Hi, my name is Becky and I’m a bookaholic…

Surprise! It’s another book tag! I found this one on the fantastic ChocolatenWaffles Blog.  This tag addresses severe bookaholism, so this one might even be good for my health. For any of you who have ever been in doubt of my book addiction, I welcome you to my world:

What do you like about buying new books?
My favourite thing about buying new books is the anticipation. Finding new stories and new characters to love and adore? Sign me up immediately. Then there’s the fact that book plots are the only ones left that routinely surprise me. Unfortunately, I watch so much TV that I’ve started to learn which camera tricks signify what the next scene will entail. But this doesn’t happen in books. I have a lot more “WTF?!” moments- both ecstatic and terrifying –  in books than in TV or movies.

How often do you buy new books?
Not as often as I’d like. If I had my way, I’d have new books each week. But I don’t have the funds and, more importantly, I don’t have the time. At the moment I have a lot more free time than I usually do to read, but when uni goes back in February? Goodbye coming home from work and reading for hours before making dinner. Hello catching up on lectures, studying, and doing assignments.
Right now? I think I average a new book once every two weeks. But that’s an average. Sometimes I can go weeks (months is impossible) without buying new books and other times, I buy three new books at once a few weeks in a row. I’m not the most consistent of bookaholics.

Which do you prefer, buying books online or in-store?
I much prefer buying books in-store. I find a lot of hidden gems when I walk into bookshops and pick up a book that calls to me. Hell, I never would’ve discovered Neil Gaiman if American Gods hadn’t been following me around from bookshop to bookshop for about a year.
Though I do love that I can buy books that I desperately want online when I can’t find them anywhere in my local brick-and-mortar shops. For example, I’m currently buying each BBC reissue of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Now, a logical person would buy the complete set of these stories in one volume, saving a lot of money. But I’m a fangirl, which is basically the antithesis to logic. So I’ve been slowly hunting down each book. Unfortunately, I have to buy these from Amazon or directly from the BBC. I’m only missing a few now, though! #fangirldedication

Do you have a favourite bookshop?
As much as I would love to give you the name of an independent bookshop that I go to every week, I can’t. As a uni student, I find independent bookshops too expensive for me. So, my favourite bookshop is the Dymocks in Brisbane City. It’s two storeys, with the first storey holding gorgeous stationery and unique “who-thought-of-this-for-a-gift-idea?-I-must-own-it” bookish presents. The second story is the most well-stocked bookshop I’ve ever had the pleasure of walking into. And, not only this, Dymocks Brisbane City often hosts bookish events down the back among the reference and money-handling books. You know, the books people only buy when they have been told to by a higher-up.
I love the plush red carpet and the pine bookshelves of Dymocks. But, most of all, I love that there are armchairs and ottomans placed sporadically throughout the store so you can settle in and start to read for a bit before you buy a book that’s caught your fancy. This place is a bookworm’s paradise.

Do you preorder books?
Yes. If it is the latest instalment in a favourite series, or if it’s a specific release, like limited edition signed copies. There usually has to be a very good reason for me to preorder a book.

Do you have a monthly book buying limit?
My book-buying budget is planned like this:
Me-to-my-conscience: “If I buy this, can I eat for the rest of this month?”
Conscience-to-me: “No. Put the book down.”
Me-to-my-conscience: “Are you suuuurrrrreeeee?”
Conscience-to-me: “Yes. For the love of God, put the book down and walk away.”
Me-to-my-conscience: “But—”
Conscience-to-me: “No. Now.”

Book buying bans – are they something for you?
In a sense. If, after a while, I realise that my TBR list is out of hand, I limit myself to only buying books that belong to any of the series that happen to be on that list. At present, I can only buy books from the Rivers of LondonLunar Chronicles, and Sherlock Holmes series. That way, I can still get my retail therapy, but I’m not being overly fiscally irresponsible.

How big is your wish list?
Immeasurable. And I do mean that literally. I can’t measure how many books I wish for because I don’t know all of the books that are out there, now and books that will be out there in the future. My wish list grows every time I go into a bookshop, every time I go online, and every time I open my inbox and read blog reviews by all of you lovely people. My wish list is ever-expanding.

