Have you ever wondered what would happen if Willy Wonka was a geeky programmer rather than a chocolatier? Well wonder no more. The year is 2044. Wade is an awkward teenager living in futuristic slums called "the stacks," appropriately named for the over-crowded mobile homes piled on top of one another. Wade, like most people, spends most of his time avoiding reality in the Oasis, a virtual utopia where almost anything is possible. The Oasis is more than just a video game; everything, from business transactions and education to social interactions, takes place in the virtual reality world. People all over the world mourn when the mastermind behind the Oasis, James Halliday dies, but sadness quickly turns to excitement when it is revealed that he left one last game behind. Halliday has hidden an Easter egg in his virtual world, and whoever finds it inherits not only the Oasis, but his entire fortune. In order to find the egg, players will have to make sense of Halliday's cryptic clues and odd obsession with 80's pop culture. As Wade gets closer to discovering the egg, it becomes clear that his competitors are willing to do anything to get the egg first. Light hearted at times, intense at others, this was a fun escapist novel that was surprisingly thrilling.
Evie O'Neill is ecstatic when she is sent to live in New York, the glamorous world of flappers and speakeasies, even if it means living with her Uncle Will, who has dedicated his life to studying the occult. Evie is free to explore New York, as long as she meets curfew and keeps her secret--a supernatural power she's had since birth--hidden from her uncle. However, a string of brutal murders quickly overshadows the glamour of her new life. Because of the ritualistic nature of the killings, Will is called upon to assist with the investigation. Evie soon realizes that her gift may be the key to uncovering the killer, and she must decide if using the unpredictable power is worth the danger it brings. Libba Bray has written a number of novels, but she's at her best when writing historical fantasy. Once again, she has managed to create a kick-butt heroine while still remaining true to the story's time period.
I was drawn to this book as a dog lover who still needed some closure after the notorious dog fighting scandal of the early 2000s. The book ended up exceeding my expectations by containing much more detail than I anticipated-- which was both enlightening and brutal. Gorant definitely doesn't make any effort to spare the reader's feelings, but he shares no more detail than is necessary to convey the true atrocity that took place in Vick's fighting ring. However, as much as the book is painful to read, it is also uplifting at parts; most people probably don't realize the underlying good nature of Vick's canine victims, or how many of them were successfully rescued and rehabilitated. I read the sections about the dogs that found new homes over and over again, so relieved that there were some happy endings. Possibly more valuable than anything about the dogs themselves was the author's detailed account about the investigation, and how hard it is to hold celebrities accountable in the justice system, even with abundant evidence. This is a story of redemption and perseverance, and a definite must read for animal lovers.
Normally, I'm not a big reader of short stories, but it didn't take me long to fall in love with Neil Gaiman's new book. What first drew my attention was the title. "Trigger Warning," a tag used to warn readers of potentially disturbing content, is an appropriate name for this creepy collection. The stories in this book range from mildly unsettling to sleep-with-your-light-on scary. I think my favorite was the third story in the book, "The Thing About Cassandra." It's a quick read about an artist who finds himself haunted by an ex-lover-- one who he was pretty sure he made up. The rest of the stories in the book are as varied as you would expect from an author like Gaiman. One story features a werewolf, in another the scariest thing is the dark side of human nature. Whether you prefer supernatural or realistic tales, there's a little something for everyone's palate. The stories range from five to seven pages each, which I think is the sweet spot for short fiction. It makes it easy to read one story in a sitting. If you like to freak yourself out a little--like I do-- this is a great book to read when you're sitting home alone.
This is such a great book for any Central Oregonian to read. We share our space with so many different types of wildlife; we're probably so accustomed to some of them that we hardly notice their presence. This book has a lot of fascinating information about how animals, birds in particular, managed to adapt and thrive in an environment that is dominated and rapidly altered by humans. What I really loved about this book is that it's a call to action for people to learn how to be good neighbors to the wildlife that share our homes, from supplying nest boxes and feeders to providing salamanders with a safe way to cross busy streets. I love how he encourages safe interaction as a way to garner an appreciation for animals in future generations. It's a very hands on and optimistic approach to cohabitation. If you missed Marzluff's presentation in Redmond, you can find many of the graphics he featured in his slideshow and all of the discussion topics in this book. Just like in "Gifts of the Crow," Marzluff's writing and knowledge does credit to the animals he studies. Reading this book will leave you with a better understanding of our wild neighbors and the urban ecosystem.