Review Wednesday – Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

14CFA496-5D56-4FB2-A065-AB499D1A9791Set in 2045, the world is a sadly dangerous and depleted place and Oklahoma teenager Wade Watts lives in a dwelling known to residents as The Stacks. Though the author doesn’t go overboard with his description of this housing (and he does with lots of other descriptions) I quickly formed a vivid and overwhelmingly  depressing mental picture of the place. It’s understandable that anyone unfortunate enough to live there would need some kind of escapism. 

Luckily,  James Halliday, eccentric, mega-wealthy and deceased, had made it his life’s work to invent Oasis, a virtual Utopia where everyone goes by their Avatar and life is good. In his will, Halliday leaves Oasis and all his millions to the person who can find the keys and unlock the Easter Egg, the ultimate prize. 

A quirk that is vital to any chance of winning the prize is an in-depth knowledge of 80’s pop and games culture. Wade, in his avatar guise as Parzival has made it his mission to be an expert and has played 80’s games over and over in a bid to know every character and move. He thinks he has a serious chance of taking the prize but he is not alone, and some of those undertaking the quest are not as friendly or as honest as Parzival’s virtual best friend Aech, or Art3mis or Shoto and Daito.

There is a dark underbelly in the real world and they are determined to win. 

Ready Player One is fun. It’s basically some computer characters wielding their swords and finding golden keys. But there is a huge amount of description, almost like a walk-through of a computer game and, despite excellent narration on Audible, at times I just wanted something to happen. This is a long book, longer, for me, than it needed to be. The 80’s stuff could be a bit wearing. At it’s heart is a love story, a good v evil battle, a dystopian nightmare of what the world might become. It’s the kind of book that I probably enjoyed more in the reflection of it afterwards, rather than some of the real-time reading. But it did make me reflect – and not all books do that. 

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New release – Born in a Treacherous Time by Jacqui Murray

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I am so pleased to have been given the opportunity to read this new book from Jacqui Murray. I have read and enjoyed her work before but this is a very different read, something new to me and fascinating. I loved her approach, her telling of the human and emotional side of the story rather than simply the (very real) physical struggle of the era. It’s not sensational in any way, but the times are brutal and unforgiving of the slightest mistake. Murray shows this admirably.

Here is the author’s short description:-

Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive in the harsh reality of a world where nature rules, survival is a daily challenge, and a violent band threatens to destroy everything Lucy thinks she understands.

 If you like Man vs. Wild, you’ll love this book. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. It will bring that world to life in a way never seen before.

My Review of Born in a Treacherous Time

Born in a Treacherous time explores the world of Lucy, one of a group of Homo Habilis, tool-maker scavengers who follow the fierce carnivores of the day in their bid to keep themselves fed.

Of course, this is a brutal world. Not only must the group protect themselves from the very carnivores they rely on, they have to deal with the prospect of injury and sickness and the violent actions of the earth through the turmoil of volcanoes and earthquakes. Then there are the terrifying glimpses of other groups whose specialisms are different. Clashes can be a fatal. Almost everything can be fatal. 

The character of Lucy was cleverly introduced through an earlier novel, a thriller, by the same author. In To Hunt a Sub,  (click to see my review) which really couldn’t be more different, with the hi-jacking of a nuclear submarine as the storyline, Kali Delemagente, a brilliant student, has developed a programme to track early man, namely Lucy and her group, as they progress beyond their African origins. This programme is recognised as a potentially powerful tool for reasons both good and bad and it’s very existence puts Kali in danger. ( a very good read). To Hunt a Sub is followed by 24 Days

However,  in Born in a Treacherous Time we are taken away from technology and intrigue and back to the primitive world where our ancestors began to make their mark. 

What I liked about Born in a Treacherous Time was the way the author portrayed the many aspects of that early life. Sure, there was the fight to the death with sabre toothed cat, the danger of the mammoth herds, not to mention the geological mayhem, however, the story was finely balanced with the other concerns of an intelligent species. Lucy is a healer, she collects plants along the way and has learned which will help with various ailments. She has foresight and understanding of the pain of others. She feels kinship and responsibility and has fears and flaws just like all the members of the group. 

When a member of another group is observed using a spear to attack rather than waiting to scavenge, Lucy is fascinated by this newly observed skill and eager to learn. 

By exploring human failings and qualities the author very ably told a tale of long -ago characters that were recognisable and relatable and so my first foray into early-man fiction (should I call it early-person?) was an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience. 