Which three books from your wish list do you want to own now?
Honestly? It would be The Last Hours trilogy by Cassandra Clare. This series follows the children of the characters in The Infernal Devices trilogy. So, you know what that means, right? More Will Herondale!

….

Well, that’s it! My bookish confessions. How many of these resonate with you? Anything that you do differently to me? Let me know!

And, as always, if this tag has tickled your fancy, feel free to give it a go!

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My bookish identity

You guys are in for a treat over the next few posts. During the second half of semester, when my brain was so fried by Stats and Social & Organisational Psych that I dreamed  about my study notes, I only had time to read subject headers in my inbox. What this means is that I have a lot of awesome blogging tags in my drafts folder, saved from when I didn’t have the brain space to actually complete them. And now uni’s over…well, like I said, you guys are in for a treat.

Today’s wonderful tag is one that I found on The  Bookish Universe. This is all about who I would be if I lived in some of my favourite books. So, without any further ado, I give you:

My Bookish Identity…

Which dystopian/fantastical world would you live in?
This is an easy one. The Shadowhunter universe created by Cassandra Clare. Not only do you get basically every mythological creature ever, plus some super badass warrior angel descendants, but tattoos are mandatory AND basically give you superpowers (well, superpower-adjacent). You don’t even want to know what I paid for my last tattoo, and that definitely didn’t come with the ability to see fairies playing in my local park.

Who would your partner be?
OK, so I just finished reading The Hunger Games so my initial reaction is to say Peeta Mellark because, duh. But really? There is only one answer: Will Herondale. This is, of course, in a universe without Tessa. Because I would not keep that man from Tessa. I don’t know if that would even be possible.

Who would your godly mother/father be? [Percy Jackson]
Athena. Definitely. When I was younger, I’m talking ten years old,  I used to check out this one book about the twelve gods and goddesses of Mt Olympus. Of course, I now know that there are waaayyyy more than twelve (duh, right?), but when I was ten I used to love the stories. Plus, the pictures were captivating. Artemis was my favourite at the time (which is why I picked up Artemis Fowl in the first place), but as I got older, I found Athena to be the more interesting. Goddess of intellect and art? A fierce warrior who only ever fought to defend? And she was able to wield Zeus’ thunderbolts? Yep. Definitely Athena.

Would you be a downworlder or nephilim? [The Mortal Instruments]
Well, that depends. Are we talking  during Will Herondale’s time, where the majority of nephilim were bigoted pricks (except for those in of the London Institute)? Or are we talking post City of Glass period, where the nephilim were trying to make a big change in how they deal with downworlders; giving them Council seats, seeking their advice, and accepting a reformed vampire into the ranks of the Shadowhunter Academy?
I think I’d choose downworlder, but post CoG. I always felt like the downworlders had a bit more freedom than the nephilim. Weird, right? But Magnus always got to do his own thing, and so did Tessa. Sure they had pretty strict guidelines, but comparing their upbringing to that of the Lightwoods or Jace, I feel like there was a lot more leeway into what Magnus and Tessa could do with their lives. If you were nephilim, there was always a chance that if you screwed up too badly, the Clave would take your runes. But no matter how badly a downworlder screwed up, no one could take away who they were.
I could get into a whole thing about this, but I’m going to stop now.

What house would you be in? [Harry Potter]
Hufflepuff. I always felt like Hufflepuffs were the kindest, most open-minded of the Hogwarts students. How did the Sorting Hat’s song go?

Said Hufflepuff, “I’ll teach the lot and treat them just the same.”

Cunning, intelligence, and bravery are all wonderful qualities to have. But I always felt that kindness and loyalty were worth more in a pinch. Like Cedric helping Harry in the Triwizard. Or Professor Sprout always praising Neville even though he was from a different house. Hufflepuffs were always severely underrated and, unfortunately, underrepresented. But I loved them anyway.

What faction would you be in? [Divergent]
Much in the same way, I like to think that I’d be in the Amity faction. Sure everyone wants to be Dauntless, but Amity always try and make people feel better. I mean, there was that whole thing with knocking people out and locking them up if they got a teensy bit upset, which was super uncool, but for the most part I like the idea of people always trying to help people to feel good. It’s nice.

