[Book review] Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

For my book club pick for the month of February, I picked Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. But I had my reservations. The group didn’t like my last book (Dark Places by Gillian Flynn) and they definitely did not like the book I chose prior to that (Kicking the sky by Anthony De Sa). I realized I had to cater to them so I picked something that I normally wouldn’t read. Books about gaming. I spent a few days on a Goodreads thread chatting with other bibliophiles and they all supported my RP1 decision. OK.

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They did not fail me.

Ready Player One was great. I enjoyed it so much that I am forcing BP to listen to the audbiobook with me just so I could experience it all over again!!!

We start off in the not-so-distant future. The world is pretty messed up. The housing situation has become so bad that people have piled trailers on top of another and that’s considered a home. (I’m not saying trailers are not homes but having them stacked 20+ high just seems like a terribad idea. That’s right. Terribad.) The world is so bad that there’s a 2 year wait period just to get a job at McDonald’s! (Again, not like getting a job is McDonald’s is easy but I don’t think it would take two years now.)

One of the main themes in this novel is escapism. The world is so bad that people have escaped to this virtual reality world called the OASIS where people go to school, spend their leisurely hours, and even work. Our main character Wade Watts is an overweight, pimply, geeky kid who lacked social skills in real life but was doing a little better in the OASIS.

The creator of the OASIS, James D. Halliday, passed away with no heirs and has left his entire fortune and company up for grabs. The catch? He’s hidden his treasure within his game filled with many sectors, and planets. He left one clue for the public and everyone has a chance to decipher it. The egg hunters (gunters) have dedicated their lives to solving the first clue but 5 years have passed and no one has found it until Parzival (Wade’s avatar’s name) deciphered the first clue. His clues all relate to James Halliday’s love of the 80s, when he grew up, (told you it wasn’t that far into the future) and video games so all these kids in the future are rewatching, and replaying all these things from the 70s-90s – mostly 80s.

You can already guess that the rest of the book is about Parzival looking for clues and solving them while avoiding other gunters and obstacles in the process. Does he get the treasure at the end of the quest? You have to read to find out!

It was definitely a fun read and I recommend it to anyone who likes gaming, sci-fi, virtual reality, and riddles!!

And if you’re not quite sure you want to dedicate 9 hours to reading, then pick up the audio book on Audible! It’s narrated by Wil Wheaton. I don’t really know what he’s famous for but my friend’s boyfriend looks like him… Oh. He’s from Star Trek. Lol. And he’s also mentioned in the book so can you imagine reading about yourself out loud? Ha.

4/5 // Cross-posted on my book review blog: She Reads (anndreachan.com)

[Book review] No place like Oz – Danielle Paige

There’s a Goodreads member whose opinion I hold in high regard. Ok, not really but I mean she’s overly critical about everything, if she likes something, it must be worth reading right? Well, that assumption has not yet been proven wrong. She seemed to have positive reviews for Dorothy Must Die and I went off to find it. The version I got came with this.

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No place like Oz by Danielle Paige is the novella prequel to Dorothy Must Die. Dorothy, after her adventure in Oz, is now back in Kansas – celebrating her sixteenth birthday with Auntie Em and Uncle something. The tornado has ruined their house and everyone in the community has helped rebuild their house. However, when Dororthy recounted her tales of Oz to her guardians and her bestfriend, they thought she was crazy. So much so that she’s the butt of all jokes at school. She wished to leave Oz and this time stay there when she found a pair of red high heels. With a click of her heels, she transports herself, her aunt and uncle, and Toto to Oz. The time difference between Oz and the Outerworld is….great. Years have passed since her departure and there is a new ruler – Ozma. Dorothy doesn’t trust her and took matters into her own hands.

First thing’s first – I love retellings! I really enjoyed Wicked (can’t say the same for Maguire’s other works). I’m obsessed with Once Upon a Time. And this did not disappoint!

After watching all those fairytales in Disney movies, they always end in happily ever afters but what happens next. I mean, if you think Snow White and Charming did not fight – that’s just unrealistic. So, getting to see the and then whats is always interesting.

Paige made sure to incorporate every detail of Oz in L. Frank Baum’s from the munchkins to the winged monkeys and made sure to keep the names of all the districts of Oz. You get to find out what happened to the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and even the Lion. Surely you want to know what happened to Oz after they were freed from the Wicked Witch and the Wizard.

If you’re not interested in the past (retelling of the adventures of Elphaba – Wicked Witch of the West) then this book is for you. It has the what happened next rather than the why did this happen? The movie Wizard of Oz only gave us a glimpse of Oz. A small fraction of it. This book shines light on a little bit more and hopefully it is interesting enough to continue your journey to Oz through other of L. Frank Baum’s works or even retellings.

