Books I Plan to Reread in 2018

Next year I want to take the time to revisit some of my favourite books.  I chose titles that I can’t get out of my head recently (must be a sign I need to reread).  Have you read any of these books or are they on your to-read list? 

Ps. I also plan to reread Harry Potter.  But since an annual dose of J.K. Rowling is good for everyone’s health, you probably don’t need me to explain this one.
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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline | Hits and Misses

Ready Player One Book Review Paige's PagesPUBLISHER: Broadway Books
RELEASE DATE: 
August 16, 2011
GENRE: 
Sci-Fi
PAGE COUNT:
 386
MY RATING: ★★★☆
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BLURB FROM GOODREADS

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.  Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based on Halliday’s obsession with ’80s pop culture.  And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.  Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape. 

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Hits

Stellar Concept & Worldbuilding

The world of Reader Player One and the plot premise are captivating and original.  If I rated this book on the idea alone, I would give it five stars.  I enjoyed watching the universe unfold and learning about its complex rules of engagement.  I stayed hooked until the end.

I was fascinated by this depiction of Earth circa 2044.  This setting inspires gripping themes because it is both unsettlingly familiar and fantastically foreign.  We’re looking at environmental decline, global poverty, and a population shirking reality through the internet.  Once we venture into OASIS’s faux-utopia, we are forced to question what really matters.  Identity?  Integrity?  Saving the planet?  Self-preservation and actualising one’s ideal self?

 Perfect for Book Clubs

Ready Player One will divide readers, though everyone will agree this story generates conversation and engages the imagination.  For YA and adult readers of all ages, this is an awesome book club pick.  Read it before the movie is released in 2018.  While I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, I can think of plenty of friends who would get a lot out of it.

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Misses

Hand-holding & Cop Outs

For the benefit of readers without any ’80s pop culture knowledge, the narrator Wade Watts scrupulously explains every reference.  While this is congruent with his character, it drove me nuts at times. The pleasant surprise of recognising a nostalgic reference wears off when Wade proceeds to deconstruct the reference for laymen over the course of several paragraphs.  At times, I resented that Ernest Cline didn’t trust me to pick up references without holding my hand.

“It looks just like Rivendell,” Aech said, taking the words right out of my mouth.  I nodded.  “It looks exactly like Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings movies” (p322). 

Exposition is heavy-handed throughout Ready Player One.  The first several chapters are virtually nothing but exposition.  Sometimes the exposition made me feel patronised, or like I was twiddling my thumbs for the story to continue.  While history/lore is helpful for worldbuilding, some of it felt like overkill.  There were aspects of the story such as Wade’s real world setting that I found far more interesting, but were granted relatively little attention.  

The setup for the romance subplot is a total copout.  Instead of showing us the relationship developing so we can be invested in its success, Wade sums up the entire courtship in a few sentences using the kind of language you’d expect from a lovesick teenager who “never had such a powerful, immediate connection with another human being before” (p174).

Is Wade Too Perfect?

As a general rule of thumb, if Wade thinks it, it’s the correct answer.  Wade is too perfect – if he needs an impossible high score, just give him a minute and he’ll be right back to you.  Although the stakes and adversaries Wade faces are compelling, I knew there was no real danger of him failing.  Also, his thought processes sometimes made me roll my eyes.

Wade only refers to his emotions a handful of times.  Besides grand notions of love or vengeance etc., Wade doesn’t pause his running commentary of his actions to describe how he feels – physically or emotionally.  He always manages to handle every situation with perfect poise, leaping from success to success.  The tone of the narration – especially the omission of emotional language – doesn’t reflect the high stakes.

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Final Thoughts

Overall, Reader Player One is an incredible and thoroughly enjoyable adventure.  The execution of its fantastic premise is flawed and, at times, frustrating.  However, this didn’t stop me from having tons of fun.  What is your review of Ready Player One?  If you’ve read any other work by Ernest Cline, how does it compare?  Do you have high hopes for the film adaptation?