Many thanks to the author for an advanced copy of this book. I was not obliged to review or comment. 

About the Author

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Wild seriesShe is also the author of over a hundred books on integrating technology into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Social Media contacts:

http://twitter.com/worddreams

http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

https://worddreams.wordpress.com

https://jacquimurray.net

 

Review Wednesday – Land of a Thousand Hills by Rosamund Halsey Carr

CB4520FD-2698-49CE-A0E2-C72A6FE4E798 I was keen to read this book, gifted to me by a friend from my own, old ‘Africa’ days. Modern travel can be, I believe, exciting and fulfilling and adventurous and certainly much easier and quicker than of old, but I do love to read accounts of those who ‘went before’. 

Rosamund Halsey-Carr was a young woman, living in New York, who, in 1949, fell in love with and married big-game hunter Kenneth Carr and subsequently moved with him to, what was then, the Belgian Congo. The marriage didn’t last but Rosamund’s love of Africa was already firmly rooted and she decided to stay on. She moved to close-by Rwanda.

Having spent a good number of years in Central Africa during the 1980’s and 90’s ( Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya but not Rwanda ), I am in awe of a lone woman (or man) who would have the guts and determination to build a life alone in such a country before the advent of home computers, the internet, mobile phones etc. There was and is a lot to love about the region but, having experienced an attempted coup first hand, I know how scary that can be, especially without communication with the outside world. 

And yet this woman took on the role of plantation manager and eventual owner. She showed courage and compassion time and again. With the help of her trusted workers she learned the ropes and staved off bankruptcy. 

Alongside the story of her work in Rwanda runs the record of her personal relationships, her continuing friendship with her ex husband, the flamboyant and fun lifestyle of some of the rich colonials and, in some cases, their subsequent tragedies. She knew Dian Fossey and relates the ups and downs of her life in Rwanda and the mystery of her death.

There were plentiful adventures and even the sad times are related in an upbeat manner.

When the genocide came in 1994 Rosamund was finally persuaded to leave the country for her own safety. That wasn’t the end of her African adventure, though. This determined woman (in her eighties) went back a few months later to the place she loved to run an orphanage. 

It’s an inspiring story of a woman who lived her life the way she wanted it to be, and did a lot of good along the way. 

A Thousand Yesteryears (Point Pleasant) by Mae Clair

Eve Parrish returns to Point Pleasant fifteen years after the tragic bridge collapse that claimed many lives, including that of her father and her best friend Maggie.

After the accident, Eve’s mother decided a fresh start was needed and she moved with Eve far enough away to help forget the events of that night.

But now Aunt Rosie has died and left her house and the Parrish Hotel to Eve and so Eve has travelled alone back to her home town, to decide what to do with her inheritance.
Her first instincts are to sell and return back to her new home as soon as possible. The town has changed, weighed down under its reputation as a place of tragedy. But there are plenty of people that Eve still knows, the Flynn brothers, Caden and Ryan, .their mother Mrs Flynn and Katie Lynch whose sister Wendy disappeared. Events soon begin to take an ominous turn and conspire to keep Eve back in her old home.

This murder mystery; what really happened to Maggie and to Wendy Lynch, is woven into the paranormal tale of the bridge collapse and the legend of the Mothman, a creature said to roam the swampy area just out of town. Plenty of local people believe in the Mothman and some have seen it. Despite her early doubts, Eve begins to wonder if maybe the Mothman really does exist and if Maggie is trying to help catch a murderer from beyond the grave.

With a bit of romance thrown, in this is a great start to a series and a fluent, easy read.

Pines by Blake Crouch

I am always attracted by those kind of blurbs that offer an intriguing dilemma and lately that has caused me to dip my toes into the world of Sci-if on more than one occasion.
The pines by Blake Crouch is such a book. Just after I purchased the audiobook, but before I started listening, someone told me they had watched the TV series and it was pretty bad. That put me off and I delayed. But honestly, I have enjoyed so many books that, in my personal opinion, have not been adapted well for the screen, that I knew I wanted to give the book a fair chance.
On the whole, I am glad I did, though, as with much of the science fiction genre, I think it is relatively easy for a good writer to come up with that killer scenario and much harder for him/her to explain all the mysterious goings on and come to a satisfying conclusion.