What would be your daemon? [His Dark Materials]
Firstly, I just want to say how glad I am that His Dark Materials made it in here. I loved this trilogy! So thank you, shadowy blogging tag creator, for including it.
I suppose my daemon would be a corgi. An intelligent dog who would snuggle up with me while I was reading or feeling lonely, but who also was bred as a sheepdog and so could get vicious if the need arose.
Basically, I love dogs and would love to always have one around. But corgis are also inherently British, feeding my anglophilia, and also incredibly adorable. So it’s really a win-win.

So, what do you guys think of my bookish life? And what would yours be? I really want to know!

 

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If we were having coffee…

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If we were having coffee is a blogging community idea, where bloggers publish posts about what they’d like to say to their readers if they were sitting down together having a casual cup of coffee.

I found this beautiful blog idea on the wonderful blog Blogs-of-a-Bookaholic. I thought it was lovely, since we all blog for a sense of community, right? So what better way of expressing this than by imagining that we are all hanging out in a coffee shop and actually conversing face to face.

I do need to say that I did not create the above graphic. I am less-than-useless when it comes to making anything visually creative. That beautiful e-calligraphy came from the same blog on which I found this blog idea, Blogs-of-a-Bookaholic. The link to the original blog post is embedded in the image.

So, my dears, go make a nice cup of coffee and let’s get started.

Setting the scene: we’re in one of my favourite cafés. It’s one of those places where nothing matches and yet everything goes together. Mismatched couches, bar stools, a 1950’s style jukebox in one corner, and old-style Pacman and Space Invader tables in another. The music can vary from Johnny Cash to Australian hip-hop to electric swing in any given hour. The coffee is phenomenal and, given that it is basically summer here in Australia, I urge you to try the cold-press coffee. It still has its original coffee flavour as this particular cold-press is brewed on-site and hasn’t been overly sugared. Once we all have our drinks, we move away from the cosy front room to the slightly-more-spacious room out the back where the couches are among the comfiest on which I have ever sat and there is always a collection of niche magazines sitting on the coffee table. This room has a more neo-classical feel than the main room, with the couches ending in clawed mahogany feet and both of the paintings in this room hang in gilded frames. And it is here, dear bloggers, that we sit and drink our coffee.

If we were having coffee…
I would most likely jokingly start with one of those embarrassing ice-breaker games that everyone’s forced to do on the first day of every class from high school through to university. Only, I’d give the game a bookish twist. Something like, “state your name and one of your favourite books or authors that start with the same letter as your name.” I’d start this way because, given the fact that we all blog, I’m guessing a fair few of us would be introverted and need a way to broach the idea of talking to each other in a way in which (I’m guessing) we’re all familiar.

If we were having coffee…
I’d make everyone feel welcome. I don’t usually delve into politics on here but in the current climate after the presidential election in the US, I’d want everyone to know that this is a safe space. That everyone is 100% accepted. Because I am terrified that this election is going to give voice to bigots everywhere and I am a firm believer that we can combat this with as much kindness as we can muster in our daily lives.

If we were having coffee….
I would then lead into the fact that, after the election, I immediately started re-reading The Hunger Games. Objectively, I know the idea that The Hunger Games actually becoming a reality is incredibly implausible. Emotionally, though, it feels all too real. And I wanted to read a story where bravery and love can overcome a corrupt system. I needed that in my life, and still do, in fact.

If we were having coffee…
I would then ask which books every one else is reading at the moment. New, fresh stories or old favourites? I wonder how many people are re-reading Harry Potter after the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I also wonder how many people have seen the movie and what they thought of it.

If we were having coffee…
I’d want to talk to you all about anything at all. I love blogging, I really do, but my favourite part of blogging is responding to the comments left on my posts. It’s like getting into a surprise conversation with someone who loves books as much as me at a party where I know no one. So I’d like to have actual conversations with you. Because blogging, to me, is about finding a community into which you fit.

If we were having coffee…
I’d thank you all for getting me through a tough time back in 2014. I was living in a new town and I struggle to make friends. I’m too shy and too worried about saying the wrong thing. I blogged a lot that year and every single one of your responses helped me to feel a little less alone. So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.