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3 Must Own Feminist Books | Christmas Gift Guide 2017

Show your love by giving the gift of feminism.  Here are 3 feminist titles for the special women and men in your life (no kidding, gender equality benefits everyone.)

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Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

muslim-girl-9781501159503_hr“A harrowing and candid memoir about coming of age as a Muslim American in the wake of 9/11, during the never-ending war on terror, and through the Trump era of casual racism.  This is the extraordinary account of Amani’s journey through adolescence as a Muslim girl, from the Islamophobia she’s faced on a daily basis, to the website she launched that became a cultural phenomenon, to the nation’s political climate in the 2016 election cycle with Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.”

Perfect For…

  • Girls aged 15+.  This is a coming of age story that affirms and empowers girls regardless of religion or race.
  • Anyone who consumes media.  We take it for granted that media is biased, but we may not realise who bias impacts.  Written by an industry insider, Muslim Girl is an eyeopener with a very personal core.
  • Busy people.  This is a small book with a big impact.  Its message will forever change the way you see the world.

Where to Buy Online

Booktopia (hardback) | Book Depository (hardback) | Dymocks (hardback)

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Speaking Out: A 21st-Century Handbook for Women and Girls by Tara Moss

y648“If women and girls remain voiceless, half of humanity’s experiences, perspectives and possible solutions to world problems go unheard. Drawing on 20 years of wide experience in the public sphere, Tara Moss responds to the question: ‘How can I speak out?’ in the most practical way. In this handbook she gives advice on preparation, speaking out and negotiating public spaces – sometimes in the face of downright savage trolling.  This is a guide for women young and old that not only helps them find their voice, but argues passionately for why it matters.”

Perfect For…

  • Girls and women who use social media.  You wouldn’t trek through a jungle without a map, so learn how to be safe before you go online.
  • Girls and women with something to say.  Speaking Out equips readers to handle a variety of sexist backlash and discrimination online and in person.  This is the survival guide for women who speak up and believe in their right to a voice.

Where to Buy Online

Book Depository (audiobook) | Booktopia (hardback) | Booktopia (paperback) | Dymocks (paperback)

Gift with: The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss

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Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

“From the best-selling author of Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists comes a powerful new statement about feminism today – written as a letter to a friend.  With its fifteen pieces of practical advice it goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century.”

Perfect For…

  • 9781524733131Readers of all genders and ages.  Feminism benefits everyone.  The writing style is conversational and simple so readers young and old can enjoy equally.
  • Anyone who don’t “get” feminism.  This book explains the values of feminism simply and clearly for “first-time users”.
  • Parents-to-be.  This is a practical guide for families who value equality and empowerment, from marriage to parenting.
  • Busy people.  Dear Ijeawele takes less than an hour to read.  It is broken into 15 small sections, so you can enjoy it in short sittings.

Where to Buy Online

Book Depository (hardback) | Booktopia (hardback) | Booktopia (audiobook) | Dymocks (hardback)

Gift with: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

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A Note on Australian Book Stores

Although I have included links to buy these titles online, I urge you to support Australian booksellers this Christmas by buying from independent bookstores.  If you love the smell of books and the wisdom of a passionate bookseller, join the fight to keep bookstores alive!

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September 2017 Reading Recap

I blinked and September was over!  What are your highlights and lowlights from September?  You’ll notice I read a bunch of short stories this month — I just got on a roll!  Do you recommend any short story collections?  

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The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1) by Graeme Simsion

9781922079770PUBLISHER: Penguin
RELEASE DATE: 
April 11, 2013
GENRE: 
Adult Fiction, Rom Com
PAGE COUNT:
 297
MY RATING: ★★★☆
Add on Goodreads

Blurb in one sentence: A genetics professor with undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome embarks on the “Wife Project”, only to fall inconveniently in love with a woman with whom he is completely incompatible.

What I Liked:

  • Rosie is not a manic pixie dream girl.  Presenting a self-assured attitude to the world, she is autonomous and intelligently rationalises her decisions and behaviour.
  • I saw on Goodreads that lots of reviewers criticised The Rosie Project for representing Asperger Syndrome in a feel-good, comedic context.  I don’t believe that The Rosie Project romanticised Asperger Syndrome or treated it flippantly.  In fact, I think this story illuminated its unique challenges and positive aspects, with an appropiate mixture of seriousness and comedy.

