Monday, November 17, 2014

Best Books of the Year: Ready Player One

Since I haven't been active in the last year or so, I thought I'd share with you a couple books that I read in 2014 that I really really enjoyed. I think this will be a series, focusing on one book at a time because I can go on about my favorite books forever.
The book that I most enjoyed reading is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The story is set twenty years in the future, where everything takes place on an online platform called the Oasis. When I say everything, I really mean everything. Business meetings, vacations, school, it all happens online. One day, the creator of the Oasis, James Halliday, dies. Instead of leaving a will, it is announced that whoever can solve his game within the Oasis and finds the easter egg will inherit everything that Halliday owned. So this is the story of Wade and his group of friends who go on the quest to find the egg.
I actually listened to this audiobook. It's narrated by Will Wheaton, and it is quite possibly one of the best audiobooks that I have ever listened to. Will Wheaton did an excellent job of embodying the voice of Wade. This book had a lot of description in it—it had to, in order to describe what the Oasis was like—and he narrated it in a way that it didn't get boring.
The descriptions in this book was actually one of the reasons that I loved it so much. Since this book was a quest, the characters hopped from planet to planet, and these planets ranged from Earth-like to completely weird yet awesome, and each time, I got a clear sense of what was going on.
Another thing that I loved was all of the background information. There's a lot of 80's references in this book because James Halliday grew up in the 80's, and his quest revolves around his favorite childhood memories. The 80's is relatively recent (only 30 years ago), but this book treats it like history, which I think made it really interesting. There is also a lot of background information on how the Oasis came to be; how Halliday and his business partner Ogden Morrow created it, their falling out, and what happened after his death, when the Oasis starts falling to the big business: IOI.
The characters are also fantastic. Wade is a strong lead, who makes a lot of discoveries about the differences in relationships online and offline. My other favorite was Ogden Morrow, who, though he didn't appear much, kind of reminded me of a more eccentric version of Dumbledore. Both of Wade's closest friends Art3mis and Aech are wonderful and smart, and my favorite, and I loved the fact that even though Wade is competing against them, they are his greatest asset.
As I have previously mentioned, I love this book. Writing about it like this has made me want to go pick it back up. I think this book is also really good for people who aren't that into science fiction. Even though I believe that it technically is science fiction, it also has a lot of fantasy, quest elements in it that people might enjoy.
5/5 stars (obviously).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dui Bu Qi

I have had a song stuck in my head for the past two weeks.
This song is titled "Dui Bu Qi," and it is sung by an English band called Transition. They sing it in Mandarin. The main lyrics go "dui bu qi, wo de zhong wen bu hao," which means "I'm sorry, my Chinese is not very good."
My Chinese teacher first introduced it to us a couple of weeks ago. There are a couple of phrases in the song that would come in handy in China. Unfortunately, the song is very catchy.
The weekend after my Chinese teacher introduced it to us, I could not get it out of my head. But that is normal for me. I have had songs stuck in my head before (Lorde's song 'Royals' had a particularly long run), and I figured that some other song would come and replace it. But that's not what happened. We sang it again on Monday, and then I noticed some of my classmates who are in other sections of Chinese start to sing it. Now it's gotten to the point that even if it has been out of my head for a day or so, once I enter the Chinese classroom, I immediately think of the song and then the cycle starts all over again.
Anyway, I encourage you to go listen to that song. If anything else, I guarantee you that by the end of it, you will know how to say "I'm sorry, my Chinese is not very good."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Orphan Train

I know that it's been a while, and I decided that I want to get this blogging ball rolling again, so I thought I would start out with a book review.
I've read 48 books so far this year (which is just two away from my goal, yay!), and I've read a lot of fantastic books. I thought though, that I would start out with the book that I most recently finished: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.
Orphan Train is a novel set both in 1929, and the modern day. The 1929 narrative follows a young girl named Niamh, who, after both her parents die in a fire in New York, is sent on an orphan train to hopefully be adopted by a nice family. Of course, that doesn't happen. The modern day story line follows Molly, a foster girl who is seventeen and almost out of the system, when she is caught stealing something and is forced to do community service, helping out an old woman clean out her attic.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I picked it up because I didn't really know anything about orphan trains. I thought that they were more of a 19th century thing, but apparently they were around until 1929. The book really reminded me of Out of the Dust, a novel about the dust bowl. Perhaps it was because it was a similar midwest setting and because the character of Billie Jo is similar to that of Niamh.
The thing that kept me reading this novel was Kline's writing style. I loved it. It portrayed complex ideas very simply, and the whole novel made perfect sense.  I could understand the characters and their ways of thinking very clearly. She painted a very understandable picture of the 1930s with everything from clothing style to the socially accepted ideas of the time.
I loved Niamh's story from beginning to end. She was likable from the start to the very end, and you could see her development throughout the novel. Her story is a roller coaster ride from beginning to end, with a sideshow of people with both good and bad intentions.
With that said, was a little skeptical with Molly's timeline. She was a very angsty, bitter, and misunderstood, and I didn't particularly care for the way in which the foster parents were portrayed. They were racist and only in it for the money, and the mother was really mean while the father had a soft spot for Molly, and it all just seemed very cliche. However, I did really enjoy the bits of Native-American history that were tied in with Molly and her history. I really liked the way in which she started to open up to Vivian, the old woman, and I thought it showed how truly important it is to be able to talk about your own history.
I gave this novel 4/5 stars.