If we were having coffee…
I would probably end up venting a little. About how disconnected I feel lately with the people around me and how I don’t know how to fix it. About my recent break-up with the world’s most lovely man and how unfair it is that we often don’t fall in love (or stay in love) with the one who is hell-bent on making you happy. I would then most definitely ask if there was anything that any of you needed to get off your chests. Because, as we all know from books and movies and TV shows, it’s often easier to talk to strangers about your problems than with people you know.

I would vent about things that are a little less grim too; like how much I hate the humidity in Brisbane, how much I loved the Gilmore Girls revival and how much I hate how things were left with Jess. He deserved better than that, I swear.
I may also bring up the fact that I both met and had a photo taken with the incredibly lovely and wonderfully talented Nathan Fillion and Enver Gjokaj. Because, well, why wouldn’t I?

If we were having coffee…
I’d thank you all for following my blog and by promising to try and be better with following all of your wonderful blogs. I get so bogged down in work and study that I often don’t get the time to visit everyone’s sites. I do promise to try harder because you are all so wonderful and talented that you deserve to have your posts read.

Thank you for hanging out with me for a little while today, guys. I hope, one day, we do get to meet for coffee. Because I think that would be just wonderful.

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I do not take credit for either of the images in this post. I tried to link them as best I could, but if you know of a better link for them, please let me know, and I will make the changes. Everyone should be properly credited for their work. 

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“Fall” by Candice Fox

I specifically chose to read Fall during the last few days of semester because it meant that I could reread Hades and Eden while I was studying. I now have so many books to read that I have to figure out which ones will fit into my schedule. Absolutely ridiculous.

Anyway, Fall was a little different to the two books that preceded it. There were still overlapping stories and POVs, but none of these stories took place in the past. In both Hades and Eden, we learn about those two characters through the flashback parts of the story. This in turn allows us to better understand these characters and how much they have buried deep in their pasts. In Fall, we don’t really have that. Sure, the POV of one of the characters delves into the past but it’s written as reminiscence rather than the actual happenings of back then. Does that make sense? Like, these glimpses into the past happen in present day, rather than the story being told from back then.

However, despite these differences, we still get that “peeking under the mask” feel to a few of the characters. We’re introduced to two new players: Hooky, a seventeen-year old savant who helps the police catch paedophiles online; and Imogen, Frank’s new girlfriend. And as we get introduced to these characters, we see a different side to them. No one in the Bennett/Archer series thus far have been what they seem.

One thing I’ve learned from reading Candice Fox for the last few years is that she is exceptional at characterisation. How else can she get us to root for the serial-killer cop or the underworld kingpin? She knows exactly how to present these characters so that we feel empathy for them, even though these characters are some of the more despicable that I’ve read.
What Candice Fox did, in Fall was to make the most “innocuous” character the most detestable. I hated Imogen most out of all of the characters in Fall‘s cast. Sure, Frank treated his ex-wives like crap, Eden kills people, Hades covers up those murders, and the killer, well, also kills people, but out of all of the characters, it was Imogen who I hated. I think because she was the most removed from what she seemed. She seems like the kind of person who wants to help traumatised police officers get back on the job (she’s a cop psychologist) but instead, she uses her position of power, influence, and trust to get information from these vulnerable individuals to fuel her passion as an “armchair detective”. See, at least with the other characters, you could empathise with their motives and see that they thought they were doing the right thing. But Imogen? She’s purely selfish. And I hate selfish people.

The plot of Fall is much like the other books in the Bennett/Archer series: there’s a crime, Frank and Eden solve that crime while also dealing with their fraught relationship and various demons in their past, while we get to see into the killer’s past. But it’s always been the character development that sells this series, not the plot. Which I adore. These characters aren’t formulaic. They’re real and flawed and damaged. Nothing really happens with these characters that you may expect, unlike in many cop shows out there. Fox makes everything new and unique purely through the eyes of her amazing characters.

I also want to talk about the character of Caroline Eckhart, but I’m not sure how to do this without pissing people off. So, in advance, I’m warning you that this next paragraph might make you mad.