What I Disliked:

  • So many people want to argue with me about this book, and I honestly can’t be bothered!
  • The plot is pretty flimsy, but, considering the tropes of the rom-com genre, this didn’t get in the way of me enjoying the journey.

If you like The Rosie Project, you may enjoy:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell ★★★★☆ My Review Add on Goodreads
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik ★★★☆☆ My ReviewAdd on Goodreads

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Prince’s Gambit (Captive Prince #2) by C.S. Pacat

5186BVEQOIL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_PUBLISHER: Viking
RELEASE DATE: 
July 1, 2015
GENRE: 
High Fantasy
PAGE COUNT:
 404
MY RATING: ★★★
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Blurb in one sentence: The tensions (political and sexual) between enemy nations come to a head as Prince Laurent of Vere marches a ragtag army into his treacherous uncle’s ambush.

What I Liked:

  • The sexual tension was palpable.  Building on the slow boil of the first book, Prince’s Gambit is such a guilty pleasure.
  • I waited so long for the sex scene and it did not disappoint.

What I Disliked:

  • The romance was the only aspect that held my attention, so I started to lose interest whenever the focus was on the political tensions.  Without the romance plot, I don’t believe the rest of the world- and plot-building are strong enough to stand alone.  I bumped down my rating from four to three stars because the more I reflect on the story, the less convincing I find it.  (That said, nothing got in the way of my enjoyment while reading — all the sexiness blinded me from noticing the flaws!)

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The Shining (The Shining #1) by Stephen King

11588PUBLISHER: Hodder & Stoughton
RELEASE DATE: 
July 1, 1980
GENRE: 
High Fantasy
PAGE COUNT:
 447
MY RATING: ★★★
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Blurb in one sentence: While Jack Torrance is grateful for a fresh start as winter caretaker of a prestigious hotel, his five-year-old son Danny’s powers of clairvoyance unlocks the Overlook’s repressed evil.

What I Liked:

  • I was pleasantly surprised by this introduction to Stephen King.  I never thought I would read — let alone love — his books.  Throughout, I was captivated and transported by the depth of the descriptive details.
  • The scenes told from Danny’s point of view were easily my favourite.  They tapped into my memories of childhood nightmares etc. and nailed exactly how fear feels when you’re a kid.

What I Disliked:

  • The scenes told from Dick Holloran’s point of view slowed me down a lot.  I know their function is to build the sense of foreboding and suspense, but I just couldn’t engage with them.
  • Is it possible that the ending is too tame?  I must be awfully bloodthirsty!  (I had no expectations because I haven’t seen the movie.)

If you like The Shining, you may enjoy:

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt★★★★☆ My ReviewAdd on Goodreads

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Madam Zero by Sarah Hall

madame-zero-by-sarah-halPUBLISHER: Faber & Faber
RELEASE DATE: 
July 6, 2017
GENRE: 
Short Fiction
PAGE COUNT:
 192
MY RATING: ★★★★
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Blurb in one sentence: Sarah Hall’s short story collection blurs human and animal, wilderness with man-made, to take readers on a memorable trip through the jungle that is human nature.

What I Liked:

  • After reading this collection, the individual stories stayed alive in my mind for days.  I could put the book away, but I couldn’t avoid replaying stand-out moments over and over in my head.
  • Reading this collection has motivated me to look into Sarah Hall’s novels.

What I Disliked:

  • It was too short!  I want more stories!

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Paper Girls Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughn & Cliff Chiang

34504722PUBLISHER: Image Comics
RELEASE DATE: 
August 8, 2017
GENRE: 
Young Adult Graphic Novel
PAGE COUNT:
 128
MY RATING: ★★★
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Blurb in one sentence: Four newspaper delivery girls from 1988 get mixed up in some time travel trouble.

