving fifty cents on cream corn is the highlight of your day). I have a strong love/hate relationship with coupons. It seems like in the past whenever I tried to utilize them, I always ended up spending more at the grocery store than originally planned. They make you feel like you’re getting a deal on something that you don’t normally buy or eat. I found myself buying $10 to $20 more in groceries just to save $3 and coupons. This is not good coupon shopping. The key is to only bring coupons for things you buy anyway.

Now, after all of that effort, it means absolutely nothing if you FREAKING FORGET to hand the cashier your coupons. I’d go through the trouble of cutting them out, bringing them to the store, making sure what I’m buying matches their specifications (which required me digging in my purse and pulling out the little wads until I found the right one… Assuming I remembered having them in the first place), and dragging them all the way to the register only to forget to use them. Then there’s the whole debate on whether it’s worth my time to stand in the return in line at customer service to have them make all the adjustments or just go home. For the record, I always just go home.

My new system solved all of those problems.

Right before heading to the store I’d go through and identify which coupons I’d like to use and add the items to my shopping list, writing the word “coupon” next to the applicable item so I’d remember to reference it in the store. Then I’d paperclip only the relevant coupons to the same page as my shopping list and – voilà everything I need is in front of my face. I take this list of the store and buy only what was on it, marking things off as I go along. If I were super savvy, I’d write the prices of everything I picked up next to the items as I cross them off (for future reference), but I’m not quite that far gone yet. Carrying around the notebook is a bit cumbersome, but if I set it down, I’d forget something on it or forget to hand the coupons to the cashier. It stays glued to my hand until I’m in the checkout line, and then it goes on that little counter right next to the credit card pad. I have not forgotten to hand the cashier coupons since, and it actually saves me ten minutes of digging in my purse each time I visit the store.

This method helps me in two ways – 1. I’m saving money on things I buy anyway and 2. I have a clear cut list of things I need to get. Having the list right in front of me means I usually stay within budget.

The final awesome thing that I’ve just discovered is the Walmart “savings catcher” feature on their app. If you scan your receipt after each trip and submit it to their “savings catcher”, Walmart will compare the prices of everything you purchased with competitors in the area and GIVE YOU the difference! Holy freaking crap – why haven’t I been using this feature all along? I’ve been submitting receipts since since the first of February and have already gotten back over $30 in price adjustments. O_o

The final thing I’ve started doing to help me not waste food is as follows:

The Prepwork:

As soon as I get home from the store, I take a minute to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables and put them into containers so they’re ready to eat. I discovered during my evaluation of what causes so much food waste was that most of the fresh produce I throw away was caused by laziness. How stupid is that?

Anyway, my food log now has a section on it for “perishables” in which I list all of the foods I want to make sure to eat before they go bad. When I need a snack, I’ll take a look at that list first. It’s working.

Also, with more room in the fridge, I can cook extra portions (or estimate what we would’ve wasted) and freeze it for later. Bonus meals in a month or two with no real extra effort or cleanup – win/win.


Overall, the goal of this month’s simplification goal was to organize the food I have and make it easier to stay organize going forward. Saving money and eating healthier are fringe benefits that frankly outweigh the initial goals themselves. I’ve been utilizing these new systems for a couple of months now and am loving them! There’s room in my fridge, money in my pocket, and a whole host of healthy snacks to eat every week.

Project Status: Foods Simplified!

by Niki Hawkes