Written by Beth Winters
I was not sure what to expect when I began reading "Soundless," as it is considered a stand-alone fantasy, but for the most part, I ended up enjoying it. I have read almost everything written by Richelle Mead, so I found it unusual that "Soundless" is a one-off book rather than a series. Regardless, Mead successfully packs an interesting story into only 272 pages.
At first I was skeptical about how the premise of "Soundless" would work. A whole book in which all main characters are deaf? How can the dialogue be portrayed if everyone can only communicate using sign language? A one-off story plus a very pared down page count, at least for Mead? Mead was able to address these questions throughout her book.
"Soundless" started off slowly, granted Mead’s books usually do. Since "Soundless" presents a completely new world (as opposed to the "Vampire Academy" and "Bloodline" world), there is some serious building of the setting in the first 50 pages. It is a little hard to follow the description of the town the main character lives in. More than once, I wished the book included a map of the village to help with visualization.
Written by Beth Winters
I absolutely LOVED "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline.
I should start off by saying that I heard only good things about this book, so I had high expectations going in. Those expectations were definitely met.
The story starts out with the protagonist, Wade, talking about his sad existence. The year is 2044, and the world has changed drastically. Resources are scarce, and the only way for poor people to go anywhere is to plug into the OASIS, a virtual reality system that replaced the Internet.
Wade grows up using the OASIS while his mother scrounges up a meager living. At one point, both of Wade’s parents die and he is sent to live with his aunt and her crop of rotating boyfriends atop a tall stack of 20 old trailers. Needless to say, Wade does not have a great life. Wade ends up going to school in the OASIS where he hunts for the Egg during his spare time.
Let’s back up a minute. James Halliday is the co-inventor of the OASIS. Upon Halliday’s death, a video of his surfaces, leaving a message that he organized a treasure hunt, the objective being to find the Egg within the OASIS. The Egg consists of all the money Halliday owned as well as control of the OASIS. Three gates lead to unknown adventures and tasks. The catch? Halliday was obsessed with the 1980s—meaning everything in the hunt revolves around the 1980s.
Written by Beth Winters
What is the point of "The Sandman" by Neil Gaiman? I think I missed it.
I read the entirety of Gaiman’s acclaimed graphic novel series on a recommendation from a friend. He said "The Sandman" was supposed to be a super great graphic novel series, that anyone who likes graphic novels should read it. So, I thought, why not? I like a good graphic novel. ("Buffy" seasons 8, 9 and 10, anyone?) Plus, Gaiman wrote one of my all time favorite movies, Stardust, which I watch every year as a birthday treat. I still have "Stardust," the book, in my TBR pile.
But I digress. I did not understand "The Sandman" at all. I was bummed the stories are so broken up. The series pretty much boils down to this: 10 volumes, where odd-numbered volumes move the plot along while even-numbered volumes are vignettes. The story revolves around the Dream King, who is in charge of the dreaming realm. As far as the storyline goes, I am not sure I can accurately describe the series’ plot, because, as stated above, I am pretty sure I missed the point.
I enjoyed the odd-numbered volumes. It was interesting to see the adventures of the Dream King and his siblings. Throughout the series, I rooted for the Dream King. He seems to be a lost soul figuring out what to do with his immortality. The Dream King also seems very lonely, despite all the other people in his realm.
Written by Beth Winters
I really wanted to like "The Winner’s Curse" by Marie Rutkoski, but, alas, I could not seem to enjoy the plot, as I typically enjoy books with a certain type of romance between the two main characters. Here is why I was not impressed.
The story starts with Kestrel, the main female character, gambling. Initially, this start seems solid, but I was just not impressed with Kestrel. She is cocky and arrogant. Right off the bat, I was not a fan.
After winning all the available money from the gambling group, Kestrel and a friend go to a shop. There, the shopkeeper tries to sell her wares before being called out by Kestrel, as the shopkeeper tries to pass clear stone earrings off as precious topaz. I did not want to root for Kestrel because of how she refutes the shopkeeper so quickly and crudely. Though Kestrel does ultimately buy the earrings, she only does so to “save” the shopkeeper from lying to a Valorian (one of Kestrel’s people). If such a lie was told, the shopkeeper may suffer a very bad fate.
Did I mention that there is a conquered people who are treated like slaves? After buying the earrings from the shopkeeper, Kestrel and her friend wander the streets and happen upon a slave auction. They watch the auction, though Kestrel is uncomfortable… but she ends up buying a slave!
These events all happen within the first chapter. Needless to say, I was not enjoying the book much at this point—simply not my taste. I just could not root for Kestrel, a wealthy general’s daughter living in comfort who for some reason seems unhappy with her life.
Written by Lauryn Smith
In her historical fiction novel "The Museum of Extraordinary Things," Alice Hoffman invites readers to dive into dueling worlds, one mystical and breathtaking, the other dark and seedy.
Set in 1911 New York, Hoffman illustrates the time by interweaving the stories of Coralie, a young woman who assists her father’s museum of “natural” wonders, and Eddie, a young man who struggles with his unfortunate past but finds solace in his work as a photographer and life in the Manhattan wilderness. Their paths cross when Eddie accepts a job reminiscent of those he used to accept from shady characters in his youth. This time the job is seeking the missing daughter of an acquaintance of his estranged father. In addition to providing readers a true page-turner of a book, Hoffman expertly introduces readers to actual historical events, in this case the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Greenwich Village and the fire at Coney Island’s amusement park, Dreamland.
Hoffman, the author of more than 30 novels, seems to want to exemplify the psychological impacts of social and economic inequalities. Coralie feels trapped by the wishes of her father, who disallows her from showing her true self, going so far as to require her to glove her deformed hands, while simultaneously forcing her to train as a water-loving creature to be displayed at the museum. Eddie carries with him the watch of the young son of a wealthy factory owner, which he stole when he was a child working alongside his garment-worker father, a token that seems to represent his distaste with societal disparities. His unease is perpetuated by his craft, in which he uses his camera to capture both beautiful and sordid images. Likewise, Coralie learns that the museum of wonders that once seemed magical is actually a house of hidden horrors. How is it that the world can supply such extremes, and in such proximity?
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