What I Liked:

  • This is my favourite installation of the series so far.  As always, the gorgeous colouring alone is a good enough reason to check out this series.

What I Disliked:

  • While the hype that Paper Girls is the “feminist Stranger Things” sounds awesome, let’s face it — just because something has girls in it doesn’t make it feminist.  (Who else is thinking all-female Ghostbusters?)
  • I seriously struggle to tell Erin and Tiffany apart, whereas the character designs of Mac and KJ are distinctly unique.  I’ve struggled with this throughout the series.
  • This is my first time reading a comic series while it’s still being released, and I appreciate how suspenseful the wait between issues is.  I feel like I need a “previously on Paper Girls…” montage to help catch me up to speed.

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Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

9780349113913PUBLISHER: Little, Brown & Company
RELEASE DATE: 
June 1, 2000
GENRE:
Short Memoir
PAGE COUNT:
 272
MY RATING: ★★★★
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Blurb in one sentence: Misanthropic humorist, David Sedaris, draws inspiration for his anecdotes from his headache-inducing family and his move from New York to Paris.

What I Liked:

  • As always, I enjoyed Sedaris’ ironic perspective and style of writing.  It just tickles me.  Too good not to share i.e. wake my partner up in the middle of the night to read him my favourite quotes.

What I Disliked:

  • This isn’t my favourite of Sedaris’ memoir collections, but there isn’t anything I dislike about it.

If you like Me Talk Pretty One Day, you may enjoy:

Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris ★★★★★| Add on Goodreads

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The Incest Diary by Anonymous

9781408890455PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury
RELEASE DATE: 
July 18, 2017
GENRE:
Memoir, Autobiography
PAGE COUNT:
 128
MY RATING: ★★★★
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Blurb in one sentence: An anonymous survivor tells her story of a childhood and adolescence desecrated by incestual rape to which her family turned a blind eye.

Trigger warning: frequent graphic depictions of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

What I Liked:

  • This short memoir is an Own Voices account of sexual abuse.  It’s vital that you read with discretion as it contains many graphically horrific scenes.  However, I believe that the way it describes the emotional blackmail inherent in the abusive cycle is important, especially for readers who struggle to empathise with abuse survivors due to not understanding what is happening on a psychological level.
  • The nonlinear structure drifts between past and present, touching upon memories that build a strong sense of how the author became the woman she is today.

If you like The Incest Diary, you may enjoy:

The Camera My Mother Gave Me by Susanna Kaysen ★★★★★ My ReviewAdd on Goodreads

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

4bad9f60-d7fa-0133-77ba-0e7c926a42afPUBLISHER: Vintage Classics
RELEASE DATE:
1981 
GENRE:
Short Fiction
PAGE COUNT:
 134
MY RATING: ★★★★
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Blurb in one sentence: In this short story collection, Raymond Carver reveals the extraordinary in the mundane.

What I Liked:

  • The characters in these stories talk exactly like real people, with such natural idiosyncrasies.  I didn’t realise how fake some dialogue in fiction sounds until I read this collection.
  • The situations in these stories may be unextraordinary, but the snapshots of humanity they capture stayed in my mind long after reading.  Being self-contained but open-ended, they really stirred my imagination.  I immediately placed another Raymond Carver collection on hold through my library because I want to keep savouring his stories.

If you like What We Talk About When We Talk About Love you may enjoy:

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz ★★★☆☆ | Add on Goodreads

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for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange

cvr9781451624205_9781451624205_hrPUBLISHER: Scribner
RELEASE DATE:
1975
GENRE:
Poetry, Stage Play
PAGE COUNT:
 64
Add on Goodreads

Blurb in one sentence: Acclaimed African-American playwright and performance artist, Ntozake Shange, delivers a powerful message revolving around race and gender discrimination in this “choreopoem”.

Trigger warning: contains references to domestic violence, suicide, and abortion.

What I Liked:

  • As the title suggests, this is an Own Voices work directed at a specific community, speaking to specific experiences and struggles.  The aim is to uplift these silenced voices and reclaim their humanity and equality.  Own Voices narratives like this are so important to read, learn from with humility, and uplift.
  • I haven’t read much poetry since uni, so the rhythm and flow of this “choreopoem” was strange to read (in the best possible way!)