First though, I would like to say that, though this is the first in a trilogy, I didn’t feel cheated at the end of the book with a no-resolution type ending. Answers are given, a handful of loose ends tied.
Ethan Burke wakes by a river, he is hurt, has been in some kind of accident but he has no memory of it, or how he got there. He has no keys, wallet ID or anything else to identify himself.

He is told he was involved in a car accident, his companion killed and that he staggered out of the medical centre when staff were trying to help him. His belongings are with paramedic staff. So far, so believable, but Ethan is already beginning to worry that something is off kilter with the explanations he is being given.

He asks for the use of a telephone to contact his wife and son, his efforts to reach her are thwarted. As time goes on, Ethan is witness to violence and coercion and the definite knowledge that he and everyone else in the town are not at liberty to leave.

*Warning ! Spoiler alert from this point*

I usually prefer to skirt around the story and make my points without giving anything away but, with this one, I find it impossible to comment on, without touching on the issues that surround the reason for this isolated-town-with-no-way-out.

The basics are that Homo sapiens have died out beyond the confines of the town of Wayward Pines. In fact, everyone who lives there is an import, brought in, unknown to them, to continue the species before the disaster which will befall their fellow humans and see the end of their race.

One man in the 1980’s has had the foresight to see what will happen to the human race, through pollution of the planet. He took it upon himself to embark on the massive project of buying up a town and planning to repopulate it with people he kidnapped along the way and put into stasis until the right time came to introduce them to their new life. This is what has happened to Ethan.

Beyond the town evolution-gone-mad (in thirty generations) has transformed what remains of life into huge, jaw-snapping creatures, intelligent, hungry for human blood and impossible to communicate with. Towns and cities are overgrown and in ruins.

Of course the reader has to accept this crazy, evolutionary fast-forward that produced these creatures in under two thousand years, but this is science fiction, so… so far so good.

What didn’t work for me so well, was that the people were ‘kidnapped’ with such secrecy into the survival programme that even they were not told they were part of it. But more than that, the environmental changes that have been so profound as to wipe out humanity and send life on Earth on a completely different path, doesn’t appear to have affected the plant life. The town of Wayward Pines does not exist in a bubble of pre-disaster air and yet the town looks just like any ordinary old town of 2015, (two thousand years ago). And the surviving humans seem quite able to cope with the changes.

Science fiction is often a disappointment for me and maybe that’s not entirely science fiction’s fault, maybe I just think it out too much. However this kind of fiction is for pure entertainment and I was definitely entertained, I really wanted to know, as much as Ethan did, if he could break out of this weird village where he was being held captive and if he could find out why. I just wish the town had been isolated in some kind of dome, Logan’s Run style, where the environmental changes ‘outside’ could not affect them.

Then again, maybe the environment hasn’t changed? Maybe the Jaw Snappers are the result of some other mad experiment?

I may well have to read the second instalment!

A First Review for Dirty Work

So very pleased with this review for Dirty Work. It really can’t be said enough, reviews really do make an author’s day. Go on, readers,  write about the books you love and make an author happy!

Unsworth’s first novel – The Palaver Tree – will always be my favorite, because I too lived in Africa.

Her novel – Dirty Work – is another must read. The deceptively simple story of two couples morphs into a mystery with a number of surprising twists that kept me turning the pages. On the surface it would seem that Nathan, with all his money, his beautiful wife and stunning home, has the upper hand. Below the surface, however, things are churning – nasty things, that lead Nathan, his brother and his sister-in-law into a web they never could have imagined.

Well written with strong characterizations, great descriptions, and lots of action, Dirty Work is a story not to be missed if you like mysteries and even if you don’t.’

10 Statements – Wendy Unsworth @WendyUnsworth

Today, my books are featured over on My Train of Thoughts. Please go over and visit Karen and her lovely blog!

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Wendy Unsworth spent her early years in Lincolnshire, England where she first developed a love of the countryside and wildlife. She is a passionate traveller and collector of new experiences, having lived for fourteen years in Central and Eastern Africa. 

Writing has always been a part of her life; she began to work seriously on her first published novel, The Palaver Tree, in 2011. This story is a psychological drama based in the fictional, Cornish village of Berriwood, though it does borrow heavily from her experiences in Africa where much of the action takes place. There have been two more novels in the series. Beneathwood (2016) and Dirty Work (2017).

 

Find me… I would love to hear from you:

Website:  https://wendyunsworth.wordpress.com/

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