Caroline Eckhart, in this book, is a feminist spokeswoman. She is a high profile member of the fitness community and is incredibly outspoken on behalf of the rights of women. Sounds amazing, right? And it is. However, Eckhart uses the spate of killings in Fall as a way to further her own platform. She makes assumptions, based on absolutely no evidence, that the killer is a man. Which is flat out misandry. Basing any opinions on stereotypes or generalisations reeks of prejudice. And Eckhart is one of the voices of feminism in Fox’s version of Sydney. There is no room for misandry in feminism, something that Fox drives home over and over again through Eckhart’s character.
So when Frank starts to shut Eckhart down in front of the press, she then uses her feminist influence to say that Frank is yet another man trying to stifle women. When, in fact, he’s trying to prevent her spreading vicious rumours that could derail the police investigation. Then, when an event Eckhart puts together is genuinely putting the public in danger, Eckhart dodges every Sydney police officers’ calls.
Eckhart basically just pisses me off.
I believe that this is Fox’s purpose in creating this character; to highlight the fact that feminism does NOT equal misandry.

I love Fox’s stories. She takes the formulaic world of crime fiction and makes it refreshing again. For this reason, I give Fall:

★★★★

 

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“Holding” by Graham Norton

Those of you at uni or college or high school will know the feeling of the last two weeks of semester. You’ve made it all the way through. You can see the finish line but there is just one last, humungous hurdle in your way.

Exams.

But instead of buckling down and working that little bit harder, you ease your foot off the accelerator and start coasting. That is, until the night before exams and you have to cram thirteen weeks of knowledge into twelve hours.

Luckily for me, my coasting  usually ends the week before my first exam. But what that means is that, although I finished Holding a few days ago, I haven’t had a chance to write it up. If I wasn’t studying or working, I was recovering from studying or working, and basically ending up asleep way later than usual.

This is my way of saying that this review is probably going to be a little less in depth than the last few because it’s been a while since I closed the book.

OK, so, Holding. It took me a while to get into the swing of the novel. Norton introduces us to a lot of characters very quickly and it takes a while to find our bearings. That being said, although this is jarring, it’s also pretty clever. Holding takes place in the small Irish town of Duneen where everyone knows everyone. So to come in and feel separate from the cast actually helps to establish that small town feel.

Holding reminded me a lot of Broadchurch in that a crime stirs up all these old ghosts and secrets that no one in the tiny community ever knew about. I always liked that dynamic, where there’s more to a town/story/person than meets the eye. And this is also true of the characters. We have the Ross sisters, a trio of middle aged shut-ins; an alcoholic mother of two, Brid Riordan; and a morbidly obese police detective, PJ Collins. None of these people are who they seem and they are so multi-faceted that your initial judgements of these characters soon melt away.

I will say that the women of this town don’t seem to really know what love looks like. One, Evelyn Ross, pined away for about twenty years after the town heartthrob, Tommy Burke, gave her a scarf. And another, Brid Riordan, was going to marry a man who clearly didn’t love her because he was also the town heartthrob. Yes, Tommy Burke again.
I don’t know, I just found the “love triangle” to be completely unbelievable. There wasn’t anything really to fight over. They were both “in love” with a man they hadn’t seen in decades. But even when he was around, they didn’t really do anything with him. Like, nothing. No kissing, no hugs, and no I-love-yous.

There’s probably a point in there, but I’m missing it.

I did enjoy the revealing of the secrets, the slow unravelling of the town’s underbelly. I also love how sometimes these secrets had nothing to do with the crime at hand. Red herrings galore and plausible ones at that. I love when that happens.

What I loved most about Holding was the ending. After everything is said and done, the epilogue is this teensy scene that shows how life has moved on. That the characters have moved on. The epilogue is only a few pages long, but it is brilliant.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought it was wonderful. Graham Norton can definitely weave a wonderful tale.

I do want to leave you with a quote I just found, from Graham Norton himself, talking about Holding. I found it in an article that came up in Google when I was checking the spelling character names. It sums up what I’ve kind of been getting at for the past 600 words:

“I’m not apologising for it. I wanted to write a ‘popular piece of fiction’, something accessible, that was an easy read. I mean, I think it was always going to be an easy read, because I don’t think I can write a difficult read.”

Holding is brilliant, but it is written simply. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with books that have been written in this way, if it’s done well. And Norton has definitely done it well.

★★★★

P.S. Just in case people are wondering: Yes, I know who Graham Norton is. I love his show. I can spend hours watching it. But I wanted to talk about Graham Norton as an author, not as an hilarious, insightful interviewer with one of the best chat shows on TV. I feel like he deserves to be treated an an author. Books are not easy things to write, and he has done it. 