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I’m Back From Hiatus + August 2017 Reading Recap

Hi, how have you been?  Thank you for being so patient while I took some time off blogging.  The hiatus helped me to identify what about my blog was working for me and what wasn’t.  A key aspect was that I need to let myself off the hook: no one is forcing me to keep a strict posting schedule or write reviews about books that weren’t meaningful to me.

To ease myself back into things, I’m starting with an August recap.  At this stage, I don’t plan to write full reviews for these books.  Instead, I summed up my thoughts in a chatty way.  This was more fun and drastically less time consuming!

I’ll be experimenting a lot more with what I post, in the hopes of making my blog work for me and not the other way around!

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August Blogging Hiatus

Hi lovely people, how are you?  Whether you’re at work, uni, or enjoying a day off like me, I hope you’re having a fantastic Friday.  I’ve decided to take August off from blogging and go on my first hiatus!  There are two main reasons why I feel this is the right time to take a break:

1.

I’ve been posting to my blog once a week since 2011 and never gone on hiatus!  Of course, over the years a lot has changed about why I blog and what I want from life.  Yet I haven’t stopped to consider how my blog should change to reflect my personal changes.  Sometimes I feel like I blog out of a sense of obligation and perfectionism, without really enjoying it anymore.  So I would like to think about ways I could do things differently to bring some fun back into it.

2.

Entries to the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award close at the end of August and I’d like to dedicate some time to writing a short story to submit.  It’s been a while since I’ve thought about creative writing besides the novel I’m planning, so putting that project on the back burner for a month will give me a chance to pursue a short-term idea!

If you’re reading this, thank you for being supportive of my blog and for sharing your love of books with me.  At this stage, I hope to be back in the second week of September, when my family and I return from a few days’ holiday to Hamilton Island.  I hope you have a great month. ❤  

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Book Review | When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi Book Review Paige's PagesTITLE: When Dimple Met Rishi
AUTHOR
: Sandhya Menon
PUBLISHER
: Simon Pulse
RELEASE DATE
: May 30, 2017
GENRE
: New Adult Fiction, Contemporary Romance
PAGE COUNT
: 380


When Dimple Met Rishi is a light-hearted rom-com for anyone who’s ever questioned what they want from life.  This book excellently portrays the dilemmas “new adults” face when leaving the nest, and explores generational relationships when cultural traditions are at stake.  We even get a fab feminist protagonist to lead the way on this adventure.   Continue reading

Graphic Novel Review | El Deafo by Cece Bell

El Deafo Book Review Paige's PagesTITLE: El Deafo
AUTHOR
: Cece Bell
PUBLISHER
: Harry N. Abrams
RELEASE DATE
: September 2, 2014
GENRE
: Junior Graphic Novel, Memoir
PAGE COUNT
: 233


El Deafo is an utterly adorable Own Voices  graphic novel based on author Cece Bell’s own childhood experience of severe deafness.  One of the many wonderful things about this book is how it avoids representing deafness as a disability.  Although Cece faces plenty of adversity in the form of loneliness, being misunderstood, and toxic friends, she ultimately uses her Phonic Ear hearing aid as a superpower to become the hero, El Deafo.  This is a universally relatable and informative story for junior and middle grade readers that inspires compassion and respect for differently-abled people. Continue reading

Book Review | Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

Not If I See You First Book Review Paige's Pages.pngTITLE: Not If I See You First
AUTHOR
: Eric Lindstrom
PUBLISHER
: HarperCollins Children’s
RELEASE DATE
: December 1, 2015
GENRE
: Young Adult Fiction
PAGE COUNT
: 310


At the heart of Not If I See You First is a powerful message about disability, disbanding blindness stereotypes I didn’t even realise I believed.  While I loved this representation, our fierce front woman, Parker Grant, is not the best developed character.  Despite having some fantastic themes with plenty of potential, this book was hit and miss for me. Continue reading