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Ready Player One, a book review

If you’ve been paying attention to recent sci-fi literature or are generally in the know about all things nerdy, you’ve probably heard about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. It’s a novel set in the not-so-distant future where an expansive MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) called “the OASIS” has become the new reality for humans. Conventional civilization and society have gone by the wayside and all endeavors, capitalistic or otherwise, take place in the OASIS.

After the death of James Halliday, the inventor of the OASIS, a video of his will is released explaining that there is an Easter Egg, or hidden series of quests, programmed into the OASIS. A top-10 scoreboard is also integrated into the game, giving players the ability to track the forerunners in the quest for Halliday’s Egg. The search for the Egg becomes a massive worldwide effort, and the key to unlocking the secret is having an extensive knowledge of 1980s video games and pop culture.

The story is told from the perspective of Wade Watts, a teenager whose life is dedicated to hunting for Halliday’s Egg. His OASIS avatar’s name is Parzival, a corruption of Percival of Arthurian legend who is a crucial figure in the quest for the Holy Grail. Parzival becomes an unlikely hero when his avatar’s name is the first to show up on the scoreboard. I won’t spoil anything else by going into specifics, but the story is genuinely fun, surprising, and at times endearing.

I plowed through this book from start to finish in three and a half days, and it was an intense ride through waves of nostalgia. If you’re looking for a fun romp through the glory days of retro gaming with a unique sci-fi twist, I cannot recommend this book enough. Look for Cline’s next novel Armada due out in July.


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‘Tis the Season

It is that time again.

The nights have gotten longer, the days have gotten colder; you’re making a list, checking it twice and desperately trying to figure out where the year has gone. Seriously, I can’t be the only one wondering that, can I? It is the season for traditions ­­– whether they are time honored or brand new, and an occasion to stop and reflect on the events that have shaped your life and the people that matter most to you.

My mother spent more than thirty years as a school teacher and more time than that as a lover of books. As an elementary teacher, her preferred tool for teaching simple and complex ideas to children were picture books. As my mother, she showed me that just because a book is written and illustrated for children does not mean that adults cannot be moved, inspired or taught something about themselves. That idea motivated me to start my own collection of children’s books while I was still in high school and my collection now is well over 100 picture books. I want to make it clear though, that these books are not for any future children I might have; this collection is just for me…future children will get their own copies to drool over. Whenever I’m feeling bummed out or unmotivated, I’ll pull some of my favorites off the shelves, lay down on the floor and read. Words are inspiring to me, but at my core I remain a very visual person and the easiest way to put a smile on my face it to put a book in my hands that was drawn by my favorite illustrator: David Catrow.

I wanted to introduce you to David Catrow (if you are unaware of his work) during this holiday season because my love of his work began with a Christmas book I discovered nearly 15 years ago. My sister and I were wandering around our hometown bookstore waiting for our mother as she systematically perused books when we picked up a copy of “How Murray Saved Christmas” written by Mike Reiss, illustrated by David Catrow. I was instantly hooked. “How Murray Saved Christmas” is an absolutely delightful and hilarious retelling of the immortal ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem.

murray

Inept, yet loveable Edison Elf accidentally knocks out Saint Nick on Christmas Eve with his “Jack­-in-­the-Boxer” toy. Oh no! How is he going to get all the toys to the good girls and boys? Enter Murray Kleiner, owner of Murray K’s Holiday Diner. It doesn’t go perfectly; Murray has to deal with an ill-­fitting suit, fight against sleigh­-sickness, and has a tendency of falling down the chimneys and landing tush-­first. Disheartened and losing the Christmas spirit, Murray is confronted by a six-­year-­old boy. After convincing the boy that “Oh, Santa is real, kid. It’s wrestling that’s fake,” Murray really embraces his role as a Saint Nick substitute…even bringing toys to the not-­so-­good kids and saving Christmas.

Reading it the first time, my sister and I were laughing aloud so hard we had tears in our eyes and were getting peculiar stares from other shoppers. We couldn’t help it. It’s a hysterical book and 15 years later I laugh just like I did the first time. You really must read it and see the illustrations to get the full effect. It’s a perfect union of words and pictures and there is actually quite a bit of humor that parents and other adults would appreciate. (Mike Reiss has won several Emmy Awards for his work on the first seven seasons of the Simpsons and was the co-­creator of “The Critic”.)

santa claustrophobia
And if you like “How Murray Saved Christmas,” I’d recommend the follow­up: “Santa Claustrophobia,” also written by Mike Reiss with pictures by David Catrow. In this story, Santa’s therapist, Doc Holiday, sends Saint Nick on vacation in hopes that the time away will help him get over his newly developed fear of chimneys. Doc enlists the help of the other holiday celebrity inhabitants in the town of “Stinky Cigars” to make sure Christmas still happens…things do not go well. Election Day Donkey and Elephant can’t decide who should be in charge, the Easter Bunny paints trucks, planes and trains like they’re Easter eggs, and Groundhog eats the “Naughty & Nice” List. Don’t worry though, all does work out in the end.

I could continue to praise David Catrow well into the New Year, because when you combine the right writer with Catrow’s distinct and stunning illustrations, you get magic. To see more images of his work, see a complete listing of his books and to learn more about this incredibly talented man, visit his website. If you’re looking for a special present for a child, a parent or a friend, I would like to leave you with my top five David Catrow books, and wish for you to have a wonderful holiday.

1. Cinderella Skeleton written by Robert D. San Souci

2. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon written by Patty Lovell

3. Our Tree Named Steve written by Alan Zweibel

4. I Like Myself! written by Karen Beaumont

5. The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share written by Mike Reiss

~Eliza G.

Eliza G

 

When she is not being a responsible adult and working at McKay’s, Eliza fills her time with numerous creative pursuits including: jewelry-making, etching, and crocheting. When she’s not crafting, reading, writing or plotting to take over the world, you’ll probably find her napping with her dogs.


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The Fault in Our Stickers

Dear Reader,

The book world is abuzz with talk about John Green’s latest book, and now movie, The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve read it. It’s good. But there is a danger here…

Water is bad for stickers.

I repeat.

Water is bad for stickers.

As you’re probably already well aware, Green’s book is a bit of a tearjerker. And usually, because of my sticky situation, I avoid sad things like the plague. However, my friends at the Nashville McKay’s are having a Book Club in a few weeks to discuss this very piece, and I refuse to be left out. So, I did what any self-respecting sticker would do and read it.

But the consequences of this were nearly catastrophic. By the end of the book I had become a squishy, mushy, sticky glob of wet stickers. I would post pictures of my soggy state, but I learned long ago that you cannot un-see what you have already seen. I will save you from that harsh reality by keeping those images to myself.

And I must say, this book was well worth the occupational hazard. The characters are believable and endearing, and I never once felt like Green was trying too hard to make the book sad. It’s sad because sometimes life is sad. And there is something really beautiful about that. Even just thinking about it now is causing me to tear up a little. Quick! A joke!

-Do you know why the librarian slipped and fell?
-Because she went walking in the Non-Friction section!

Whew. That was close.

As I was saying… the book is wonderful. The movie adaptation is also supposed to be wonderful. And I am thoroughly looking forward to talking about it at the store. But to all of my paper friends and fans out there: be prepared if you decide to undertake reading this book. I recommend wearing a rain coat. Learn from my mistakes. I know I have.

~SB