 

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“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

I got home from work one day and my roommate hands me a book.
“Do you want this? I’m never going to read it.”
And hell, who am I to turn down a free book? I grabbed it and put it on my shelf. Though, admittedly, I did so with a healthy dose of scepticism. My roommate has impeccable taste in books, so when he handed me this one saying that he had no interest in reading it, I wondered if I was even going to like it.

Turns out, I did. Of course. I really am lucky with how many incredible books I’ve read in the last little while.

I don’t know if you can make out that review in the top left corner of the book cover there, but it says that Ready Player One is basically “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix“. I could leave my review right there, because those five words say it all. That’s the basic plot. The creator of a fictional world instigates a competition where the winner is gifted a magnificent prize. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (because that is the actual title of the book originally written by Roald Dahl) that prize was to tour Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory but then Charlie wins the ultimate prize of taking over from Willy Wonka; becoming his successor (no, not a spoiler. The book was released in 1964 and the Gene Wilder movie was released in 1971).
In Ready Player One, the creator of OASIS, an MMORPG (because all of the characters are playing roles), dies and leaves the players of his game a quest: the one to find all of the hidden keys and their subsequent gates, leading to the mysterious Halliday easter egg, will inherit his multi-billion dollar fortune. This is where The Matrix comes in. Ninety-five per cent of this book takes place in an online universe. People live in OASIS because the real world is terrible.

So, basically, that’s the plot. And that snippet of a review boiled it down to five perfect words.

Of course, there’s more to it. Halliday, the creator of OASIS, was obsessed with the 80s and so the entire book is full to bursting with 80s pop culture references, nerd culture references, and everything in between. Even though, when this book takes place, the 80s ended fifty-five years previously. I thought this was brilliant. Because even I, a young adult born in the 1990s, am familiar with the majority of the references made in this book. As would be most everyone who picks this up. The 80s are the middle ground. People in my mum’s generation could relate to this story as well as people in my own. This was a very clever choice made by Cline for so many reasons (all of which should be explored in an essay, seriously. But I just don’t have the space), but the fact that the 80s is an equaliser is probably the most important. So, although this book is marketed as YA (and, according to Wikipedia, won the Alex Award), this book could be enjoyed by all audiences.

And I do mean all audiences. Remember when I said that 95% of this book takes place online? This does not mean that non-gamers would struggle will the content. How do I know? I’m a non-gamer. I mean, sure, I play boardgames and I am part of a weekly Pathfinder campaign (think D&D), but online gaming? I wouldn’t have a clue. What Cline did was to write the book more like a sci-fi or fantasy novel where there’s two worlds: reality and unreality. I come from a massive sci-fi/fantasy background, so it was easy for me to pick up the lingo.

Essentially ,the real world has become a depressing place due to pretty much every dystopian trope you can think of. So everyone lives online in Halliday’s creation, OASIS. To the point where OASIS credits (virtual money) is stronger than actual money. Ready Player One follows the story of Wade/Parzival, an egg hunter (or “gunter”) and his quest to find Halliday’s egg. He has his online friends, an evil corporation trying to take over the competition so that they can control OASIS, and even a love interest. But the plot isn’t overly important.
You know how I always say that there are two kinds of books: character-driven and plot-driven? Well, Ready Player One deserves its own category: world-driven. Because the most important aspect of this book is the setting in which it takes place. The world is impeccable. No detail is left out. Cline thought of everything. Which includes the plot and the characters. Everything in Ready Player One stems from the world. I am of the opinion (because people may disagree with me) that these characters and this plot would not work if taken out of this setting. An argument could be made that no stories could work if the setting was changed, but I don’t think that’s true. Certain characters can be found anywhere. Certain stories can be told the same way in a different place and time. But not Ready Player One. Every single character belongs exclusively to Cline’s world. Their personalities have been influenced by the world in which they live. I know authors who create wonderful characters who are so believable, you feel like they’re sitting next to you. But Cline has made the world the focal point of his story, and as such has created a world in which – I found – everything to be utterly unique to his vision.

Oh dear, I’m closing in on 1000 words again. So, I will leave you with this:
Ready Player One is an intricately crafted world-driven story that is best described as “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix“. Although it takes place almost completely in an MMORPG, you do not need to be a gamer to enjoy this book.