3/5 // Cross-posted on my book review blog: She Reads (anndreachan.com)

Shiso Tree Cafe

BP and I were due to make cat food on Tuesday so we decided to stop by Japan Town (J-Town) for dinner before heading over to T&T. We obviously bought some buns home and headed to Shiso Tree Cafe. I was not in the mood for ramen and he didn’t want to go to an Izakaya so…

You can find their menu on Urbanspoon here. Pretty simple menu with apps, bread, salads, fries, and pasta. Not only do they serve regular pasta you’ll find at a pasta place (notice how I didn’t say Italian) but they also serve Wafuu(和風) pasta. Basically it’s Japanese style pasta or rather, pasta with Japanese ingredients.

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The meal came with a salad that…neither of us touched.

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First, we tried their Okonomiyaki fries that were raved about on BlogTO. Although, I don’t particularly agree with their blog reviews most of the time, I would have to say that I second their opinion on these fries. They are delicious. It’s basically Okonomiyaki but on fries instead of cabbage.

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BP said this shot looked better so…. here you go.

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This is a half portion of the Shrimp Okonomiyaki Pasta. Well, it also tasted like Okonomiyaki but with more garlic (more punch), shrimp, and well… of course, pasta! It was pretty good! Very different.
We were originally planning on having the fries and pasta as a snack so they were nice enough to divide it into two portions. We were both full by the time we were done.

If you’re around the area, I would definitely recommend that you try it but if you live downtown or somewhere even further away….well…if you want to. There are Japanese style poutines much closer to you. If anything, J-Town is definitely worth a visit. Sure, you can find a lot of the items there at other Asian supermarkets at a cheaper price but there are some Japanese items you can only buy at J-Town. They also have a lot of buns, and delicious bread to choose from. And the cakes!!!!

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Shiso Tree Cafe
Menu
3160 Steeles Ave. East – Unit 1 Markham, ON, L3R 4G9
(905) 479-9319

[Book review] All the broken things – Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

Once in a while, I’ll browse Quill and Quire for Canadian literature because I love books set in Toronto. LOVE. And I also want to support local authors. All the broken things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer was one of the books they reviewed at the time so I picked it up.

Since moving up to North York and having the pleasure of commuting daily (sarcasm), I switched over from reading off my iPhone and started reading off a tablet. I got this book prior to that change so I had this on and off relationship with that book seeing as I no longer read off my iPhone. It was my back up book when my Galaxy had no juice or if I forgot it at home.

With no motivation to read any of the books on my Moonreader shelf, I decided to finally continue reading All the broken things.

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In sum, it’s a coming of age story set in Toronto about a Vietnamese immigrant boy named Bo who ends up training a bear named Bear and working at the CNE back in the 80. This covered topics such as racism, bullying, herbicidal warfare on Vietnam, travelling by boat (read: illegal), mutations, freaks in the old sense of the word, bear wrestling and carnival folk.

When reading books by Canadian authors, there’s a certain atmosphere to their writing. From Atwood to De Sa, I feel that there is a mystical veil surrounding the events in the book. Perhaps because most of the books I’ve read are set before I was born but in a city I currently live. It’s like looking at images off Vintage Toronto. [Link here] Kuitenbrouwer’s All the broken things definitely has that quality to it and I can’t help but picture all these places in the 80s. I feel a certain detachment to these novels that cannot bring me to give them a very high rating but I certainly do not hate them.

With this novel, we are introduced to Bo. He’s picked on at school for being Vietnamese and is beaten up by his bully almost everyday. He can stand up for himself but somehow doesn’t. This sparked the interest of a man who has seen people bet on these ‘fights’ who noticed that Bo was holding back and saw his potential. First of all, I found that very creepy a man would be watching children fights. In 2014, if you see a man lurking in a school that does not resemble a parent, you know someone is calling the police. Since this is the 80s, I’ll let it go.

Bo is then taken to see the carnie folk and was basically invited to be part of them to fight bears. I have no knowledge of bear wrestling but I can’t imagine it to be at all safe (which you discover towards the end of the book). The story unfolds as we see his fight life intertwining with his family life which he’s none too fond of considering his sister was deformed thanks to Agent Orange. He’s given his own bear and is forced to grow up too quickly.

I definitely liked all the Canadian elements in the book. Winter, CNE, Toronto, mentioning all the neighborhoods on the west side, the lake, etc.
At the same time, it was painful to read Bo’s experience with racism at school. Yes, he was liked by some and had friends but it was never a moment of Bo being better than people. It was about what Bo can do for them and how he worked for them. Or rather, what benefit Bo provided them. While there are still instances of racism now, it was a lot more prevalent before the 90s and even then, I got the occasional chink or flip or oriental.

All in all, it was an interesting read. It took me almost a year to finish (on and off) and I don’t remember what sort of mood I was in when I got this but if you were to ask me now, I probably wouldn’t be quick to say yes. I do not regret reading it but it did not captivate me as I hoped it would. 2.5 stars out of 5. It was more than OK but I didn’t really like it.