Oh, and Wil Wheaton makes a cameo as “the vice-president of the OASIS, and had been re-elected for close to a decade based on his stance of protecting user rights”.

★★★★★

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“Thanks for the Trouble” by Tommy Wallach

I have been incredibly lucky in that the last few book I’ve read have been pure genius. Thanks for the Trouble is no exception.
I bought this book when I was in Dymocks in Queen St Mall, forever and a day ago. I had actually gone in there to buy a different book. But when I saw this one there was just no question of me walking out of there without the new Tommy Wallach.

In March last year, Simon & Schuster gifted me the ARC of Wallach’s debut novel We All Looked Up. It was a completely unique look at the end of the world. See, Wallach set it in the here and now rather than in some far off dystopian future. Wallach made the completely extraordinary mundane, but in the most beautiful of ways. And he’s done the same again in Thanks for the Trouble.

What is the most interesting thing about this book is that our narrator, Parker, is mute. He hasn’t uttered a word in five years. You would think this would make the story slow and laggy and all kinds of contrived, and probably in the hands of another author, it would have. But Wallach makes dialogue flow like a river. Seriously. He’s made Parker’s muteness so natural that you don’t notice it. Probably because this story is obviously written down, but I like to think it’s because Wallach covered his bases. Parker uses both a journal to write down his parts in a conversation and also sign language, for situations where people will understand it. So Parker chooses his communication method based on the environment in which he finds himself. I loved it.

The plot of this book is much the same as Holding up the Universe in which two broken people find solace and redemption and, most importantly, hope in one another. This seems to be a massive trend in YA. Or at least, these are the books I’m buying. But when I say “much the same”, I just mean that the themes are fairly similar. How Niven and Wallach attack those themes are incredibly different. These are two very different novels, but the themes of acceptance and unconditional love are the same. Which isn’t a bad thing at all.

In Thanks for the Trouble,  Parker became mute after the death of his father; a coping mechanism of sorts. But then it becomes a crutch, an excuse to keep himself cut off from people. Then he meets Zelda, a young woman who wear an expression of “perfect sadness” when Parker first claps eyes on her. Zelda is carrying around her own pain; a pain that we don’t really understand. But these two broken people find each other and somehow make each other feel better.

OK, so, I have to talk about the book’s structure (there’s something you haven’t seen me talk about for a while, right?). So Thanks for the Trouble is written as if it’s Parker’s college application essay. Super cool concept, just FYI. What this means is that every once in a while, Parker breaks into random short stories, to show off his writing abilities. Sometimes these stories are fantasy, sometimes they’re just an alternate reality, but they are still deviations from the main story. This casts into sharp relief the idea of fiction and made up stories and everything like that. So when it comes to Zelda’s backstory, what’s to stop it being just as made up as the rest of Parker’s asides?
Basically, what I’m saying is, you’re kind of left wondering whether Zelda’s story is real or not.

And what is her story? Well, that’s a bit of a spoiler. A huge chunk of the book is dedicated to Parker’s disbelief and then final, inevitable belief in her story. So I wouldn’t feel right telling you. But basically, it’s Zelda’s mysterious past that ends up helping Parker. How Zelda’s past catches up with her is a little different. But again, spoilers.
However, Zelda’s story ties into the overall theme of “people are more than they appear”. Basically that old quote:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

But it’s a little bit more than that. What Parker ends up finding is that people aren’t as horrible or prejudiced as he originally thought. They are more than they seem. People accept him for who he is, rather than putting him down for it. You know, when he finally gives them the chance.

I’m rambling a bit, I know. That’s just because this book is so incredible that I want to stay in its world for just that little bit longer. But I think I’ve gone on for long enough now.

All you need to know is that Wallach writes beautifully, he writes beautiful characters, and makes the supernatural exquisitely banal.

Read this book. And then, while you’re at it, read We All Looked Up. I can guarantee you will not regret it.

★★★★★

P.S. I just want to share with you the quote that, I’m fairly sure, inspired the name of this book. It gets slipped into a throwaway bit of dialogue at the end of the novel. Once you read it, you’ll see the title in a whole new light. Then once you read the book, you’ll realise how heartbreaking this is:

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.

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